Anarchic matter

Sidewalk Mushroom by Richard Calmes

Copyright Richard Calmes 2005

I came across this delightful image as well as the delightful mental image of ‘anarchic matter’ while looking for the type of edible mushroom that grows beneath asphalt and bursts through it (thanks to Tim Ingold and the Matterealities Workshop for bringing it to my attention). Not only did I find out that a website called ‘The Mushroom Observer’ exists and a website dedicated to John Cage’s relationship with ‘the fungal world’, but it also led me to a review of the Brazilian artist Nuno Ramos’ exhibition at the Modern Art Museum at Fort Worth, Texas (in 2001) entitled ‘The Plight of Matter’. It features a nice quote by the British philosopher Bertrand Russel, a word I had never heard of (‘ultra-baroque’) and an entertaining analysis of Ramos’ work. An example:

‘Ramos uses unlikely combinations of metal, wood, clay, glass, wax, resin, cloth, lanolin, salt, sand, water, oil, Vaseline, paper and paint–sometimes all in the same piece. His compositions resist clearly defined boundaries, stable centers of gravity and distinct focal points, not to mention restrictive meanings. Nevertheless, the artist conveys in each piece a consistent poetic sense.’


‘Ramos’s frequent use of mucilaginous substances that resemble various bodily fluids lends his work a lifelike quality.’

The most interesting part, I find, is the last paragraph which reads:

‘This work and numerous other pieces by Ramos seem to be part of a struggle to transform inert materials into living things. He shares his metamorphic vision in Cujo, where he writes, “Today I saw a lizard. Not a lizard, a leaf resembling a lizard. Not a leaf, a stone resembling a leaf.” Ramos approaches each of his endeavors with a similarly poetic strategy. Examining the relationship between order and chaos, he attempts in the work to illuminate, if not assuage, the anarchic impulses of matter. ‘

While the first part of this paragraph reads as if the artist is trying to give inanimate matter life, the latter part describes the artist not seeing matter as inanimate, but as very active – even with a certain character (or intention?) – and this is what he is trying to communicate by giving matter that is perceived as ‘not lively’ a lively appearance. So what does his work look like then?

Find out here and here


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