Judith Alder

Judith Alder is a British visual artist with a multi-faceted practice, working across a range of media and processes informed by science. Her work is directed by her premise on the process of evolution in the 21st century; that scientists can create and manipulate biological life, technologists are creating artificial life, inanimate objects often appear to take on a life of their own, and some things seem to be neither dead nor alive.

She has exhibited in The Freud Museum, London and Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne and was shortlisted for The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012. In 2015 she was nominated for The Drawing Room Bursary Award. Her solo Vital Signs, curated by Sanna Moore, will be held at The Royal Society of Birmingham Artists Gallery from 14 to 25 February 2023 and has been funded by Arts Council, England.

Describe the nature around you at the moment.

My urban garden studio faces south so I can often work with my doors open, which I love. The resident garden birds forget I’m here and are often just outside my door dust-bathing or flitting in and out of the ivy which covers the walls and fences. Right outside my studio window is a small crab apple tree which, more than 12 years ago, was part of my MA show, The Golden Seed. It’s a prolific tree that, every autumn produces kilos of small golden crab apples.

How does nature and the origins of life influence your practice?

All of my work is ultimately part of a process of trying to make sense of some of the difficult questions and conflicts which are part of our modern-day relationship with nature and the natural world. In my recent projects, I decided to explore the origins of life in the hope that by understanding where we come from and what we’re made of I might better understand our position in the world today and help work towards a more positive future. It’s complicated.

Where do you feel most at ease?

In my studio, in my garden and walking nearby. We’re really fortunate to live near the sea in one direction and the Sussex Downs in another - both absolutely beautiful environments.

What lessons have you learned from nature?

I’m totally in awe of the resilience and adaptability of nature. I wish I could be here to see how nature adapts and takes back control of the planet long after humans have gone!

Name a book, podcast or documentary that blew your mind.

Primo Levi’s ‘Carbon’ from his book The Periodic Table really made sense of a lot of the things I’d been thinking about in my work. In it, Levi charts the journey of a single carbon atom, which, freed by a pickaxe and transported to a limekiln is released from the limestone where it has been trapped for millions of years. It begins a journey of transformation as it is discharged as a gas into the air, dissolved in the sea, evaporates again into the air, is breathed in and expelled by a falcon, forms part of the complex process of photosynthesis in the leaf of a plant, enters the food system and continues its journey through the life, death and decomposition of living organisms in a continual cycle of change. Mind-blowing.

What kind of ancestor would you like to be?

A wise, thoughtful and unselfish one.

What are you interested in at the moment?

The interconnectedness of absolutely everything! The chains, networks, meshes and tangles that form the physical, environmental, social and political structures and infrastructures of the world.

If you could change one thing that your government is doing, what would it be? (question from #TheNatureKind interview with David Reeve)

Focus on long-term sustainability and aim to become the world leader in green technologies.

What question would you like to ask the next person on #TNK?

What do you think is the most impactful thing we, as individuals, can do to help save the planet?

And could you suggest someone else or other organisations you admire that we could approach for #TheNatureKind

Dr Alexandra Penn, Complexity Scientist, University of Surrey (I’m working with Dr Penn to run a workshop for my forthcoming exhibition in Birmingham in 2023).

You can find out more about Judith Alder on Instagram @judith.alder and @vitalsigns2023, on Facebook and through her website.

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