Judith Alder

Richard Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene”, talks about “the unlikely accident” of the creation of life. He says “In the lifetime of a man, things that are that improbable can be treated for practical purposes as impossible… But in our human estimates of what is probable and what is not, we are not used to dealing in hundreds of millions of years.”

Improbable Experiments With Growing Stones is a project I’ve been thinking about for a long time now. I’ve been developing it as a working installation, but installations are pretty hard to progress with if you haven’t got a space to develop them, so the work has sort of been on hold, but haunting me as something that needed to be done, to be dealt with. The Shared Space residency offered me two intense weeks to focus on the work and see where it it might take me.

(Above: video “Growing Stones” was made during the Shared Space residency. Scroll down for my residency blog – most recent entries are at the top.)


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Well most things turned out quite well. The projections worked, the film worked, the installation was ok, the rocks… well the rocks provoked a variety of responses from amusement to bemusement.

The Rocks - now forming a new feature in my garden.

The Rocks – now forming a new feature in my garden.

I managed to steal an extra couple of hours after the Open Day to re-film my projections and now have loads of footage which I think will make a new piece of work. I have come away with a whole raft of new ideas about how the work might progress.

There is no doubt that a really concentrated period of working results in work I could never make any other way. The problem remains how to put aside these blocks of time.

A few days have gone by and life returns to normal. Until the next time.

18/07/2014. LAST DAY (WELL NEARLY…)

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Last day before our Open Day and I need to focus on my workspace. I want it to be a working area, somewhere between lab, studio, and shed at the bottom of the garden – that strange sort of space you see in tv dramas sometimes where an obsessive, slightly sinister eccentric beavers away on some strange and obscure project or experiment. I have lots of images from my research – records of studio experiments, drawings, photographs and stills. I decide to print them out and cover the wall with them alongside my experiments. In the corner will be the tank under the UV lights and on the work bench more stones will be subjected to various processes intended to kickstart some sort of germination.

Meanwhile, I’m still painting the rocks… and running out of time!


Let’s face it, I’m just not really properly set up for video editing. I’ve got 2 fairly ancient PCs, a trusty old notepad and a borrowed 2nd hand Macbook. Trying to hop between the four to get the best out of each of them is not ideal and has brought about all sorts of frustrations as well as using up a lot of precious time. However, I’ve got loads of source material and at last seem to have got it into some sort of order; now to decide how to show it.

Meanwhile the rocks are taking shape. I’ve started painting them.

Painting the rocks

Painting the rocks


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Film clips I shot last week are beginning to fit together in a sequence which starts to tell a story but also feel like starting points for something much more purposeful to be continued.

The large growing stone shapes have definitely developed their own forms as the  flimsy chicken wire structures at their core begin to buckle and sag under the weight of wet pva and cotton sheets.

Everything takes on a new life as my experiments with projecting the video clips animate the stones. So many things happening it’s hard to know what to do next.

13/07/2014. NEW WEEK

Looking forward to the new week with a long list of things to do. First job is to get another layer on to my growing stones, building them up day by day.

IMG_9992_smThen more research is needed. I want to find out about some of the extraordinary conditions which trigger germination in certain seeds.

My weekend video editing has gone quite well. I have quite a selection of clips and footage to try out. Time to take in the projector to experiment with different ways of projecting some images in combination with the Growing Stones installation. Meanwhile I’ve been thinking about this performance I saw recently by Eva Mayer-Keller.




“Known in Romania as “Trovants” the stones of Costesti, Romania are a type of sandstone concretion that secrete cement and can at times appear to grow as if alive. Consisting of a stone core with an outer shell of sand, after a heavy rain small forms are said to appear on the rocks leading them to be dubbed the “growing stones” by locals.” http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/trovants-costesti-valcea-county-romania


“Lithops is a genus of succulent plants in the ice plant family, Aizoaceae. The name is derived from the Ancient Greek words λίθος (lithos), meaning “stone,” and ὄψ (ops), meaning “face,” referring to the stone-like appearance of the plants. They avoid being eaten by blending in with surrounding rocks and are often known as pebble plants or living stones.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithops


Image from Experiments With Growing Stones

Image from Experiments With Growing Stones

Pat’s Sol Le Witt quote on Day 1, “… relax and let everything go to hell… And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavour. It can be anything you want it to be.” seemed to shake up my brain and offer me the freedom not to develop the work, but to let it develop itself.

I’ve been videoing some of my growing stones in a tank of water under UV light and the results on my little camcorder screen look exciting. Frustratingly I’ll have to wait to get home to see them on a big screen and start editing.

I’ve also decided to make a big growing stone. It’s just a wire skeleton at the moment but tomorrow there will be time to start covering it & building up the surface.


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