Taking place at Hales London, this will be Pimm’s first solo project with the gallery, following the winter 2015 group exhibition Rachael Champion | Agnes Denes | Rachel Pimm.
Pimm’s work, spanning video and photography, sculpture, installation and performance, constitutes an ongoing catalogue of, and investigation into, the materiality of our environments. These explorations often take place from the point of view of non-human agents such as plants, minerals, worms, water, plastic and rubber, delving into their material histories and the politics and economics of their contemporary usage.
For Resistant Materials Pimm has turned to the image of the single white tile, excavating the complex processes by which raw clay minerals are transformed – and resist transformation – into the smooth, clean surfaces of the tiled grid. The grid was the famous basis for radical architecture firm Superstudio’s dystopian 1969 ‘Continuous Monument: an Architectural Model for Total Urbanisation’, a proposal for a new system of urban planning that envisaged a vast gridded superstructure cladding the entire surface of the planet. The image of the world resurfaced with a white grid provided a satirical embodiment of the homogenising forces of globalisation – as relevant now as it was then.
Half a century later a small Dutch design studio invented DTile: a unique tiling system made up of a series of straight and curved tiles with the motto ‘we tile the world’. Thanks to the curved edges of DTile’s handcrafted ‘rounded tiles’, Superstudio’s dream (or rather nightmare) has become a possible reality – notwithstanding the very steep costs of the final product. It is the meticulous manufacturing process of making these tiles which provides the subject for Pimm’s new film work. Footage shot at the DTile factory is stitched together with computer animation of digital renderings that transform the mineral material to an immaterial image.
Throughout the rest of the exhibition, the artist’s own ‘bootleg’ take on DTile’s highly polished curved tile comprises a practical investigation into the processes of its creation. Photographic images depicting mining and production sites and tiled surfaces are layered alongside sculptural objects and three-dimensional surfaces made of raw clay minerals and their components and derivatives, unfired clay and glazed ceramics.
Ball clay – whose name derives from the former method of mining clay by hand, in which the square cubes cut from the earth would, through handling, become rounded ‘balls’ – is primarily mined in the southwest of England, thanks to the region’s unique combination of valuable sedimentary layers. The clay’s high kaolinite content is prized for its purity, whiteness, and stable plasticity: its ability to flow and hold curved and fine shapes. Kaolinite is also prevalent across the world in a range of industrial and home-made contexts including the manufacture of adhesives, barrier chemicals and paper; white-washing in architecture, cosmetics and toothpaste; and as a health supplement or food substitute used to suppress hunger due to poverty.
Despite this versatility and plasticity, as Pimm discovered at the D-Tile factory, the clay also resists our attempts to shape it into simultaneously curved and straight lines. Tiles must be held into shape during drying and firing, a process of inorganic transformation calling to mind the straightening of rivers or division into land into grids for the purposes of management and profit. Studying, documenting and enacting these ideologically fraught transformations, this exhibition considers the recycling of clay matter and materiality itself as a possible site for political and ecological resistance.