The Alderney Stones project unveiled by the environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy on the British island of Alderney is an art piece about materials, space and perhaps most intriguingly, time. Eleven massive balls of local clay strung throughout the island are infused with found materials, and as the stones disintegrates the materials are reintroduced back into environment in subtle ways. If you’re a fan of Mr. Goldworthy’s art like we are then you’ll know how his best work is as much about process as it is about materiality and aesthetics.
The project took several years to create. Goldsworthy had chosen his site specific work in Alderney for the island’s mixture of differing environments and the quality of the soil. The stones are placed in unexpected places and left to the whim of the site.
They started as local clay soil trucked to a makeshift studio where a team worked at testing and building the massive clay spheres. Materials were located throughout the island which were incorporated into each stone- from blackberries and barley to discarded gloves, bricks and metal objects. The five-foot diameter balls were then allowed to dry for a year before being moved. Each stone is placed in a site specific location where it will dissolve and eventually reveal its contents.
A stone set on the shoreline will disappear in weeks, spreading the red clay bricks along the shore. The stone infused with blackberries, will bleed the dark blue color and perhaps spring blackberry plants where it is placed in a field. One stone, which had to be built inside a bunker because of its size, is now a template for the mischievous scratching from visitors while another has become a massive cowlick.
Each stone is really a conversation with the setting about change, natural versus man-made and the materiality of land. The tension of seeing an unusual object set in an otherwise normal location is a specialty of Goldsworthy. His keen ability to find and manipulate ordinary natural or found materials and shape them into an uncanny experience helps us recognize the value of turning the unseen into the seen in the everyday.