Audrey Snyder CAMPAGNA/CAMPANA/CAMPO Originally prepared for Rural Design Week 2019 San Potito Sannitico, IT Awarded First prize for “systematic design objects” Courtesy of the artist
Campagna (countryside or rural area) and campana (bell) are near homonyms — omonime in Italian. The sound of the livestock bell resonates across populated centers and agricultural peripheries. It is a call to action, to gather, or to rest. In English, ‘bellwether’ describes the leading sheep of a flock with a bell around its neck. For a shepherd, the sound of the bell echoing through terrain indicates where the flock is gathered and going. The term is also used colloquially as a metaphor for prediction or indication of things-to-come.
For Rural Design Week, I propose to take the bellwether as a point of departure for exploring the interactivity of plants, peoples, animals, and terrain in relation to climate disaster. Campania, at the foot of the Matese Mountain range, is a sheepherding region where shepherds and flocks circulate between mountains and valleys. Responding to this local economic tradition with the practical and poetic qualities of the bellwether, I will use a hand-operated press to form soil and seeds into earthenware livestock bells.
The earthenware consists of soil and clay collected from routes that shepherds take to and from the mountain pastures. Embedded into the mixture are seeds that are collected from the tangled wool and fleece of animals moving along these thoroughfares. Clay-bodied bellwethers (figure 4) re-center the rural by entering the cycle of re-seeding terrain. As the sheep graze, the bells will resonate and erode, leaving behind a trail of soil and seeds in the fading echo of sound (figure 5). These seeds may germinate where they are sewn by the collaboration of shepherd, sheep, and sound.
The press for making these bells is at once a tool for shepherding and a pedagogical model for describing cycles of cultivation and human-animal movement in long-durational time. Consisting of turned wood, the bell-press operates like a ceramic press-mold: wicking away moisture from the soil/seed casting materials to give shape and ring to the bells. Similar to traditional 2-3 part molds (figure 2) the press compresses the seeds and soil into the negative space between two interlocking parts. The press is handheld and may be used in moments of waiting, thinking, or storytelling. Pressing seeds and soil into the press is like twiddling thumbs or whistling: an external expression of inner activity during quiet moments of idleness or the social exchange of listening. The bell-press and bells are design-objects to be made and used in the field.
Forming the soil and seed bells are a strategy for re-claiming cycles of growth and movement to re-imagine the circular economy over longer, slower periods of time. They uphold the resounding ring of the grazing flock over the deafness of monoculture and agribusiness. Such re-centering of the rural is essential against the backdrop of climate disaster. Pastoralism, the set of practices for the stewardship of rural land, offers us a way to recall the ways in human and animal activity changes land and climate. This call-to-action is also a demand for rest and slowness, a turn away from settler-colonial-capitalist time toward the shepherd’s sensitive temporality of seasons, human-animal solidarity, and the ground ground beneath our feet.