Materiality – An exploration


Focusing on our material environment we will investigate with Laura what it means to be in the world of objects/stuff/things, and how the materials around us affect and influence our bodies, behaviour, status, emotions – socially, politically, economically etc. Paying attention to the materials we come across everyday and those less familiar, such as the details of objects and things that we use, own, negotiate and are entangled with, from the stuff of food to objects of consumerism.
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Sotheby’s Summer School, London. June 2016
HOUSERULES Summer School, London. July 2016.
University of Leeds. November 2016.
Goldsmiths College at Cubitt Studios and Gallery London. February 2017.
30 minutes observation (in silence) of 3 objects/stuff/material. Followed by a discussion on materiality.
1. Uncooked bread dough turned out onto the floor.
2. Designed object – Dyson heater/fan placed on plinth turned off and not plugged in OR 1 or 2 Lynx shower gel containers (one old and empty and the other new and full.) 
3. Mixed media Sculpture placed on floor OR inflatable blue sofa with small chamois leather ball embedded.
To think about while looking, listening and smelling…
•Explore weight, gravity, surface and material qualities, balance, colour, texture, density, and stability.
•Observe how materials and surfaces meet/touch each another.
•Try to AVOID thinking about – meaning, politics, language of the objects, their function etc. Focus on the immediate materials in front of you.
•Think about what materials are included – what can you see and what is hidden, connecting points, how they came into the world, process involved to form/make them.
•How are they made? What evidence is there to how they are made?
•How are they standing up? What stops them from falling down? How strong/weak are they?
•Do they release anything? Smell, vapor, residue, liquid, leave a trace.
•Are they stable – move, grow, shrink, age, wear down? How is this caused?
•Are they dead or alive?
•What questions might YOU ask?
After 30 mins open up discussion – things to think about….
•Firstly, describe what you see in front of you without referring to what the object/ thing is. Describe each object/thing.
• Did you chose an object and Why?
• Did you compare objects, and did this assist in exploring each individual object?
• How do we understand materials? Does the object define our understanding or can the material do this on its own? How do we experience materials? Do we rely on past experience and familiarity?
• When looking at an object – how much of your understanding of it is influenced by what it is made of? Do materials become invisible when ‘cooked’ as in when fixed in their final state as an object?
• Trusted material and behaviour of material. Artificial or real? Is the material behaving as expected of doing something unfamiliar? Does it appear soft and yet is hard?
• How does one material connect/join/touch another?
• Material history. Material you can see and those you cannot (e.g. chemicals that make up the glaze on ceramic objects) – how it came to being and how it is now? Materials temporarily or permanently combined with one other.
• Matter that is fluid then becomes fixed or solid or material that has always been solid?
• Can you gather all information about the object/material in front of you without touching? Can we trust what we see?
• Can we see all materials involved – e.g. liquid inside the container, chamois leather- goatskin, dye, and chemicals? Bread – flour, water, and yeast. Dyson fan – plastic, metal (made of various elements.) Nowhere could I find exactly what it was made of?
• The surface – how does that come about? Is it the material coming into contact with the air to create a skin, or is there a separate covering/layer that is wrapping the object.
• What process – making – hand or machine has bought it into the world. What is the evidence? What labour is suggested. Designed, Intuitive action (predetermined or direct action?), replicated?
• Is the language (words) we use to describe material a limitation to our experience of engaging with materials? How can we talk about them? Poetry? List of elemental components? Sound?
• How are be influenced by the hierarchy of materials? Value, accessibility, history and fashion of material.
• How does our current environment (e.g. living in a digital era) affect our material engagement? 1. Our use of hand activation (finger swipe on tablet surface) and relationship to making. 2. Our reading of objects that have been designed on a flat screen. Can the stuff/material of objects cope with 2d ambitious digital designs? 3. New material we don’t understand. 4. Materials that simulate (copy) materials such as plastic that looks like wood.
• How fragile or strong is the material/object? How old is it? Does it look fashionable?
• Where does the observation of materials stop? E.g. what about the plinth that the fan sits on and the room we are in.
• How does your body relate to the material? Physical reaction. How does your body engage with them – do you imagine what it might feel like to pick one of them up and is that integral in understanding the object/material.
• How is the environment affecting the materials – would they be different in a different environment?
• Does the object make a sound?
• Why are certain materials used? – To protect other materials, economy, appearance.
• Why are certain materials seductive and others not?
• What is natural and what is artificial? New material and old material?
• What can we learn about looking? And what can we take away from this experience?