Earth and World - Camden Art Centre

A new podcast series from Camden Art Audio that takes an expanded view on clay as an earthly material.

Earth and World is a podcast series from Camden Art Audio that takes an expanded view on clay as an earthly material. Examining the politics of geological narratives and the agency of minerals, it reflects on humanity’s fundamental and interwoven relationship with the earth. The series gives a voice to the ongoing research of academics and artists regarding ecology, commerce, indigenous communities, ancestral relations, and the Anthropocene.

Produced by: Zakia Sewell
Music by: Nicolas Gaunin
Design by: Mariana Vale

Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Supported by

Episode 1 - The creation of settled communities in the Near East with Professor Louise Steel

Professor Louise Steel examines the history of clay and how the cultural and technological knowledges of the earliest settled farming and urban communities were informed by people’s engagements with clay.

As one of the first mineral substance to be transformed from a malleable to a durable state. Many societies perceive it as an animate substance permeated with “a spiritual energy and life-force” that retains a “thing-power”, allowing it to be shaped into various forms.[1] [2]

Building on her ongoing research Steel looks at the agency of matter to illustrate how the distinct capacities of clay (in relationship with water and fire) shaped and facilitated, but equally constrained, people’s behaviour, resulting in distinctive social and material worlds. Focusing on the vitality of matter, Steel considers how “the materials themselves are determining—even actively responsible—for the final shape and manner by which the finished article can manifest”. [3]

[1] Boivin, N. 2012. From veneration to exploitation: Human engagement with the mineral world. In Soils, Stones and Symbols: Cultural Perceptions of the Mineral World; Boivin, N., Owoc, M.A., (Eds). London: Routledge, pp. 1–29.  [2] Bennett, J. 2010.Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.  [3] Attala, L. and Steel, L. 2019.Body Matters: Exploring the Materiality of the Human Body> Cardiff: Wales University Press.

Episode 2 - Being Mud with Okwui Okpokwasili and Sophie J Williamson

Choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili and curator Sophie J Williamson, consider how time, history and circadian rhythms imprint themselves on our bodies.

In Being Taken for Granite, Ursula K. Le Guin described a kinship with mud as a body that yields, reacts, imprints and respondsTaking this text as a guide they will unravel relationships between the body and the soil from which it is born, considering ways of archeologically excavating and reading bodies – human, non-human and geological – to understand their ever-present dialogue with the past.

From the sedimentary strata of mountains to the narratives secreted in our own gestures, Okpokwasili and Williamson discuss the body as an accumulation and amalgamation of historic interactions. They will consider how lineage, past lives and trauma secret themselves in bodies, and how these silences resurface to reveal our entangled pasts, form us in the contemporary and redirect futures.

Episode 3 - Echo-making: Where the Whistles Mingle with Kristen Gallerneaux

On March 20th, 1980, Mount St. Helens (traditionally known as Lawetlat’la or Loowit) erupted. Rocks boiled, rivers evaporated into clouds, and Spirit Lake—a site connected with Indigenous whistling spirits known as Tsiatko—was smothered under a blanket of pyrolized trees. As part of a continuing series of works under the “Echomaking” umbrella, in this audio essay, Kristen Gallerneaux (Métis-Wendat) uncovers the sonic, material, and poetic resonances connected to this story. She will focus on the contagion effect of folklore born out of cataclysmic events, new mineral formats, and recovering knowledge within charged landscapes affected by geological and ecological transformation.

This recording was made on land occupying the ancestral, traditional and contemporary homelands of the Meškwahki·aša·hina (Fox), Peoria, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Bodéwadmiakiwen (Potawatomi), and Myaamia people.  The people of these nations were forced from their land through the 1807 Treaty of Detroit.


Louise Steel is Professor in Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter. Her research focuses on materiality and the interaction of objects in people’s social worlds. She is series editor of Materialities in Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Wales Press, and is currently editing a volume on Earthy Matters: Exploring Human Interactions with Earth, Soil and Clay.

Okwui Okpokwasili is a Brooklyn-based choreographer, performer and writer. Her performance work has been commissioned by the Walker Art Center, Danspace Project, Performance Space New York, the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, the 10th Annual Berlin Biennale, and Jacob’s Pillow, among other institutions. Her work includes two Bessie Award–winning productions: Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance and Bronx Gothic. She has held residencies at the Maggie Allesee National Choreographic Center, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Rauschenberg Foundation Captiva Residency, and New York Live Arts, where she was a Randjelovic/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist. She is currently a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. Okpokwasili is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

Sophie J Williamson is the initiator and convenor of Undead Matter, a multidisciplinary research platform focused on the intimacies of being with the geological. Williamson was Exhibitions Curator at Camden Art Centre (2013 – 21), prior to which she was part of the inaugural team at Raven Row (2009–13) and worked at the Singapore Biennale (2006), Venice Biennale (2007) and Manchester Asian Triennale (2008). Her writing has appeared in frieze, Art Monthly, Elephant and Aesthetica, among others. Residencies and awards include: V-A-C Research Prize Recipient (2020), Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity Curatorial Fellow (2020); and Gasworks Curatorial Fellow (2016). Her anthology, Translation, part of the Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press – Documents of Contemporary Art series, brings together writings by artists, poets, authors and theorists to reflect on the urgency of building empathy in an era of global turmoil.

Kristen Gallerneaux is an artist, curator, and sonic researcher holding a Ph.D. in Art Practice & Media History (UC San Diego), an MA in Folklore (University of Oregon), and an MFA in Art (Wayne State University). She is also the Curator of Communication and Information Technology at The Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan, where she continues to build upon one of the largest historical technology collections in North America. In 2018, she was a Future Thought speaker at Moogfest and premiered the experimental short film, The Hum. She has presented at Unsound editions Dislocation (2014), Presence (2018), and Intermission (2020). In 2017, she spoke about the history of the Votrax text-to-speech synthesizer and taught an electronic music production workshop at Pop Kultur Berlin. She has written for the Barbican Center, ARTnews, the Quietus, and Herman Miller’s WHY magazine. She has published on wide-ranging topics like mathematics in mid-century design, the visual history of telepathy research, the world’s first mousepad, and car audio bass battles in Miami. Her book, High Static, Dead Lines, is available via Strange Attractor Press and distributed by MIT Press in the United States.

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