The immediate pleasure of touching and palpating the distinct material of mud as children do, as I did when I
was a child, is a distinct and visceral feeling. There is something deeply cathartic about mud.
The way it feels when you press your hands into wet earth is extremely satisfying, even the
words to describe it conjure up physical and tactile sensations; mud squelches under your
feet, it slops and splatters onto the ground and oozes from squeezed hands. The thick,
amorphous liquid sticks to you like it doesn’t want to let go, giving you an extra gloopy layer
of flesh until it eventually dries, cracks and falls off. Mud is soil, a mixture of minerals,
organic matter and the remains of a multitude of organisms once alive and decaying beneath
our feet. The wettened state of soil refuses to stay in a specific shape, it declines to conform
to your ideas of what it can be and can become. Late last year I travelled to the muddy
marshes of the River Colne in Essex, and, in a bathing suit in the cold, I stepped into the
knee deep mud. I felt my feet being sucked down to the depths of earth, I waded through the
all-consuming substance which pulled me back. If I stayed in one place for too long I felt
myself sinking, as though I could disappear in it. The more I became enveloped in the lumpy
mass the more I became part of it. There was no distinguishing between where the mud
stopped and where I began and so it became a monstrous extension of my skin. I was able
to hide amongst its mass, it was a thrill to be engaging with this unrefined, base material.
The act of submerging oneself in the animated material of mud belonging to untamed
environments is the opposite of the serenity that one obtains from the smooth and sterile
industrialised products that circulate in consumer society. It highlights the shining necessity
of the sticky, wet and steaming dankness that is disparagingly associated with that which is
non-human, which is subsequently considered corrupted and unsophisticated.