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RCA talks

Dark Materialisms: Making and Unmaking Speakers: Celia Pym and Eleanor Morgan

7 February 2018 | 6pm

Kensington, Lecture Theatre 1

The physicist and feminist philosopher Karen Barad suggests that 'matter feels, converses, suffers, desires, yearns and remembers.' The Dark Materialisms research group draws from work in the fields of new materialism, feminist materialism and ecological thought. It considers the drive towards new material futures in relation to our entanglements with the traces, impacts and histories of our material pasts. We therefore frame our research around practices of making and unmaking, of working with but also responding to and learning from materials. Our research values creativity, humour, artistic speculation, the production of wonder and exploration through craft. We consider how the processes and practices of MAKING bring us into contact with, and bind us to, the more-than-human world – to the animal, vegetable, mineral and technological. These expanded ecologies inspire curiosity about other ways of being, other ways of seeing, other ways of knowing. They challenge taken-for-granted epistemologies and ask us to be attentive to what gets excluded as well as what comes to matter. Dark materialisms pays attention to the blind spots in the production of knowledge and seeks to build alternative methodologies that emerge from practice-led approaches. 

Celia Pym is an artist who makes darned, knitted and embroidered textiles and public textile events. She likes a heavy darn and the feel of really worn down wool, the evidence of use in holes and where they occur, working with other people’s problems and the tenderness that can come with repair. She works surfaces closely like a detective and says about darned holes: 'I love the wobbly frayed edges against, confident solid filled in spots of colour.” Selected exhibitions, collaborations and prizes: Finalist, Woman’s Hour Craft Prize, V&A Museum (2017) finalist LOEWE Craft Prize, (2017), COAM, Madrid, Chamber Gallery, New York and 21_21, Tokyo; What Do I Need to do to Make it OK? (2015–17) Pump House Gallery, London, and touring; 59 Sorties, (2016), Nouveau Musée National de Monaco; LOVE the YARN: Festival of Love, Royal Festival Hall with Lasmin Salmon and ActionSpace, (2015); Parallel Practices Residency (Crafts Council/King’s Cultural Institute), (2014–16), with Dr Richard Wingate exploring anatomy and mending in KCL’s Dissecting Room. Pym is the recipient of the 2018 UK Craft Fellowship at Penland School of Crafts, North Carolina. 

Eleanor Morgan is an artist and writer who uses printmaking, video, drawing and sculpture to explore materials and processes of making across species. This has included teaching ants to draw self-portraits, making a diamond from the dead creatures of the River Thames and serenading spiders. Her recent book, Gossamer Days: spiders, humans and their threads (Strange Attractor Press: 2016) explores the history of the human uses of spider silk and the human entanglement with spiders. Morgan has received funding from the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Selected exhibitions and performances include Print Dept. Division of Labour (2017), Jerwood Drawing Prize (2016), Glass Delusions, Grant Museum of Zoology (2015) A labour of Moles, dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and co-curated exhibition Life of Clay, RIBA London (2016). Working collaboratively with artist Sam Curtis on the project How to rub a fish, she has run fish rubbing workshops at the Ikon Gallery, the Institute of Making and Sluice art fair.