New Materialist Reading Group (NMRG)
Dr. Rebecca Howard & Dr. Victoria Sharples founded NMRG (the New Materialist Reading Group) in 2021. It is an interdisciplinary forum for artists, academics, technicians, early-career researchers and students to come together to discuss texts relevant to thinking and practice around notions of materiality. It is based in the School of Arts, Humanities & Education at the University of Derby, but has members from schools across the University as well as number external participants. Current disciplines in NMRG include: contemporary art, architecture, archaeology, photography, forensics, anthropology, science, sociology, performance, medicine and death care. We have a regular group who meet once each month to share conversations around a specific excerpt of writing, often with an optional practical activity related to the text.
New members welcome. Contact Victoria & Rebecca on instagram: @nmrg.uod
An Elastic Continuum (exhibition and symposium, 17th-22nd June, 2023)
An Elastic Continuum (which took its name from the title of an artwork by Bethan Hughes) is an international group exhibition & symposium presented by The ‘New Materialist Reading Group’ (NMRG) featuring the work of 17 contemporary artists, curated by NMRG co-leads Rebecca Howard & Victoria Sharples.
Arriving from the proposition of ‘skin’, An Elastic Continuum offered an interface with skinnings: surfaces, architectural structures, organisms, membranes and embalmings.
The works on show presented a plethora of intersectional readings that transect ontologies of animacy and the sensorial, biotechnical interventions (birth, growth, ailment, and death), human, animal and plant bodies, and spaces of trans-ition, whether -gender, -species or interior-exterior relations).
In An Elastic Continuum, the premise of ‘skin’ is purposefully layered, aggregated and poriferous, as with epidermal and geological stratum, as seen in the work of Carter, Kempley and Lucas. Clifford and Vann’s practices centre on protection and exposure of the soft body: PPE and chronic dermatological conditions. With a focus on façade, veneer and construction, the work of Fisher, Howard and Speed invite thought on the parallels between skin and built spaces through folds, pattern, and costume. Sharples, Stanley, and Walker account for the liminality of skin and the body as a transitory site, whether that be in relation to buildings that temporarily store human bodies (as with mortuaries), or through interior-exterior relations (as with the mouth or uterus). In place of the subject-object binary, the practice of Hamilton, Von Munchhausen and Barrett provide a more permeable and participatory account of matter, where material affordances yield questions of autonomy and the sensible. And the work of Hughes, Squires, and Rushton signal the ways in which human and plant matters are intimately connected through physiology, sexuality, and the military-industrial complex.
Through expansive readings of ‘skin’, An Elastic Continuum provides a public mediation and sensory interface with the noun, organ, and material.
Rose Hedy Squires
Henriette Von Muenchhausen
An Elastic Continuum is supported by the University of Derby’s Early Career Researcher Development Fund as part of URKEO (the University’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Office).
Installation view 'An Elastic Continuum' at S1 Artspace, Sheffield (UK). Image credit: James Clarkson