States of living: Architecture, Object Body
It's been a busy few weeks on the project so far, with the artists Zsa Zsa McGregor and Louise Foreman meeting for the first time. The session was framed by responses to collectively reading “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, from “Dancing at the Edge of the World” by Ursula Le Guin, whilst creating space to share the development of work with each other.
Le Guin's text presents the theory that the first tool used by humans was a carrier bag for food rather than a weapon. Le Guin draws connections between the story of origins and the writing of fiction. That contrary of stories of the hero in battle the novel is a feminine form, because it opposes this notion. Le Guin maintains that, “the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag...holding things in particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”(p.152)
The text offered a platform to consider applications of this theory in arts practice as one of holding 'things' in tension. Within arts practice, how is attention given to the people, stories, theories and materials the are worked with: What's in your carrier bag? The text also situated tensions in the use of historical/archival material within the research, through questioning authorship and the role of archivists as gatekeepers.
Zsa Zsa's work uses a comb factory on Hutcheon street, Aberdeen to situate connections between the Pictish stones in Aberdeenshire, where symbols of combs and mirrors were used regularly. She took an opportunity to visit the Picardy and The Maiden Stone, North West of Inverurie.
...Stone body meets flesh body medieval structure meets present structure. The Pictish stones hold remnants and residues of the past culture. My body this interacts with this residue channeling the past and questioning present and future. Channelling a communication through performance.
A choreographed visual language between my hands and the carved symbols...(Zsa Zsa McGregor)
The soap factory ‘Soapy Ogstens’ as it was known, once stood on the Gallowgate and is the point of encounter for Louise’s work. The research is following the trail of traditional processes of soap making, through the processing of kelp or 'sea ware' as it is more generally referred to. This method was used in Scotland and also Ireland.
Later industrialisation in printing techniques also allowed the packaging of the soap bar to become a site of religious, political and at times utopian messaging. Dr. Bronners Peppermint 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap and All-One-God-Faith soap was first produced in the 1960's. 'Absolute cleanliness is godliness!'*, is one tagline used. These rambling, semi - religious, semi - fictional narratives covering Bronners soap juxtapose the sites of washing. In domestic spaces or the body. What might be deemed an intimate and private space, is infiltrated with the moral guidelines of the maker.
Louise has also visited a family owned soap making company, to develop an understanding of the process. Mary Jean is family run business and uses traditional soap making processes and is based in Fochabers, we thank you Mary Jean for sharing your knowledge and hospitality!
*See pdf for details
The project will support the development of new work, showcased in Aberdeen in January 2020. This project was made possible through funding from the Aberdeen City Council’s ‘Creative Funding Award.’
Fertile ground is the curatorial platform for Rachel Grant. A curator based in Aberdeen, in the North East of Scotland. This blog is kept up to date with selected project activity and research.