Stead’s sculptures uphold the mechanically used characteristics of previous function in found agricultural material, steel: long, straight, faecal strewn, corroded with notches, holes and worn through patches rubbed repetitively by mechanised processes. Geometric structures made from this material, such as ‘Cleaner Down the Top Line’ 2016, mimic an agri-architectural functionality that manually sorts and categorises female agricultural bodies and bodily fluids. The controlled channelling and scraping of materials that are soft, malleable, but still industrial (such as concrete) reference these anonymous bodily entities. The addition of ratchet straps, fluorescent paint-based cattle-markers and polished galvanised bolts, imprint the urbanite orchestration present in the rural. These new, clean and carefully designed luxury product-tools are the active urban bindings that uni-form and co-modify the multiplicities of the rural into a singular cleansed product: milk. The separation of bovine bodily matter (faeces and milk) in ‘More “Bloom” to the Udder’ 2017 is re-merged, blurring product with waste; concrete appears as spillages and smears, acting as a metaphorical vehicle to confuse the urban.
These commanding installations highlight the economic procedures of modern agri-business. Re-claimed agricultural materials and new product-tools metaphorically bind urban and rural dialogues in specific performative actions of exchange: the process/act of milking. Re-appropriated industrial bovine-based descriptive language used in stock judging manuals, manifests itself within the sculptures created. Agricultural bodies are the direct subjects of this dairy lexical, which serves to enforce the consumer driven industrial economies of dairy practice. The descriptive body-specific phrases, such as ‘an udder tied on more tightly to the body wall’ and ‘more powerful through the front end’ materially conflicts in works such as ‘A Cleaner Line’ 2016 across the bonds of animal, human and industrial. This performative language resonates with the strikingly fluid verb list of formal, minimalist sculpture by Richard Serra1: ‘to droop, to splash, to spread, to flood’. Visual signs of language embedded into the physicality of Michael Dean’s installation ‘Sic Glyphs’ 2016, act as a transformative dialogue between language and sculpture. ‘Cleaner Down The Top Line’ 2016, capitalises on inscribing lexicons onto sculpture that tap into sign-based physicality, identifying structures of brutalist and constructivist modes of management between urban and rural.
The basis for this material practice explores the on-going dictations, orchestrations and modes of proxy management the urban increasingly inflicts upon the rural. The capitalist urban desperately manufactures an identity of the rural that is idyllic, romantic and passive. The work rejects this prescribed rural identity and exposes the lexical based mechanisms that operate in the dairy sector in specifying place through suppressed personal and dirty identities of bovine and human.