Critical Spatial Practice

Stori Mwd (A Story of Mud), (2019)
  • Zoë Quick and Kirsten McIver | The Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth

  • 1, blanket sound 2 2, blanket sound 3, hands and stones 4, dark and light 5, clay house 6, mud circle
  • Stori Mwd (A Story of Mud), (2019)
  • Zoë Quick and Kirsten McIver | The Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth
  • Through these movements we become mountains.

    Stori Mwd is an interactive, site-specific ‘environmental’ lecture-performance written by Zoë Quick, and devised and performed with Kirsten McIver with/in the rammed earth Sheppard Theatre at The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). 

    ‘At 7.2 metres, the circular walls of the Sheppard Theatre are the highest rammed earth walls in the UK. The walls are 500mm thick, include 320 tonnes of earth and support the roof.’ (CAT)

    Our performance builds with, on, out from, and into this story CAT tells of these walls. The story we tell is as ‘old as the hills’, a particular sedimentation of generations and geology. It is a mucky, sticky story, that enacts metaphors, magic and moralities of mud — ‘a material story, a story of matter, a story that matters…’.

    Seeking to heal human relations with mud, we summon a sacred space with/in the earthen drum of the Sheppard Theatre, inviting those who cross the threshold to perform with the agency of mud — to collectively become-mud — through embodied material ritual: together, ‘in the round’, we echo-sound the ancient shaleclatter of sea-becoming-mud-becoming-stone; becoming-sediment, we pile toppling cairns; with/in the curve of the theatre’s walls, we trace contours of mountains, the path of the sun, celtic arcs of boundary; squeezing, squashing, and sticking, we sing everyday enchantment — the culturing of mud — into makeshift pots and walls…

    We perform in relation to shifting ‘local’ geology, topography, culture, evolving built/spoken vernacular, and CAT as a technical, environmentalist institution. Collectively, we ‘tell’ the walls of the Sheppard Theatre, where ‘telling’ is to (re)count, estimate, reckon, know, relate. Through this encounter between technology, ecology, pedagogy, and performance, we raise questions about the meanings and agency of performance, and healing, within the academy, and within architecture.


    Zoë Quick is an architect and collaborative arts practitioner based in rural Wales, UK. She teaches on the MArch in Sustainable Architecture at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, and is a visiting tutor for the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff. 

    Zoë’s practice, research and teaching, engage narrative, performance and interdisciplinary collaboration as a means to ‘enact’ relationships between stories, communities, place and ecology.

    At Metaphor, London, Zoë led multi-disciplinary teams in delivering narrative design projects, creating performances and artefacts out of archives for cultural institutions and landscapes, including the V&A, Kew Palace, Hardwick Park and the Grand Museum of Egypt. 

    Since relocating to rural Wales, Zoë has collaborated with a musician and a healer on the major restoration of a listed Georgian house and Picturesque landscape, and with an aerial dancer and a physical theatre practitioner as co-devisor/designer/maker for dance performance, Flying Atoms. Zoë is also co-founder of Both Coed, a collaborative community enterprise which stages performances and events in a local woodland.

    Zoë is currently undertaking a PhD by Architectural Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL), supervised by Jane Rendell, Sharon Morris (The Slade) and Kelina Gotman (KCL). This research investigates the agency of performative architectural practices of walking, drawing and writing within a renegotiation of the farming/‘rewilding’ binary that dominates current, urgent debate over the future of the Welsh uplands.


    I work with an awareness of the ethical responsibility of critical spatial practice, as a practice that moves between, to heal through connection. In my work with texts and archives, I draw on ‘poetic bio-politics’ and the ‘healing motion’ of performance to activate crucial connections between cultures and ecologies of place. ‘Telling’ place ‘in the field’, through material practices, movement, poetry and song, in relation to other bodies, and landscape, I seek to engage the immediacy and accessibility of embodied knowledge/communication as a means to move ethically between institutions and the worldly spaces/communities to which they refer.

    performance, culture, ecology, archives, healing, poetic bio-politics


    Shaw, M. (2016) Scatterlings. Oregon: White Cloud Press.

    Loo, S. and Sellbach, U. (2012). Mistress O and the Bees. Kelly’s Garden, Hobart, Tasmania.

    The cywyddau of Welsh bard Dafydd ap Gwilym (c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370).

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