Libidinal Earth

Roberts, Angus Gerard
O'Hara, Emily
Jackson, Mark
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

When I encounter Robert Smithson’s Asphalt Rundown, or Richard Serra’s liquid lead ‘splashes’, or Ann Hamilton’s mastic transformations, I turn to recognise a peculiar coupling of desire and matter, as if earth itself is libidinal, and we humans are its uncanny objects of desire. It is from this sense or sensation of a libidinal couple that my own research practice takes flight, a research practice of apprenticeship in what I can only call a love of matter, libidinal excessiveness in processes of working with and within the limits of my own capacities and the conditions of technical procedures. The contexts of my practice are threefold. Firstly, as a metallurgy technician at a School of Art and Design, my research is institutionally determined by the frameworks of a Master of Philosophy, whose outcomes are a body of creative practice and an exegesis that offers critical contexts for approaching (or leaving) the creative ensemble.

A second context relates to my practices of working with materials, what I emphasise as a perpetual apprenticeship to becoming-earth: defining and refining technical processes for working with heavy metals, soil, sand, and stone, involving machining, casting, melting, forming, forging, welding, rolling and bending. Along with these working processes there is also a woodworking practice whose folds permit an interstitial clearing, a making-room for libidinal earth. These practices, this apprenticeship, have a genealogy, familial circuits of inheritance, father and grandfather at home in their workshops, farming communities of the South Island. Earth’s desire is chthonic, subterranean, buried remembrances, inter-generational.

A third context concerns a different kind of genealogical entwining. I have mentioned Smithson, Serra and Hamilton already. Their practices offer me not so much a supporting foothold but rather directions to the abyssal leap I need to make as one learning how libidinal couplings may yet happen. There are others as well, others who are crucial to establishing a critical and political framing of the assemblages I develop. How is a questioning of libidinal earth, and desire, a political issue? I engage the work of Deleuze and Guattari, both volumes of their Capitalism and Schizophrenia. There is also Giorgio Agamben, for whom capitalism constitutes a making-sacred of things in their transformations from use-value to exchange-value, to be destructed by profanation’s radical encounter with use. Desire, the sacred and profane are central to my concerns. Hence, the writings of George Bataille are pivotal, along with some of those who engage Bataille: Nick Land and Mark Fisher.

The outcomes from this Master of Philosophy research are provisional moments in what I recognise as a desire—that might otherwise be called ‘life’—for becoming-chthonic, for becoming-earth. These ‘outcomes’ constitute a series of artefacts and assemblages in metals and wood, but also incorporating the residues of machine processes, the filings, shavings, waste materials, as if the most profane of materials yet harbours a concealed opening to libidinal earth.

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