In a recent critique of the New Materialist discourse anthropologist Tim Ingold (2014) raised concerns regarding the lack of life, growth and movement in the approach. Instead, Ingold encouraged researchers to explore the “variable dynamics of ontogenesis”, that is to say: the work that brings things into being (2014: 234).
Inspired by Karen Barad’s (2003, 2007) concept of ‘phenomena’ and Ingold’s (2013) focus on work, Govier's piece 'Bodies that Work Matter' (2016) captured the human-artist working a large lump of malleable matter (2 kg of pink play dough). Through the piece Govier interrogated theoretical approaches to human-material interactions such as Malfouris’ (2014) hylonoetic space, Ingold’s (2013) morphogenetic approach and Barad’s (2003) intra-actions. This practice-led research offered a moment to consider time as a ‘doing’ and highlighted some of the issues that emerge when analysts attempt to ‘see time’ in the material residues of life.
Govier, E. (forthcoming). 'Doing Time: Ontogenesis, Causality, and the Life-Matter Predicament'.
Ethnographic Research with Artist Suze Adams
The Cartesian Cut?' exhibition hosted Adams' performed artist residency and installation 'At One Remove'. During the piece the artist occupied the window area at the exhibition and spent the day working in the space. After one week in the window, Adams removed her physical self and left her work and things in situ. Govier was onsite, and conducted ethnographic research during the performance. Adams' piece offered an opportunity to explore the human:material relationships in flow both during and beyond the artist's presence in the window.
Govier, E. (forthcoming). ‘Bodies that co-create: the residues and intimacies of vital materials’. In: L. Attala and L. Steel (eds.), Body Matters. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Adams, S. 2016. 'Dirt drawings', paper rubbed on the floor of the artist residency, exhibition The Cartesian Cut? Fringe Arts Bath, Walcott Street, Bath.
The Colourscape Lab
Govier developed the Colourscape Lab through the support of the Arnolfini's 'Space in Kind' scheme. The one day Lab brought together a group of artists and anthropologists who trialled and interrogated the 'colourscape' method. During the Lab, participants created and explored colour profiles that corresponded to individual and shared perceptions of the environment and the body. The Lab was inspired by Hayward and Kennedy's socio-geographic colour mapping project ColourGround and Lancaster's (1996) discussion of colourscapes and colour control. Professor Paul Haywood (Central Saint Martins) attended the Lab and talked about his colour-based research. The colourscape method is a sensory elicitation technique for ethnographic research, and involves using colour-based elicitation to offer new dimensions to traditional empirical research (see Harper 2002).
Light Studio, Arnolfini, Bristol.
'Plastic Earth' (Sculpture, Govier, 2016) mimics a grassy mound, but when separated it reveals the litter collected from the banks of the River Wye (Wales) and River Avon (England). The piece spotlights the types of plastic litter transported by rivers. The riverine litter was collected (with Environmental Historian Dr Jill Payne, Bristol) from two rivers which lead to the Severn Estuary.
'Sightations' Exhibition, University of Southampton.
The sculpture consisted of 150 levitating colourful bricks rising up above the border between England and Wales. From a far the bricks look like Ticker-Tape or confetti that has fallen, marking human presence. However, the bricks become tangible objects when viewed up-close, and by interacting with the environment (changing light, breeze) the piece creates tension within the overall landscape; referencing boundaries that are felt rather than seen.
Cabalva Farm, Hereford Art Week.
'Trajectory Three' (Govier, 2015) was made from found polystyrene (riverine/marine litter) retrieved from the River Avon tidal floodplain at Shirehampton, downstream from Bristol, by environmental historian Dr Jill Payne from ‘The Power and the Water’ Project.
Govier reconfigured the polystyrene as a sculpture that marks the material’s third 'trajectory' (from packaging to waste to art). At the Festival of Nature, Bristol, ‘Trajectory Three’ encouraged young people of school-age to think about the long-term place of non-biodegradable plastic litter and waste in the environment. Prompted by the piece, researchers asked: What will found objects like this suggest to future generations about today’s society?
Exhibited: Festival of Nature, Bristol 2015.
Ticker-Tape: Berlin was the first in a series of happenings where Govier transformed spaces through the deliberate placement of colourful bricks. The Berlin Kunst-Happening took place in the former Eastern Zone, in a garden courtyard of the Carl Legien Housing Estate, one of six estates listed by UNESCO World Cultural Heritage as representing Berlin Modernism.
The piece celebrated the work of architect Bruno Taut, whose motto was “Colour is zest for life” (Farbe ist Lebensfreude). The buildings that surround the courtyard are still painted in the same vibrant shades that were part of Taut’s original design in 1929. The colours, like the distance between rows of houses, the generous-sized rooms, and the many windows brightening up each apartment, were part of Taut's plans to make life more pleasant for low-income tenants.
Event date: 17.4.2013.
Belonging to the Landscape?
Govier collaborated with Environmental Historian Dr Jill Payne in an exploration of energy, consumption and waste in past, present and future Welsh landscapes.
In keeping with Wales' commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 2020 and complying with the Sustainable Energy Charter, in this exhibition Govier and Payne explored the changing energy landscape of Wales through a collection of new artworks that respond to Wales now. Environmental historian Dr Jill Payne contributed commentaries. The exhibition considered different forms of energy, past, present and future, in the Welsh landscape. By marking the presence of these structures, the exhibition acknowledged, reflected, and celebrated the changing landscape and encouraged intergenerational discussions, particularly on matters close to the Welsh Assembly Climate Change Engagement Strategy for Wales.
Welsh Assembly, Pierhead Futures Gallery.
Ticker-Tape: Playground occurred at Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn/Newcastle Emlyn Secondary School in Wales at 11:20am on Thursday 9.5.13. The artist stacked 100 bricks in the centre of the caged tennis court before silently placing the fluorescent bricks on the floor so that they appeared like confetti scattered across the playground. Students watched from windows and doorways. The playground is a socially significant space; Govier commented: "I wanted to spotlight it, the bricks from afar look like confetti or Ticker-Tape - and yet when you are up close, the physicality of the bricks becomes tangible, you can see how it prevents you moving through the space. A lot of stuff happens on the playground that stays with us through life. Art doesn't just happen in galleries, I wanted to show the students that it can happen here, today, and that they are a part of it. Their reaction is as much a part of the piece as the bricks themselves".
Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn.
On a litter pick at the Sea Mills Floodplain, Bristol, researchers from the AHRC 'Power and the Water' Project commented on the sound of plastic crunching beneath their feet as they walked across the grass. The experience of walking across the landscape had revealed that the appearance of the green growing land was deceptive, for it squeaked from the build up of plastics lying beneath. Inspired by their remarks, Govier developed 'Becoming Earth?'.
Participants at the Beyond Perception 15 conference were invited to explore their contemporary relationship with plastic by entering into 'correspondence' (2013: 7) with plastics by walking on 'Becoming Earth?' - a sculpture made from organic turf loaded with invisible plastics.
Beyond Perception 15, University of Aberdeen.
Installation and Performance
Govier collaborated with AHRC Power and the Water project team member Dr Jill Payne in the creation of a large-scale public art installation in the water spaces of Bristol’s Millennium Square. The installation, Ticker-Tape: Waterscape, formed part of the Bristol Bright Night event hosted by the At-Bristol Science Centre and was designed to challenge viewers’ perceptions of energy production in the landscape. A floating sculpture of 500 fluorescent bricks accompanied by a 5-minute visual soundscape broadcast on the BBC Big Screen overhead.
Bristol Bright Night is part of the annual ‘Researchers’ Night’ programme, an EU Commission-funded project that aims to engage publics across Europe in celebrating the latest and most stimulating research at a local and international level.
AT-Bristol Science Centre.
The Cartesian Cut?
The Cartesian Cut? exhibition (curator, Govier) interrogated the boundary of the body. The title of the exhibition related to the philosopher René Descartes (1596―1650) who made a clear distinction between the mind and body. Contemporary philosopher Karen Barad problematised his boundary, calling it the ‘Cartesian cut’ (2003: 815). Contra-Descartes she offered an understanding of entities not as unique beings but ‘phenomena’ in constant ‘intra-action’ (2003: 815). Jane Bennett, in her seminal piece 'Vibrant Matter', reminds us of the colonies of bacteria that inhabit the crook of the human elbow and how they moisturise the skin and help with the movement of the arm (2010: 112); Bennett remarks: “the its outnumber the mes [!]”. Inspired by this remark, this exhibition brought together artists working with ideas about the 'porosity' of body boundaries.
Image: 'The Cartesian Cut?', Energy Drink Ice Sculpture, 2015.
Fringe Arts Bath Cartesian Cut? Exhibition.