Sarah Strachan

Responding to:
The Human Drift (1894), pp. 17, 100, 102, 104, 107.
‘Human Drift (2021)’

13 stoneware ceramics on acrylic floor panel, approx. 50 cm x 100 x 30 cm.

This ceramic sculpture is inspired by images from The Human Drift, a work of utopian social planning written by King Camp Gillette and first published in 1894. The work consists of 13 white ceramic hexagonal vessels mimicking the fractal beauty seen in both the natural world and built environment, whilst embracing the improvised and the hand-made.  Human Drift (2021) is the result of colliding thoughts about Gillette’s utopias and philosopher Édouard Glissant’s (1928-2011) unrealised ideas that offer a path for our future. Gillette’s book details a plan for a metropolis on the site of Niagara Falls. Designed to accommodate a population of tens of millions of inhabitants, Gillette’s city was to possess “a perfect economical system of production and distribution” and “replace the chaotic natural landscape with a rational urban pattern.” He wanted the buildings to be built of porcelain, for endurance and cleanliness and on a hexagonal street plan.  For Glissant, utopia was a place where “all the world’s imaginations can meet and hear one another without dispersing or losing themselves…” Glissant referred to his utopian model as a “quivering” or “trembling” because it would transcend established systems of thought. I’ve been thinking about how a linear concept of time is one of these systems and wondering how more fluid or fractal ways of thinking might allow us to drift towards alternative perspectives on our past, present, and future.

[1] McGreevy, P.M., 1994.  Imagining Niagara: The Meaning and Making of Niagara Falls, Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 124-34.

[2] Obrist, H. U., 2021. Hans Ulrich Obrist on a Radically Utopian Museum Model That Has Yet to Be Realized—and Why It’s Worth Pursuing [online]. Available at: [Accessed on 31/10/21]