Siobhan Davis Dance

Text by Kit Webb

The kind of graft, transplantation of living tissue, that drags from one body to another. Skin peeled, and pulled across. There’s always the sense of flesh misplaced—an inappropriate, unnatural transaction—even as the new and foreign element is used to join.

The walls bristle in Siobhan Davies Studios, their panels set in Victorian mode with goat hair mixed through plaster. Leonie Sinden has taken this method and applied it to her sculptures, squat hairy blocks that appear almost like outgrowths of the building. The hair holds fast, and yet they’re fissured, to the cusp of breaking.

The kind of graft, hard labour, a term that stems from shovelling dirt. A unit of measurement fit for a gravedigger, describing a spadeful of earth. I think of the plasterer’s hawk and trowel, in constant motion, sand scraped through water with gypsum, lime, cement.

An act repeated until technique’s acquired. Gesture encoded, summoned as if almost without recall. Sinden’s blocks, thatched through with dead skin cells, also tell the history of their process, how a practice almost forgotten, eventually reprised, might come to be fetishized.

The kind of graft, the horticulturalist’s, that describes the splicing of two plants. A slit is cut through, a groove, by which the other ‘takes’—draws nourishment—and then both grow conjoined.

The Studios were grafted, a new shoot sliced through the old school stock, the walls still wearing the scars of lost staircases. The work made inside, grafted too, as Davies and her collaborators cut into old works and older gestures, resuscitating what had seemed without breath. Sinden’s works ‘take’, products of the space, as they also isolate the glue, the cement, by which stock and scion are bound.