The Clearing is a vision of the future in the grounds of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park

Caretaker report

8 July 2017

The Clearing

Workshop 10 - Soap: Staying Clean in the Anthropocene

Soap was the first workshop to go a bit wrong. The leader, Cath Clark, was gamely up for trying to make soap in a futuristic way she never had before – by making her own lye with wood ash. The plan was to have some soap ready by the end of the day. We went through all the steps: making the lye by letting water steep through wood-ash; melting our bees-wax all day on the fires; stirring the two together until we have our custardy substance. But by the end of the day, we have no soap - just have a runny, wobbly, half-set custardy thing.

We talk about it. It feels OK – to not go right. To fail. The whole point of The Clearing is to be outside our comfort zone, to have to learn, and learn fast. Some things aren’t going to work. If it all went to plan, it wouldn’t be realistic. It wouldn’t be real enough. We make some lip balms instead.

(The anthropocene is a contested term, the idea that industrial civilization is having such a profound impact on the planet that we, human beings, have ended the previous geogolical era, the Holocene, and are creating a new one. Find a man called Mark Maslin, at UCL in London, for more information. Listen to what he has to say!).