top of page

Clay Theory


Stereoscopic 3D movie, 18 min

Exhibited in Kunsthal Aarhus 4 October 2019 - 19 January 2020

Selected for CPH: DOX's New Vision Award 2020

Clay Theory is a stereoscopic 3D film about the connections between life and clay. What is life and how did it originate on a barren planet? Science has not yet the answer, and that leaves room for speculation. The title Clay Theory is borrowed from the chemist Graham Cairns-Smith's theory that life on Earth originated in interaction with clay crystals. A theory that is based on the fact that growing crystals are able to pass on traits to new crystal generations, and that clay crystals may have acted as precursors to genetic genetic material.

In the film Clay Theory, the clay theory is expanded to also include cultural image production and artificial life. The film's visual focal point is a group of terracotta figures from the Cypriot Bronze Age - small human figurines shaped in reddish-brown clay. At the time when they were created, creation myths were told about gods who formed humans out of clay and breathed life into them, as we also know it from the biblical creation myth. In Clay Theory, a line is drawn from the clay crystals of the primordial soup through the man-made terracotta figurines and into a posthuman future, when Amalie Smith on the audio side asks whether in such a future one would look back on these figurines as early attempts to produce artificial life?

Installation shots by Mikkel Kaldal

Film about the exhibition and the process of filming in 3D, produced by Kunsthal Aarhus:

To be watched with active shutter 3D glasses:

Also on the soundtrack are geologist Minik Rosing, archaeologist Jeanette Varberg and art historian Jacob Wamberg, all three of whom have served as interlocutors in Smith's interdisciplinary exploration of how life and clay are connected. The voices flow into an orchestra of clay flutes playing Beethoven, as well as music by composer Simon Brinck, parts of which are made in collaboration with an artificial intelligence.

bottom of page