In every part of every living thing there is stuff that once was rock.

In blood
the minerals of the rock.

– Lorine Niedecker, Lake Superior

Hard rock, hard technologies, harder capital. They look like big, good, strong hands. Don't they? But the heave and hum of earth movers are precedented by the sound of tectonic plates. Just as in fibre-optic cables, toothpaste, bones and iPhones. Nothing is set in stone. Not even stone is set in stone. Nor the laws that were carved into them in the first place.

Enslaved minerals live inside and outside of the body: we have never been solid. Words, like blunt objects, drown out geographic noise—the excavation continues! And just as solidarity requires both solidity and air, so does dropping water make the rock hollow; not by its force, but by constant action.

A Brief History of Becoming Rock is a performance and installation that took place at Art Rotterdam in 2018. The work speaks; eats; digests; sculpts; pulverizes; uncovers; inhabits; and rejoices rock. Rock forms the vehicle to not only vocalize, but also demonstrate how facts are fickle and realities contingent. How change is slow but certain, and patient determination a powerful tool.

Photo credit: Luuk Smits
Generously supported by Mondriaan Fonds and CBK Rotterdam

Accompanying text

Blithely West was a painter who claimed to paint rock. He claimed to paint rock and yet never came near so much as a pebble in the process. Convinced of his superior cerebration, Blithely employed a particular technique to achieve superlative representation of rock: painting rock in complete absence of rock.

His monumental studio was emptied out of anything remotely resembling rock; dust; earth; grains of sand; in turn meticulously removed. He then sat himself at his desk, and thought about rock. Not rock as the mountain or the earth, or a found object gently fingered in coat pockets. But the essence of rock, the what is rock.

He’d think and think until his head became a lump of coal, or slate, or crumbly limestone. And with this heavy head he’d slump over an empty sketchbook and rub his brow across the paper, exclaiming stony sounds. Sediment left shadowy traces. The pages tore and creased. For months on end he’d rock back and forth his hefty head until each sketch had turned to scree, amassed in silent growing mounds.

A landslide marked Blithely’s timely death. This was the preparatory phase.


from the mud and the slime


Those dying years. It was about language and about what happens when language is uttered. How some things are said with such confidence they almost seem true. How you can adopt a voice to sound at once fraudulent and faithful. Some people use words with such certainty it bears no refute. I’ve never had this relationship to words, always stuck between languages, never grasping one as a tool to be wielded.