Undead Matter #6 Nurturing the Ancient Undead
Curated by Sophie J Williamson.
Undead Matter is an unfolding conversation about where life lies in the ever-turning matter of our universe, as it rhythmically resurfaces over millennia.
In the sixth episode, Nurturing the Ancient Undead, artist, Oreet Ashery speaks with paleontologist Tori Herridge about the past lives that emerge from the permafrost. Through these bodies, suspended in time and perfectly preserved over tens-of-thousands of years, they consider genetic legacies and the body as an archive.
Posing contentious questions around the ethics of rewilding and de-extinction projects as processes of new creation rather than of restitution, as well as the controversial drive from some in the scientific community to clone and ‘recreate’ animals from the deep past, Herridge and Ashery probe at the edges of where life starts and the human role in its creation. Through journeys of IVF, fertility and the unborn, they consider examples of hybridity, artificial insemination and cross-species pregnancies as practices that reframe how life is conceived, both metaphorically and in actuality. Weaving through their conversation are readings from Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962). This groundbreaking sci-fi novel, a core influence to Ashery’s practice, collides feminist and anticolonialism thought to question ethics of control over human and non-human bodies.
Undead Matter, initiated and convened by curator Sophie J Williamson, is an ongoing collective project, materialising slowly and organically in exhibitions, events, podcasts, publishing and the intangible. The Undead Matter programme has emerged through intersecting collaborations with artists, poets, dancers and musicians, as well cryomicrobiologists, shamen, paleontologists, mineralogists, archaeoastronomers, woodworkers, quantum physicists, bondage masters, cryonics speculators and others encountered along the way. Each offers a perspective on our place within the infinite impermanence of life: past, present and possible.