Meet the artist

Brody Mace-Hopkins is an artist who works primarily with sculpture, performance, costume and painting. They graduated from Camberwell College of the Arts in 2020 with a first class honours degree in sculpture and has since released the film, ‘Unearth Me and See Me Wildly Dance’ which they made in collaboration with Rae Teitelbaum and premiered at Tangent Projects as part of Loop Film Festival.  Brody’s work could most poignantly be described as exploring the intersections of the natural world with ideas of queerness and the human condition. Within this they have a focus on the inherent magic of nature and conversely how nature is becoming mythologised within the ever expanding Anthropocene and through the division between people and the natural world.

Brody was first in touch with Beacon Arts Centre when they assisted on the curation and installation of the Winter Exhibition. Since then the Beacon has commissioned them to take part in the participatory art exhibition ‘Weathering Earth’ which has been set up by the Midlothian Climate Beacon. As Brody had worked with clay before and has strong themes of environmentalism running through their work as well as having worked for Beacon Arts Centre previously, it seemed a brilliant opportunity.

The brief

Work with the constraints of three days studio access and a block of clay (roughly 2 kg) to create a sculpture which will be left out in the elements (lovely Scottish weather!) to deteriorate.

Materials

'I created forms reminiscent of fungus, lichen, marine invertebrates and human body parts.'

'Using a cross section of pine from the Glasgow Wood Recycling Centre and a section of branch which has been weathered and worn as driftwood I created an armature from which I would build the clay forms out from as if the clay itself is an organic growth. The armature would also act as a landing pad to capture the clay and run-off as it gets weathered and deteriorates. This was an aesthetic choice as well as a practical and ethos based decision as one of the main attributes of clay as a moulding material is that unless fired it is eternally recyclable and reconstitutable. On a personal level I enjoy finding ways to capture ephemeral processes.'

The structure

'On the first day of making I explored a more fantastical route, influenced by fairy tales, and mythological creatures and monsters. Upon returning to the work on the second day of making I found that, having not secured the work firmly to the armature most of it had fallen apart and cracked as the clay had dried. This was somewhat of a relief as I felt the initial idea was too twee and too overworked. I stress overworked as when using clay I feel it important that what is created is less about manipulating the clay into an envisioned outcome but rather the relationship between handling/impact and outcome. In this way we give pertinence to the materiality of the clay in keeping with the idea of human interaction with the natural world. We can build in harmony with the world around us, generations of indigenous communities are proof of that, but once we start manipulating it to a vision we malform it beyond repair i.e. plastics and chemicals created by irreversible reactions which are no longer bio-degradable, and as we see within the last hundred years of these technological advancements we have brought ourselves to the edge of an extinction event. This is why when using natural materials I think it important to work with the material’s attributes and personality  as subjectively I also feel this creates the most cohesive and aesthetic outcome, it creates flow.'

Themes

'Another creation myth l reference which has become both a part of my practice and a part of this project is from Norse mythology. It is believed that the gods Odin, Vili and Ve created the first people- Askr and Embla- from tree trunks found on the seashore. Alongside the inherent bodily aspects of trees and other myths of people turned to trees (such as Daphne into a Laurel tree in Greek mythology) I find ways of combining the forms of human and flora very interesting and fun to play with. Whilst it is also quite a fearful idea which attacks our very sense of self as a person, it creates an ontological dilemma, the fusion of plant and animal, that which has a stronger sense of autonomy and that which is rooted to the ground. After all there are folklore and fairy-tales which talk of fairies attacking or subduing people as vines merge with their bodies, pulling them underground, encapsulating or completely transforming them. Not to mention the green man who is rarely depicted as an autonomous creature but rather vines and leaves infesting and growing out from inside human bodies.'

The process

'The other comparison I would like to draw up is that on the first day of making I used tools and created individual objects to be arranged, however on the second day I focused purely on using my hands, mainly pressure, whether that be squeezing the clay between my palms, rolling it on my fingers or pushing it onto the armature to create the final outcome. However one element of the sculpture remained from the first day which was a anthropomorphic form of a bum, legs and ribs/spinal chord. I feel this element benefits from being manipulated more thoroughly than the rest of the sculpture as it harks back to many creation myths. From that of some of the North American natives and Aymaran people of the Andes, it is believed we are all made of clay. Even in Christianity it is said that God formed humankind out of dust from the ground. Furthermore as a sidenote for the reverence of clay as a material it is said in aboriginal culture that to dig into the land is to harm it and that land is intrinsically linked to our existence and how we navigate life. With this in mind I find the aspect of this project, where the piece of clay (land) I am working with has been sent to me from a specific, other, location very interesting. In the past when I have dug up clay myself to use in projects I feel the more I travel with the clay and the more places I take it to in order to create with it, the more profound the piece becomes, as the clay is a part of another place it becomes an island within any surrounding environment that is other to its origin.'

 

Weathering Earth Project

As part of the Midlothian Climate Beacon, Nicole Manley, an environmental artist, in collaboration with Victoria Robb and the National Mining Museum Scotland, are facilitating Weathering Earth: a participatory art installation. Weathering Earth brings together children and people from several primary schools in the Midlothian and people from all over Scotland to create clay sculptures in relation with cliamte change. All sculptures are made while thinking about climate change and then sculptures are placed outside for several days for the weather to work upon them.

 

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