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Composting Artwork

by James on July 26th, 2013

I decided a few days ago to re-visit the idea and practice of leaving animals and the elements to contribute to my artwork. In the past I have buried plain handmade books to see what imprint was left on the pages. I have rubbed onto paper, left sculptures to rot and decay, and gathered the resources that I found around me, pond water and weed in a drawing of a newt for example.

This time I wanted to make artwork with my garden. An artist friend of mine Kathy Mead Skerrit, has been dying papers with petals, and another artist friend, Chris Seeley experimenting with ash. I thought that the warm, wet environments of my compost bin, and not quite so warm pond would make excellent living labs within which to experiment. Both Chris and Kathy worked with me previously on Blank Twins and The Great Turning Artful Inquiry.

I chose artwork that I was pleased with and yet felt unfinished, and put together other new surfaces for the bugs and rot to work their magic on, stitching and bundling botanical and anatomical imagery from old books and posters together.

Below and above left are some of the images from when they were first placed in the compost and pond, and here is some video of a few days later when the communities of insects and invertebrates have started doing their thing – ‘Composting in Progress’

In the past I’ve been inspired by the work of fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, who buried silk dresses with metal to dye them, and artists Olly & Suzi who make artwork through direct interaction with animals, and Martin Prothero’s Carbon, Light, Life series, with whom I worked alongside in our residencies at College Lake.

I’m going to leave my pieces a while longer until they really start to discolor and get eaten, before reclaiming them and drying them out again. More images to come as that happens…



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