CLAY: MATERIAL AND IMMATERIAL PERFORMED

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

A creative and experimental text work exploring clay, materiality and humanness.



Chinese picture book detailing an early ceramic factory, date and origins unknown.

“Clay: Material and Immaterial Performed” is an experimental and conceptual text work which explores contemporary and historical relationships between clay and human, materiality and immateriality.

The text births new relationships between clay and man by exploring the multiple definitions, forms and modes of being in which clay can exist.

The three chapters, (1) Matter as Material vs Matter as Martyr, (2) Transference: the gestures between the (un)making, and (3) Metamorphosis: (un)making and destroying, follows the maturation of clay from a physical material and an immaterial being void of context. The text explores the movement of clay by man and the subsequent relationships we have with clay as a manipulator, a destroyer and an observer. I explore the inherent characteristic of man to inject humanity within his or her creation, a process which is performed through the working of clay.

As a conceptual text, the work emulates Kenny Goldsmith’s maxim where “The idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work…the idea becomes the machine that makes the text.” This idea of concept becoming more than the physical text supports “Clay: Material and Immaterial Performed” as a work in which text and the materiality of that text enter into new relationships. The conceptualisation of clay in three distinct modes of being: material, performance, and destruction, renders the attention of the work away from its construct as a textual piece and instead onto the lived experience of clay. The fictionella series Lost Rocks 2017-2021, and in particular Ally Bisshop’s Marble chapter, has helped inspire this work in terms of its construction as it follows a similar essay-poem-essay structure. Not only does this organisation help reiterate the concept of materiality, it also allows for a slower more controlled reading of the text as the reader must continually switch between scholar and poetics. The controlled reading style helps situate this text as a comment on the human condition, materiality and humanity, a comment which must be slowly and quietly considered.


As a text which explores materiality and our inherent attraction to materiality, “Clay: Material and Immaterial Performed” speaks of our wider human condition and our social practice of manipulating and performing material. Through this text we might begin to understand our historical and contemporary desire to touch and manipulate material as being connected to the inner desires of humanity. If the relationship between existence and flesh is a material one then surely this is the cause for our yearning to touch and transform clay. It should follow then that our post-humanist relationship with clay (or any other material) recognises materiality as a fundamental expression of the human condition.


Read the full text here.