′′No human being is an island, ended in itself. Everyone is part of the continent, a piece of the mainland,” wrote English poet John Donne in 1624.
John Donne saw the human being as a microcosm that mirrored and was the run through of the great macrocosmos. He also, clearly, saw human beings as soil. Or Soiled, if you wish. However, this idea of man and the world as tangled in the Western cultural circle was gradually replaced by another mind-set where humans were kept separate from the web of life. These errors of Cartesian dualism became part of the organizing structures of power in an era of colonial conquest of the rest of the world, and are currently part of the continued structural violence of our economic and political system. This violence is embedded in the ordinary, taken-for-granted patterns of the way the world, and has its continued manifestation throughout–and within–our bodies.
Soiled is, simply put, an installation of drinking glasses on soil-filled pedestals on tables. The drinking glasses are, in this instance, referred to as goblets, as the etymology of the word goblet leads back to the act of ingesting, and ingesting is– simply put–the point. Every piece of matter we ingest is suffused with its own stories, connections, and meanings that intersect with our own stories and our own bodies. Research suggests that our environment not only manifests in our biology, but is carried forward at the molecular level through epigenetics, causing changes that affect the way our genes work, and can be passed on to future generations.
For Soiled, each goblet is filled with a range of materials that all refer back to the human body and the soil they are standing in, and their interconnected narratives. Inside the goblets, the materials crystallise, ferment and grow together, active forces creating new growths and new connections–just as the materials we ingest. There is–for example– the 150-year old Washington charcoal that still smells like deep smoke with its entwined stories of mining, woodlands, and black lungs, oscillating together with the logwood extract from a spiny tree largely found in Mexico and exported by the Spanish in the 16th century, with its rich purple tones and stories of soils and colonialization. There are also, amongst others, red seaweed carrageenan and red sugar crystal marshmallows and what material processes and relationships they–literally–bring to the table.