Interview with Rachel Pimm

May 2017

A series of interviews with SPACE Art + Technology artists in residence

What were you doing in the year leading up to the residency?
Last year I was working on a few things - I’d been working on a solo show about water and plastic at Jerwood. The projects started with an object - the black plastic shade ball - which is used to reduce evaporation from drought stricken water reservoirs, but as an image it seems unlikely, a bit like a kid's ball pool or an oil spill. It was an image that made me think about full stops, dot dot dots... about what might happen next in the world and about how organic forms on a micro and macro level are spherical. I was lucky enough to be able to work on this from Hospitalfield House where I played with various circular objects on a turntable in the studio during their summer residency, which was so much fun thanks to the atmosphere, the food (2 chef prepared meals a day!) and the other residents who are great friends. This is part of why I applied to the SPACE Art + Tech call out, as I wanted to do more residencies after this one.

Also I was working on a video with fellow ex-Goldsmiths collaborators Jasmine Johnson, Gareth Owen Lloyd, Kristin Luke and Alice May Williams (MoreUtopia), which involved a shooting a film in a socialist Spanish town of Marinaleda where they have a cooperative farm and houses for 5 Euros a month, for the anniversary publication Thomas More’s Utopia. I worked on a project with Eva Frabregas about quantum gravity, geology, full of colours, gym equipment and memphis-esque patterns, which was really fun. We made an edition I absolutely love. So although I was working a lot, I was doing it alongside other people and making it extra social and pleasurable, which also luckily turned out to be more productive in the end for me. My work is so rooted in spending time with inanimate objects I have to remember to do this.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have been thinking for a while about the stuff in the world, almost working on it one material at a time which feels limitless in an exciting way. I wanted to revisit some ideas from my MFA show at Goldsmiths, which was a kind of tiled garden, the content I developed when researching Darwin's worm and agronomy (the study of soil) for a Chisenhale commission, Worming out of shit. After this long period thinking about the ground, what constitutes and affects the remixing of the components of the organic and the earth and geology in large systems - the material I'm thinking about now is clay. In The White Building studio, I have been doing mainly research. The studio was a collecting space for materials related to the surface of the earth and to ball clay mining and tile manufacture - so while I was obsessing about black plastic spheres this time last year, now I am back to tiles again. Kaolin, feldspar, mica and quartz. Part of the time was spent planning and executing a shoot in Velp, Holland, visiting and collaborating with a design company called Dtile whose 15 x 15cm grid of tiles beautifully and seamlessly curve around anything, forming corners for an everywhere surface, a bit like the 60s collages of the continuous monument by Florence architecture group, Superstudio made real. After asking them hundreds of questions and watching the way they work in person over a few days in their workshop, they’ve sent me data, 3D design files and samples to plan sculptural and video work and I’ve since found help from some really great technical people in animation and ceramics to continue working with back in the UK.

How have you found the residency so far?
Perhaps down to the combination of people, the studio had a very focused atmosphere and I’m interested in the proximity of the work of the other artists I shared the studio with - Eloïse, Saemundur, Johann, Clara, Jenna, Ilona, Diann and Gary, with whom I hope conversations will develop over years to come. I’m not used to having a studio and during a period when I seemed to be moving house every month, it made everything more stable, which I have to thank SPACE for. Artists never get paid enough and any organisation who provides artists with both living as well as production expenses should be applauded loudly, which is probably the single most important thing to sustaining a practice. Studios, time, promotion - all these things are great, but all artists work in different ways and paying them acknowledges and values the work they do. I wish I was still there now!

What’s coming next?
I have a solo show opening at Hales Gallery at the end of June, which is the outcome of this body of work. So currently I'm planning how the different elements of the show will hang together and frantically making them. I’m using ceramics at various workshops, making prints and editing video. I’m also tentatively trying to incorporate some music into this video, not just for the audience’s pleasure but also for my own pleasure in making it. The staff in the tile factory played music while working, so it's in all of my recordings and some of it is good stuff that I really enjoy working with, so I'm using that as a starting point. I have another show just after this one in a project space called onepointfiveone, just opposite Whitechapel Gallery. This will be a re-arrangement of something I did as a test for this show with Matt Calderwood a few weeks ago.

I am also getting ready for another really exciting residency with my partner Jasmine Johnson on Rabbit Island in Lake Superior for the whole of this August. We proposed something quite ambitious, thinking about copper routes in the Keweenaw Peninsula and Great Lakes, as well as forged artefacts. It involves trying to paint and draw with copper conductive ink and make a film, but I imagine a lot of what we will experience will be just about being outside, alone, talking, fishing, making fires and feeling the weather. We’ll be dropped off on an otherwise uninhabited island with two small off-grid buildings, a boat and nothing else at the end of July. We will be working in a very remote way for a month together and see what it’s like to work without distractions. To be in the middle of the USA right now is probably almost as surreal as it is to be in the UK, politics wise. I'm really looking forward to it and I am sure I'm going to find it formative in some unknown ways. Academically, I've been part of, or following the 'nature is a construct' discourse, all these ‘-cenes’ that people are theorising and wonder how that deep-time thinking holds up or changes somewhere like Rabbit Island?

Anything you’d like to add?
In a few months I’ll be leaving my university job and with it handing over the computer I use, so that’s going to prompt a new type of work. Perhaps I’m going to start doing more with my hands, but I'll definitely be doing more research, initially following the Periodic Table as a kind of structure for understanding hybrid and multifarious materiality, while also in a cataloguing sense for projects, working with other people in various forms, perhaps publishing to begin with. I need an outlet for all the amateur science I’m finding myself pursuing. So I’ll be hitting the books and starting to make sense of it. Anyone interested in talking about elements and matter later this year with me, say hi!