‘Where do we begin and end?’ by Stephanie Mann is comprised of six, debossed, limited edition prints made from pulped delivery packaging as well as sedimentary seabed samples collected in 1970, from the University’s Geology Collection.

This work by Stephanie Mann (2011 BA (Hons) Sculpture; 2013 MFA Contemporary Art Practice) is one result from a long collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s Geology and Art Collections. Stephanie has been engaging with them, along with their curatorial staff, since 2018 as avenues to question specific ideas: Where do objects start and end? How do they exist alongside humans? What is an object and can it stop being?

The process of making these prints reflects and references Stephanie’s particular engagement with Geological materials, histories and science to consider concepts of time, the transformation of matter and the boundaries between objects (as they are shifted from multiple objects to a composite object.)

With limited access to shops (due to the governmental restrictions and advice for pregnant women in Lockdown in March 2020) and with a growing need for haptic tactile outlet in response to the sudden increase in use of the digital, Stephanie turned to influx of packaging material and began making paper.

Photograph: Damian Griffiths. Courtesy Freelands Foundation
Photograph: Damian Griffiths. Courtesy Freelands Foundation

"To be held in a collection that spans two millennia is humbling and exciting. I'm captivated by time and its transformation, or stasis, of materials as objects."

Stephanie Mann

She altered the material composition to produce a tonal variety to emulate conglomerate rock formations. To achieve this, the packaging was burned (resulting in a grey ash) and charred from exposure to a high heat (resulting in a black char). The debossing process involves compression of the paper material which is similar to the processes at work when sedimentary conglomerate rocks are formed.

The handwriting on the prints is taken from Charles Lyell’s notebooks (spanning 1825-1874) held in the University’s Special Collections. Known for his contributions to geoscience, he made it possible for people to think about the earth as dynamic and developing as opposed to static and fixed. 

This work is a continuation of Stephanie’s broader practice and interest in objects, specifically their inherent properties, the boundaries between them (and us) and the way they stretch and fracture through time.

On the acquisition, Stephanie, who has been Freelands Foundation Artist in Residence with the University’s Talbot Rice Gallery since 2018, said:

"To be held in a collection that spans two millennia is humbling and exciting. I'm captivated by time and its transformation, or stasis, of materials as objects.

Working with the University’s Art and Geology Collections has brought a greater depth and rigour to my research. I’m grateful to have had access to the University's resources - their archives, staff and facilities have provided me with an incredible set of materials to develop new work. This period has broadened and energized my art practice, and I’m excited to see how my work will evolve thanks to this generous experience.

Having been offered the opportunity to work with items from the collection itself, returning them to this site after a moment of metamorphosis feels a fitting continuation to the work."

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