Big small things

Matadero Madrid

I have arrived in Madrid to work for a month in the art and ecology Microhabitable project, focused on issues of scale. My residency is hosted by Matadero Madrid who are co-organising Microhabitable with INLAND and the Serpentine Galleries

I’m interested in entanglement and in the macrocosmic cycles of water and life and decomposition, which Jose Manuel Naredo addressed in his lecture on ecological economics this weekend. He also discussed cacotopia and eutopia.

I’m searching for something microcosmic to work with, through writing, to express these big notions and figuring out how to manifest macrocosmic cycles through a focus on the details of a small arena. ‘Things that seem small often turn out to be big’ (Anna Tsing).

My working method is like composting. I start with a mess or assemblage of images, texts, vague ideas, bits of my previous work; layer them up together, ideally in a studio-type approach where I can look at them on a wall, shift them around, juxtapose, talk about them with other people, create heat and friction amidst this source material, and see what emerges. 

Things going into the compost bin of my mind at present: artworks by Hieronymus Bosch, and memento mori still life paintings of decay; texts by Jim Crace, JG Ballard, Anna Tsing, Karen Barad, Mary Douglas, Manuel DeLanda, and Ed Yong; thinking about the human microbiome and the necrobiome; and stuff from the context I find myself walking around in. Matadero was Madrid’s slaughterhouse and livestock market on the edge of town until 1996. It has extraordinarily ornate and grandiose architecture for a slaughterhouse. Now, it’s no longer the edge of town, has been transformed into a cultural complex and the Manzanares river running beside it has also been recuperated. Matadero’s vast outdoor and indoor spaces are visual echoes of the beasts that once moved through here. It is a heat island in the city. Next door is the glasshouse greenhouse Palacio de Cristal de la Arganzuela with four microclimates, a former potato storage building popularly known as The Potato Ship. Stirring this lot around at the moment and taking it for walks.

Rather than reduce the mess to rational order, I’m looking for a way to make the mess expressive.

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