Mud and Consciousness: The Works of Alexandra Engelfriet

© Oven Fresh with CCLicense
© Oven Fresh with CCLicense

Have you ever felt a rush of joy when digging in the dirt or splashing through mud? There is something very primal about soil and our relationship to it.

Alexandra Engelfriet is a sculptor and performance artist who works with earth and water, kneading and shaping mud, clay, sand,  even snow, with her body. Her works include large scale environmental projects as well as smaller ceramic works. The flows, ripples, and shapes she creates are spontaneous interactions between herself and the material being manipulated. Her focus is on the process, and whatever remains after the process serves as a remembrance and a celebration rather than a product. This is very much how we see art here at Synkroniciti. Originally from the Netherlands, Engelfriet maintains a ceramics studio in France, when she isn’t traveling or living in residence for projects. In August, she will collaborate with musician Ab Baars to present Sonorité d’argile, or Sound of Clay at La Briqueterie, Ciry le Noble, France.

This first video below, Ceramics I by Carrie de Swaan, shows Alexandra working with clay in her studio. It is both calming and marvelous to watch her tease shapes out of lumps of clay. What a great metaphor for the interaction between the subconscious and conscious mind.

Ceramics 1

Video via swaanprodukties on YouTube.

Reclaim is a video by Glenn Dunn, showing Englefriet’s creative process in working with several tons of raw Australian clay. The clay turned bright yellow when kneaded, producing in her a joyfulness and lightness which she found striking, after working for many years with darker soils. She worked for a week in the courtyard of the Tasmanian School of the Arts in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, improvising choreography to shape the material with her own body. This project was an initiative of the Creative Arts department at Tasmanian Polytechnic University, supported by the School of Art of the University of Tasmania and sponsored by the Pathways Project.


Another video by Carrie de Swaan, Tracks in the Flats, shows Engelfreit at home in the dark mud, slithering and grappling her way through tidal flats made of soft silt. This is the Dollart, a bay between the Netherlands and Germany, which dries out for six hours around low tide. During that time, Englefriet made shapes in the flats, which were then swallowed by the rising tide. My favorite part of this video are the sounds made as Engelfriet immerses her body in the mud and water. Another wonderful metaphor for consciousness.

Tracks in the Flats

Video via Alexandra Engelfriet on YouTube.

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