Earth Return
Earth Return (2020), mudmind (care of Ama Josephine Budge, April Lin 林森 and Sam Smith), excerpt
Liquids seep and pool across this tender new work. The more I watch and scroll, I’m reminded of the commonality of water across bodies. ‘Water irrigates us, sustains us, comprises the bulk of our soupy flesh’.1

But who is ‘us’?

It’s troubling to begin with a ‘we’. The universal voice pits humankind against a ‘them’: other species, other things. Speaking as a ‘we’ too often assumes that humans are all the same anyway. It flattens culpabilities, levels vulnerabilities.

The alien narrator in Earth return probes the human ‘we’. They test its boundaries and binaries. And they find them ruinous.

Reaching out through vegetal eyes, the narrator makes kin with microbes and mycelial membranes, streams and soils. A more-than-human ‘we’ returns to Earth.

It’s fitting that mudmind came together through remote online sessions during the pandemic. The newly formed artist collective comprises Sydney-born artist-filmmaker Sam Smith, artist-filmmaker April Lin 林森 and speculative writer, artist, curator and pleasure activist Ama Josephine Budge.

Notice how their work decentres its creators, melding the dispersed intelligences of Maggie Nelson, Ocean Vuong and James Baldwin with the gurgle of tides and the warble of warped birdsong.

For all the expansiveness of Earth return, its tone is intimate. The essay film overflows its frame, spills down the screen, and leaks into a love letter addressed to ‘you’.

— Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd
Originally published for the exhibition Medium Earth

1 Astrida Neimanis, Bodies of water: posthuman feminist phenomenology, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, p 27.

Earth Return (2020), mudmind (care of Ama Josephine Budge, April Lin 林森 and Sam Smith)
Earth Return (2020)
mudmind (care of Ama Josephine Budge, April Lin 林森 and Sam Smith)
digital video, text, audio

Commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales for Together in Art New Work, 2020

Original concept: Sam Smith
Mudmind host: April Lin 林森
Text and voice: Ama Josephine Budge
Camera (mudmind): April Lin 林森
Camera (landscapes): Sam Smith
Visual effects, sound design and edit: Sam Smith