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The Material Kinship Reader

Onomatopee 208

The Material Kinship Reader is a book project and forthcoming solo presentation by artist Clementine Edwards in collaboration with curator Kris Dittel.


Material kinship radically rethinks current models of social relations. It takes as its starting point the possibility that one’s worldly relationships and experiences may be deepened, expanded, and enriched in and through materials – organic and inorganic alike. The thinking emerged from Clementine’s studio practice and the experience of sexual trauma. Here the simple act of making small sculptures with resonant materials enabled a bodily feeling of agency, connection and delight. From this humble beginning, material kinship theory developed.

Within a framework of climate colonialism, material kinship is interested in the reproductive potential and extractivist histories of materials, such as plastic or gold, that are broadly considered to be non-sentient. It also extends to the toxic and the imperceptible – everything, after all, derives from the earth. By accounting for the historical present of materials that one is surrounded by in the present-tense, one can then apply pressure to those presents. Through entanglement, material kinship complicates the idea of the individual subject and genealogical lineage. It brings the material world in to queer and direct conversation with one’s sense of self and place. Material kinship is about slowing down and looking closely. It is a kinship model that makes space for an embodied and enlivened world made up of bits and pieces as kith and kin – one that finds its form in a feather or a treasured ring, a snail’s shell or a chocolate wrapper.

Clementine Edwards is a Rotterdam- and Naarm-based artist whose practice is led by sculpture and framed by post-traumatic stress disorder. Her precarious assemblages made of everyday materials tell intimate stories of interdependence. Clementine’s work looks at how experiences and relationships might be enriched and expanded through certain materials. In particular, she wants to reframe her relationship to non-sentient materials by focussing on their reproductive potential and extractivist lineages. Her ongoing research line is material kinship, which she locates in the context of climate colonialism. Despite ‘difficult’ subject matter, her artworks invite intimacy via detail and story. 


Image credits: Femke Hears a Who, film still, Clementine Edwards & Alexander Iezzi, 10 mins 21 seconds, 2019