Peat: Lesley (no 2) is one of a series of sculptural works by artists Minty Donald and Nick Millar which reframe industrial and global processes of extraction and extractivism as practices carried out at the scale of a single human, taking the hand as a unit of measurement and as a conduit between human and other-than-human matter. The sculptural works focus on six materials extracted in Scotland today or in the recent past: coal, oil, sand, stone, water, and peat. The work was made by taking a cast of the inside of the cupped hands of an employee from an organisation responsible for the extraction of these resources – in this case, Lesley who is the manager of a small-scale peat extraction company in Aberdeenshire. A positive of the cupped hands was then cast in resin-bound powdered peat, and an negative cast in concrete.
The work was commissioned by the Hunterian Art Gallery for Dislocations, an exhibition of contemporary artists’ responses to landscape, autumn 2021.
Minty Donald and Nick Millar describe their collaborative art practice as ‘an attempt to live and die better as humans in a world that we recognise as much more than human’. In their practice, which takes multiple forms including sculpture, performance, and writing, they consider the other-than-human materials with which they work as their collaborators. They are interested in negotiating the tensions, inequities and instabilities in humans’ relationships within the more-than-human world. Recent projects have explored humans’ interrelationships with rivers and other bodies of water. (See www.guddlingabout.com and www.then-now.org) Their current practice focusses on humans’ extractive and construction practices. (See www.erraticdrift.com) Minty Donald is Professor or Contemporary Performance Practice in the School of Culture and Creative Arts at the University of Glasgow.