Making New Stories about Multispecies Kinship through Vital Material Encounters with Clay

Published: Oct 29, 2023
Synthesis Anglophone Journal of Comparative Literary Studies Comparative Literature re-storying stories multispecies survival multispecies narratives art-making vitality materiality material transformation multispecies kinship clay
Kim L. Pace

As a contemporary artist sculpting with clay to create story vessels and ensembles of hybrid creatures, I work with the material in what I propose as a creative partnership. The clay is my ‘multispecies partner’—an active participant rather than passive subject in my creative process. This approach collapses the boundaries between myself and the material, we become united in a material network that blurs the delineation or duality between subject and object and the human and nonhuman (Latour 1993). In this manner, I question the human-centric hierarchy inherent in purely acting upon materials. Instead, I pursue an embodiment of a type of human-nature interaction, a connection between myself and the material as a form of multispecies kinship. Non-human elements work with and against my creative choices, obscuring the instincts of subjective decisions. In the context of the ‘material turn’ in art-making and philosophical enquiry, I explore the creation of my ceramic sculpture as it evolves. Clay is a storytelling mode in and of itself, and part of the story-subject that feeds my work, alongside a multitude of other references and ideas. Citing examples of matter transforming, such as clay in creation myths, examples of material animism in folk and fairy tales, as well as my artistic approach to interacting with the material, I suggest how we might re-think matter differently from purely passive or inert. I look to art history for tropes and concepts of art-making that facilitate the expression of unconscious and collective archetypal visual language, and to literary sources that demonstrate some of the best thinking through the vehicle of storytelling. Finally, I explore critical anthropomorphism in relation to representations of the nonhuman, especially in narrative artworks, and discuss how the act of re-storying can adjust our relationship with how we currently perceive the distinctions between subject and object, human and nonhuman.

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Author Biography
Kim L. Pace, Camberwell College of Arts

Kim L. Pace trained in Painting as an undergraduate & Sculpture postgraduate in the UK and Germany. Her work has featured in over 25 solo & duo shows and numerous group exhibitions, internationally. Awarded the Evelyn Williams Drawing Fellowship, the Linbury Fellowship and the Berwick Gymnasium Fellowship, she has also received seven Arts Council England awards, been guest artist-in-residence at the Royal College of Art, London, at Kunstnarhuset Messen, Ålvik, Norway and at Illinois State University, USA. Her curatorial projects include at The Czech Centre, NYC, USA; Hayward Gallery London, Touring and at Tate Britain and she has lectured extensively at BA, MA & PhD levels. Currently she is visiting lecturer at Camberwell College of Arts, London and external examiner at Sheffield Hallam University (MA) and Open College of Arts. Her commissioned work includes Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts; Hayward Gallery, London; Sheffield Museums & Galleries Trust; Nottingham Trent University; Limerick City Art Gallery, Ireland and English Heritage. Her solo shows include: Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh; Danielle Arnaud, London; Berwick Gymnasium Gallery, Northumbria; Graves Art Gallery Sheffield; McLean County Art Center, USA; Domobaal, London; Ferens Art Gallery, Hull; Northern Territory Gallery for Contemporary Art, Australia; Limerick City Art Gallery, Ireland; APT, London & Bonington Gallery, Nottingham, UK.

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