Autumn 2022 - Stones, Squirrels and Sentience
Mailout from Max Dovey
OH no! Another Artist newsletter that i don't recall signing up for….🤢
My sincere apologies if you find this piled up in your overflowing inbox amongst all the bills, flyers and other promotional material stacking up like the envelopes piling up in front of the door way that prevents you from leaving the house and LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE.
You have absolutely every right to click unsubscribe at the bottom of this email, and perhaps you should if you don’t want to receive a quarterly email from me BUT give me to the bottom of this* paragraph to try and persuade you to stick around…
For the past couple of years I dropped slightly OFFLINE due to a) claustrophobia of social media during numerous lockdowns and b) the chaos of parenthood both arriving at the same time (nay/yay!). During this period I was learning lots of new things and occasionally making bits and bobs in whatever slither of time I could afford in between everything else.
Having alot less time to attend private views or submerge myself in intensive month-long residencies, I'm hoping an occasional newsletter (quarterly tops!) will help maintain some level of correspondence with interesting people I have once worked alongside or shared a drink with. I’m writing with buoyant optimism about writing, reflecting and sharing creative endeavors so that ideas germinate and flourish and our worlds become slightly more folded. I promise i wont try to sell you any NFTs ;-)
If your not feeling it please do unsubscribe. I totally get it, apologies for being a nuisance and hopefully no bad feelings :-)
For anyone else who fancies sticking around! I adore you, thank-you for your time & generosity ❤️
Making - What have you been up to?
For the best part of this year I've been hatching a project around the geopolitics of rare earth minerals that are used in our electrical devices and renewable batteries. I've been shocked at the scale of engineering and exploitation of people and land caused by mining Cobalt and have been feeling cautious about the transition to renewable energy moving from extracting petroleum to a finite amount of minerals.
I began experimenting with a game that would map the supply chain of Cobalt using conductive ink and copper materials (see image) to represent the infrastructure of cobalt production whilst creating an electronic circuit. While I never actually got round to playing the game I changed my approach towards a more sensory and spiritual approach to the materials and the subject matter.
During July I took part in the 14th Choreographic Coding Lab hosted at A+E lab in Chatham (was absolutely brilliant to be with lots of dancers, coders and creatives exploring how the body is can be mediated by Machine learning, motion capture and virtual environments ) During this residency I got REALLY into the myths and spiritual narratives surrounding stones and wanted to use a metal detector as a listening device to tune into ancient cultures of stone worship whilst extracting whatever metal we could find to create a physical electronic circuit to celebrate and acknowledge the energy that we extract from minerals.
This workshop in July went really well, because i only had 1 metal detector at the time the audience all made offerings of metal that they already had on their persons (coins, sandal, belt!) to create a conductive circuit from an assemblage of metal. The various metal objects triggered different soundscapes designed by Fern Ford that accompanied a ceremony in mineral worship. The ceremony acknowledged the vital role these minerals play in powering our devices and narrated different beliefs and cultures that treat stones as sacred and having sentience. The ceremony concluded with this quote from this editorial by Phillip Ball (link) that sums up the general other-than-human / new animism approach in the work.
There is no reason to suppose that today’s AI has any more sentience or experience than the rocks from which its silicon is extracted.
I've nearly finished a 1st draft of the audio narration that will accompany the metal detecting walks, and now am the proud owner of 6 metal detectors so am very keen to begin doing some group metal detecting walks and developing the work futher.
If your interested in joining for a walk I will put some dates on my Instagram and (or) if you want to help by hosting a metal detecting session do reach out to me over email.
The Interspecies Treaty of Finsbury Park
Ive had tremendous enjoyment working with Ruth Catlow again over the past few months on the epic Treaty of Finsbury Park 2025 - The project used live action role play (LARP-ing) to develop more than human empathy with other species and protect and celebrate the various bio-diversities of Finsbury park in North London.
I joined this intrepid project as a collaborative artist and as one of the LARP hosts in Spring alongside Bea Xu , hosting the online assemblies as my mentor species, Scirius a London cockney Squirrel (see image above for example of one of the filters used for the Interspecies Assemblies ) and working on the festival production that will take place in Finsbury Park.
For the online assemblies all participants would come masked as a mentor species that inhabit Finsbury Park and would be tasked with curating a public programme of festivities to encourage interspecies collaboration and celebrate the various bio-diversities in the park. (see this short 30 second exchange between stag beetle, tree, grass and squirrel as they discuss their talents!) The audience journey, committed players and the structured game play all helped to produce extraordinary generative inter-relations between all the participants and the project soaks into your everyday when you have to return to being human - ive been studiously observing squirrels ever since!
As ever with Ruth and Furtherfield there are so many glorious ideas to unpack and get your head around in this project but I am really feeding off the exciting role performance and role play can have as a mode for interfacing with other-than-human cultures.
What have you been reading ?
My top summer read has been Ways of Being by James Bridle. I really enjoyed the journey they took us on and how they position technology within ecology and the numerous scenes where technology can be used to interface with the ‘more-than-human’ commonwealth.
Frankenstein Reanimated: Creation & Technology in the 21st Century edited by Marc Garret and Yiannis Colakides. It contains a whole load of great essays on technology and art within thepersistent narrative of Mary Shelly’s 200 year old tale between monster and machine.
I am now enjoying ‘Sand Talk - How Indigenous Thinking can Save the World’ by Tyson Yunkaporta, a very immediate conversation on applying Indigenous thinking to global systems and sensing patterns of creation in everyday life.
What have you been Listening to?
Everything is Alive a podcast consisting of 20 minute improvised interviews with an In-animate object, guests feature an elevator, a bar of soap and my favorite - a grain of sand.
The Animal Turn podcast with researcher Claudia Hirtenfelder is really rich high quality interviews with various academics and researchers in the field of biology, animal rights and environmental studies.
In a similar vein, Ologies with Alie Ward has HIGHLY intelligent specialist guests on VERY niche subjects, each with their own ‘Ology’; for example a Millipede specialist from diplopodology studies 🐛 , a coral specialist from Smologies studies and mountain goats from Oreamnology studies 🐐.
What exhibitions look interesting?
Great pals and great artists Ruth Faulkner and Kid Buckley are creating pop up performance bars for one night only at Artists behind Bars on the 29th September at the Bomb Factory London
Apt Open Studios in Deptford, South London on 17 - 18 September 2022
The new Art Angel commission called ‘The Directors’ by Marcus Coates look worth a visit if your near London
I liked the sound of Luke Jerram’s ‘Crossings’ commission but sadly was unable to go!
This group show at Arebyte looks great opening 27 Oct 2022
Conkers are following quicker than i can recall, i picked one up during August Bank holiday - which means time to get Autumnal. I was carrying what I called ‘September Dread’ all of last week as I felt the transition between summer and school term time contort my happy summerness. For those in the flow of term times, the start of the new school year feels like a big wave approaching and when it lands it will be fine, it will probably even be fun, but while its building as a prospective swell on the horizon it can generate some needless anxiety. Before you bag up your summer clothes and start trying to find your scarves, I find it helps to take some time to continue any outdoors activities for as long as possible and get some stuff booked in the calendars to pin some social hangs now the festival season comes to a close and the nights start to draw in.
Wow - thankyou for reading this, if you have any comments or responses i would genuinely love to hear them. Please share this with anyone who might enjoy it and follow me on Instagram for more frequent visual noise.
lots of love ❤️
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