Emma Pinsent, Through the hole of a shell (Installation view), 2023, Slumped recyled glass, timber stands, paper pulp and oyster shell bowls, found clam shells. Shown as part of group exhibition, errant form, Tiles, Lewisham. Photography Olga Svyatova

errant form
Group exhibition
Curated by Claire De Carteret and Niko Plaskasovitis
2 - 19 February 2023
Tiles, Lewisham NSW

Othy Willis, Owen Redmond, Elia Bosshard, Lucy Whitelaw, Emma Pinsent, Rachel Schenberg, Ju Bavyka, pollypocket, Joshua Benjamin, Claire Angelica, Niko Plaskasovitis

Straying away from how things have been done before, errant form is a collaborative effort of artists sharing and working things out together. It all started with an email chain, one artist invited the next, connecting an undefined group together, a becoming of something.

Publication contribution:

Walking along the beach, I often see squiggles in the wet sandy flats of the shoreline. When I first noticed them, I thought they were the outline of a long worm. I had heard about these worms some six feet long sitting just beneath the sand’s surface. Fishermen apparently use them for bait. I voiced my suspicions to my dad one day as we walked, and he alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t a worm, but the trail of a snail. I don’t know how we come to know these things. Perhaps years spent by the ocean attunes you to its movements, behaviours, and critters — a kind of learning through situated time spent. I went to the beach several times after that with the aim to encounter the snail again. Crouching over and scanning the shoreline intently, their trace was nowhere to be seen. I questioned whether I would see them again, that perhaps they were a rare phenomenon I had serendipitously come upon, but that I would not likely see again. I googled “snail trail in the sand”, looking for anything that would pique the memory. Combing through a flood of irrelevant images, I finally encountered that familiar mark again. Most images showing the snail trail were linked to stock image sites that you could buy for royalty-free use. I thought it peculiar that a snail’s trail would be a useful image for distribution. How can a specific mark meet such a generic purpose? In these images the latent presence of water reflecting sunlight off the sand makes the snail trail look brilliant and glossy, so perhaps for this reason it’s just a nice beachy image. Even so, by following the trail, I came to know of a predatory sand-dwelling snail that likes to move at low tide.

Moon snail.

When the tide goes out, the moon snail moves. Unchallenged by the disruption of waves, they carve through the sand using their giant foot (large in comparison to their shell) and seek out their favourite food: clams. Enveloping their prey with their overwhelming body, they drill a hole into the shell of a clam using their sharp tongue and suck them out. After learning this I recalled often seeing one-half of a clamshell with a clean hole in one of its three corners. The presence of a snail, through the absence of another.

Soon, I’m timing my walks to coincide with the outgoing tide. Low over high. Isn’t it interesting that our attention is drawn to some things to the exclusion of others? What made me notice the snail trail that day?

I like how getting to know the moon snail has been through following loose relations: one thing looking like another, a random conversation – following a trail that turns inwards and outwards, backwards and forwards on itself. The ambiguity of traces (trail and hole in shell) allows these relations to form, like six-foot-long worms, the feeling of drawing in the sand with pointed fingers or eating oysters on Christmas Day. I follow these trails, even as they tend to meander.