Category: Writer in Residence — Published:

This weekend we present Rachel Pimm’s final two contributions to our blog as Whitechapel Gallery Writer in Residence. These texts follow the earlier Disintegration and can be read alongside the current exhibition Plates, in their exploration of the relationships between geologies, politics and bodies.

With Plates currently closed to the public, we are also pleased to share the sound work conceived for the exhibition, created by Pimm’s collaborator Lori E. Allen. The piece uses field recordings from the volcanic landscapes of the Afar region in Ethiopia, collected on a shared research trip that has formed the basis for their work over the course of the residency with Whitechapel.

Tessellation is a polymorphous image library. The text is presented as a recording of an illustrated performative lecture presented by Pimm in July 2019, edited and translated to video. Through words and images, we follow Pimm’s quasi-thesis on the behaviour of tessellating forms in geology and biology, mapped through personal narratives and metaphors. There is a queerness in the reading of the natural landscape enacted through language – from ‘polys’, to hot fluidity, dykes, hexes and complex boundaries. Words are unstable, or rather they are still forming, breaking apart and coming back together again.

i was surprised
that i had cleaved
so differently
to them
that my edges
were mine
even though

they were theirs

a pack of polygons
which were once
a fluid hot mess
different temperatures
different pressures
separately from their mass

The following text, Aggregation, invites us to an imaginary dinner party. It is presented in the form of a twelve-course tasting menu, featuring earth-based dishes ‘on the boundary of the edible’ including foraged mushrooms, clays, salts and charcoal. Informed by geophagy (the practice of eating earth or soil-like substrates such as clay or chalk), the courses are designed as landscape-to-mouth aggregations. Through our metabolism, the geological and the biological become one. We are guided through each dish to be served at a live performance – which has now been postponed until later this year. Writer Jennifer Boyd has collaborated with Pimm on the text, contributing to the poetic narrative that introduces a feast of references from herbal remedies, tree sap and hallucinogenic fungus to volcanoes, minerals and the origin of life.

Tessellation and Aggregation will be available to watch and read on our blog from Saturday 16 May.