I had this weird experience a while back when I was chipping the rust away from a cast iron “X” I found on the shore of the Thames (my friend thinks it’s a bridle mount, but I’m not sure). The object was a blob when I picked it up – indistinguishable from other grimy nuggets littering the beach below the Tate Modern – except for four evenly spaced nubs poking out from the hard brown glob.
I took it home (for a while that was Canada, then Los Angeles, then London again) and subjected the blob to all kinds of nastiness: WD40 baths, sandwich bags of Brasso… super-saturated salty electrolysis baths running volts from shitty converted cellphone chargers poorly soldered onto alligator clips blasting the H2O into its composite parts, and the rust away from my treasure…
It took months but the blob took on a form. Rust was ground down under moms old toothbrush, and the blob formed into a kind of “X” on a stick… beveled lines meeting in a center containing some obscured, raised ornamentation I then set to work uncovering. My crudely applied dental tools flaked little shards of hard shit from the raised surface of first a circle, then a flower, and then the distinctive Tudor Rose.
By the end of the process, I had reached the point where I could no longer tell where the object ended and the rust began, its corruptive permeation was so extensive, so fine. I didn’t know if the dent in the petal was a subconsciously applied imprint of my desire, or a memory of some bit of heraldry, or part of the original object. The reductive transformative excavation that seemed so bang-on straight-forward A-to-Z linear took on too many connotations… so I wimped the fuck out, snapped a pic, and posted it to Facebook.
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Rachel McRae is interested in the many obsessive, deeply subjective (and sometimes violent) ways data is organized, taxonomized and excavated from its surrounding matrix.
She has a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and a BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). Her work has recently been exhibited at: ICA, London (UK), London Media Arts Association (LOMAA), London (CA), A Space, Toronto (CA), FullHaus, Los Angeles (USA), Metsä2, Helsinki (FI), Chisenhale Studios, London (UK), & Pi Artworks, London (UK). Her writing on language, the internet and the Antropocene has been included in Making the Geologic Now: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life by Smudge Studios (USA) and her research into archeology, the man/nature divide and the Piltdown Man “discovery” was included in artist/curator Abigail Sidebotham’s Sea Empress: Animism Edition published by The Reading Room, Pembrokeshire (UK). Her work is held in the Feminist Art Gallery (FAG) collection.