Finding my voice…

A short project to explore the journals’ archive in library (or online), find our own voice and in which published journal it might be most fitting.


Being subscribed to a few ceramic journals and magazines, and generally looking through all the other ones on regular basis, I wanted to take this opportunity further and find more publications that would relate to my work better; better than our standard, static and very much craft oriented ceramic publications.

Although, the ‘Ceramics Subject Guide’ is very good and comprehensive overview on the subject specific resources the library can provide, ceramics is not only about Ceramic Review, craft, and pottery.
Therefore, I wanted to look beyond that and find something more helpful, exciting and fitting for my practice. The ‘Fine Art Subject Guide’ was an excellent place to start and gather more broad journals within the art subject. Apollo, Turps Banana or Tate Etc. and Raw Vision provided much better inspiration within sculpture, painting, performance and curation. Some of them featured artists working predominantly with clay or similar ideas to me of abstraction and nature, but even providing articles on specifically ceramic subject, such as “The Potter’s Progress” article in Apollo presenting the significant role of studio pottery in the development of modern art in Britain.

However, the best discovery was accidental. While searching for the journal “Bomb” listed in the Fine Art Guide I stumble across the beautiful publication “Bloom – a horti-cultural view”. Created in 1998 and published twice a year, it explores trends in areas such as fashion, design, photography or food relating to horticulture and nature itself. It is a very unusual publication, but one that large number of people could relate to from students, professionals in art, craft, design, to retail or just a passersby enchanted by the visual delights of the magazine.
It is visually rich with minimal text and no advertisement to distract the viewer from the experience. It covers traditional themes behind nature-inspired craft or design to more intriguing photographs and art exploring and experimenting with ideas relating to or somehow deriving from natural world.

Ceramics and craft is always included, same as art, exploring ideas and intricacies from natural world, often through abstract work rather than plain representation.

 

Another mention would be our local CCQ which I’m subscribed to and would love to find myself one day. Culture Colony Quarterly “focus is on the contemporary arts and their many contexts, particularly international practice and projects”, but puts same importance to the local scene. Therefore I can find beautiful visual content same as in depth writing on international events I visited such as the Venice Biennial, but also another look at ” stiwdio/lle studio/place” exhibition at the Bay Art Gallery in Cardiff or interview with Lone Taxidermist whose music performance we are going to experience at Arnolfini in Bristol and “[in] cracked reflection of Grayson Perry’s acclaimed exhibition, we’re raiding Arnolfini with our loved-fueled provocative party for the outsiders.”

 

 

 

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Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and The Museum of Archeology and Anthropology (7, 8)

A new city and another university’ collections.


First two museums we visited in Cambridge were traditionally subject based, predominantly on Geology and the second one on Anthropology and Archeology.
It’s not surprising as they are part of Cambridge University, which has total of 9 museums and collections.
As with the University’s purpose, the aim of these museums is to educate the public.

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The Sedgwick Museum was the most traditional in its presentation, with impressive  antique wood and glass cabinets, but rather static display.
The layout was quite clear and direct, coming from the earliest period of 544 million ears ago from right, to the Pleistocene epoch and exhibition of work by Charles Darwin on the left. Each open ‘room’ divided by the large cabinets was dedicated to different environment such as Costal Plains or Tropical Seas, most significant in its epoch.

The individual open ‘rooms’ had more information scattered around, with main introduction board, individual artefact signs and handbooks by the windows.
It was rather passive reading, and looking through glass experience.

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I appreciated the airy installations on the cabinets, bringing some fresh imagination to the collection, using the imagery found within the cabinets.

It was exciting to see the original and hand painted Geology Map, created by William Smith, and read its impressive story, not just admire it’s impressive size.


Just few steps away and we found ourselves in the Anthropological and Archeological Museum.
After seeing fossils and natural/life’s evidence it was interesting to suddenly appear in space filled with human ‘fossils’ represented predominantly by ceramic objects.
It’s like ceramics are human fossils; used by archeologists to get most information on humans, their activity and history, as geologists get their information from fossils on life and environment of past.

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The collection was very similar to the Pitt Rivers’ (as both are anthropological museums), however the curation couldn’t be different.
I enjoyed it in different way, as exploring themes in more depth, such as ‘childhood in the past’ is more educational and informative, than just explore and compare different objects on their own, like in Pitt Rivers.

It was in the exhibition on childhood, where we discovered that museum descriptions doesn’t have to be dull, but can be rather entertaining. It was in a form of educational criticism and sassiness on descriptions of pottery techniques and examples made or decorated, most likely by a child.
Signs are one of the most influential feature of the museum experience, as absolutely everyone reads at least one, but I believe they are not the most griping and exciting to read, in most cases not even really relevant.

Furthermore, on the last floor, there was another unusual sight – of a glass cabinet with cardboard boxes and unnumbered, unmarked relics placed carefully on a foam tissue.

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It was a visible storage while they prepare a new exhibition on that floor. With the boxes probably hiding more objects safely, it felt like a retail environment where the products are left to speak for themselves, ready to attract, be picked up, explore its purpose, how it’s relevant to the buyer/observer, and be bought.

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A simple map with objects placed on their geographical origin reminded me of different coffee, tea or chocolate stating their unique geographical origin, trying to attract customers (of products or ideas) with their unique properties, customs, resources.

The Old Fire Station and Modern Art Oxford (5, 6)

Wondering off track to explore more temporary and modern exhibitions in Oxford.
Finding very different and critical point of view at collections of British museums.


The first place we found was an exciting arts venue focused on bringing high quality arts to the community with exhibition space, theatre, dance studio and workshops for artists.

We went straight for their exhibition space which was as large as a bedroom but housed exhibition named Haptic/Tactic.
In association with Craft Council, the exhibition displayed work of 5 makers and their mentors, trying to challenge the upcoming makers and create a creative network that can stimulate new ideas and ways of working, very fitting for a venue which focuses on community and collaboration.
I was very excited to finally see Annie Turner’s work in person as her aesthetics closely relate to my last year’s exploration into containment and architectural structures.
Handling fundamentally tactile work of Bonnie Kemske was a must do experience, especially powerful after a day full of being forbid to touch any artefacts.

The informality of the space and ethos of the established felt very different to the rigid formality of typical museum and its goal for education, despite both housing art or craft based artefacts.


We finished the day at typical whit cube gallery spaces of Modern Art Oxford. Established in 1966, building an international reputation for leading contemporary art and innovative programmes.
“We aim to make contemporary art accessible and engaging to the widest audience through presentation and participation.”

The current exhibition “Invisible Strategies” presents work by British artist Lubaina Himid, born in Zanzibar and one of the forefront members of the British Black Arts Movement.
Her paintings, newspaper collages, sculptures and ceramic interventions were a powerful reflection on the objects we previously seen on that day, in a museum setting, sourced from array of cultures and civilisations across the globe and time.

She is questioning historical ‘truths’ that museums presents, and revealing hidden contexts of museums acquisitions.
In Mr Salt’s Collection, Himid is referencing “renowned British Egyptologist Henry Salt (1780–1827), and with its numbered objects alludes to British colonial trading routes, overseas excavations, collecting and connoisseurship.”
She is excavating stories from the slave trade, tied in with the British colonialism, and how there was not just trade in ancient artefacts or precious commodities, but in human lives too.

Himid is not just pointing the finger at wrongdoers, but raising questions about ownership, representation, value, curation of information, contribution and context, questions so vital in our Field exploration.

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“Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service, 2007 Himid defines Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service as ‘an intervention, a mapping and an excavation. It is a fragile monument to an invisible engine working for nothing in an amazingly greedy machine. It remembers slave servants, sugary food, mahogany furniture, greedy families, tobacco and cotton fabrics but then mixes them with British wild flowers, elegant architecture and African patterns. […] This work is not a memorial but more an encouraging incentive for everyone committed to restoring the balance, revealing the truths and continuing the dialogues.’ “

Her plate intervention was a great example for us of what we could do as proposal for this project. Using museum artefacts to curate and show different side of a plate; even by altering them.

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“Freedom and Change, 1984 ‘Discourse is a primary tool against the weapons used to marginalise and write out of history our contribution / she who writes herstory rewrites history.’ – Maud Sulter, 1990 Freedom and Change is a bold example of Himid’s ‘rewriting of history’, as proposed by the poet, curator and artist Maud Sulter, via the reference to Picasso – the epitome of masculine painterly energy. These women are personifications of freedom and change: they look to the future by embracing the past, yet overturning oppressive colonial histories. By quoting a painting from Picasso’s ‘return to order’ neoclassical period (1918–25), Himid comments on the rampant political conservatism at the height of the Thatcher era.”

CoCA

DRAFT

Our 2 day trip to the Harley Gallery and Studios, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Centre of Ceramic Art within York Art Gallery.
An immerse and deep exploration of British Studio Pottery: from meeting practitioners, to the curators, collectors and archivers.


With over 5 500 ceramic artefact, CoCA is a waste collection and resource of ceramic practice in the UK. Its important work is to tell the stories of significant artists, potters and/or makers working with clay, and their collectors.
It’s to the generosity of The Very Reverend Dean Eric Milner-White, W.A. Ismay, Henry Rothschild and Anthony Shaw that this public collection can showcase the most complete story of British studio ceramics.

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1) As we live in wold of big data, there is so much information in our world, so many products, ideas, concepts and data created every day, we can’t possibly see and experience most of them.
Growing in importance, it is curator’s job to digest, choose, present and restrict the flow of information, same as collectors who’s collections are exhibited and studied, they can direct our tastes and presences.
But as we discovered, not all creators has to have money or influential position to exert this kind of power. It’s more about dedication, passion, and confidence in own decision.
But they must bee influenced too, in the never ending network of constant selecting and rejecting.

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Curators’ job is more to select and digest already existing collections, within a public institution with public collections, or as with CoCA, private collections donated for public use.

I was very delighted by the refreshing connections of classical fine art paintings and contemporary ceramic art/craft. …

“Like other forms of art, its [curation’s] function is not the restoration of context of origin but rather the creation of a new context.” (S. Stewart, Objects of Desire)

2) As to the extensive network of people guiding and presenting what we see, David Clarke tries to understand material culture as a system with subsystems.
David describes 5 main subsystems:

  1. Social subsystem: the hierarchical network of inferred personal relationships, including kinship and rank stats.
  2. Religious subsystem: the structure of mutually adjusted beliefs relating tot he supernatural.
  3. Psychological subsystem: the integrated system of supra-personal subconscious beliefs induced upon the individual in a society by their culture, their environment and their language.
  4. Economic subsystem
  5. Material culture subsystem

“These five subsystems headings are transparently based on the prejudices of current opinion, underlining their arbitrary nature,”

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“A static and schematic model of the dynamic equilibrium between the subsystem networks of a single sociocultural system and its total environment system”.

As all the 4 private collectors basically knew each other and hugely influenced one-another , their collection can’t be called vast and comprehensive.

3) A carefully curated domestic space, exhibited within a public gallery space was rather exciting to see, comparing that most collections are displayed in museum settings behind glass. It showed individual’s taste in it’s most natural state. Such display inspired new ways of curating our own spaces, as well as giving more attention to the aesthetics of the ceramic objects.

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Anthony Shaw as the latest contributor with his collection of contemporary ceramics that still grows, actually did bring new direction and feel within the overall  collection.

I liked his opinion, and it was rather motivating, that makers should predominantly work true to themselves, rather than try to adapt to the market and try to figure out what people want.
But then the curators and influential collectors should guide people’s taste better, for more progressive and supportive directions, beneficial for the makers.

4) Psychology of collecting, as an addition to functional and decorative

Although I feel CoCa’s collection is rather biased and mostly showing similar single direction and aesthetics of ceramic practice, I’m happy that there’s the curational discussion and openness to innovate. With the domestic display of Anthony Shaw’s collection, or pairing object from rather dissimilar practices and timeframes to stimulate new ways of looking and discussing, there’s an interesting progression for innovation.


Publications used:

Interpreting Objects and Collections; Susan M. Pearce; 1994
Photographs, Museums, Collections Between Art and Information; E. Edwards and C. Morton; 2015
Centre of Ceramic Art an introduction; Helen Walsh; York Museum Trust
The Anthony Shaw Collection

Exploring Collections – Summer Project

Summer project exploring and finding different forms of collection.


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2D Museum visit – Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal

For our first session in the Cardiff Museum we were asked to redefine the Second Dimension, using an extract from “Phenomenology of Perception” by French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty as well as an object from the museum, to help us define and back up our definition.
This definition should be then connected to my subject – Ceramics.


Logo for Treasures exhibitionI took the chance to see the new exhibition “Treasures: Adventure in Archeology”, and when reading the text few interesting points came out to me, and somehow I could see a connection with the exhibition, new ideas and definitions for ‘2D’ were emerging.

The exhibition on archeology, and archeology itself is my object/subject from the museum, as it’s trying to compress multidimensional (time, space, humans, stories, events, lives, …) into 2D form, behind a glass, trying to show the invisible/transparent relationships between the objects, events… and link it/direct it at a thinking individual in another dimension, in a specific time and place.

So my definition for second dimension looks like a phenomenal glass to look at past where objects and events,  time and space overlap, creating/revealing new images or angles, in relation to the observer, which is me, a person, again at specific time and place, looking at the same objects, just aged.

This reminded me slightly of Flatland, being in 2D, you can only see the lines.
Timelines.

From the text I circled certain sentences that I was able to understand and which helped me create the definition. It spoke about knowledge and transparent relationships, between history and perceived objects, which in my opinion spoke exactly about archeology. The text also tried to position us and our consciousness as a subject, having an important role.

To link it to ceramics is simple. Ceramic is the 3D 2D timeline of time and space.

Another definition could be how we perceive the world around us. Most the time we perceive the objects and events around us in 1D, just absorbing the sensual stimuli with our body but not thinking about it or even noticing it fully.
However, when we look at an object with our gaze, an inner reflective eye and start thinking, applying our experiences, thoughts and phenomenal layers, we see an subject in a 2D, possibly 3D when more layers of meaning and seeing are in play.
Our brain, mind is a prism that changes the 1D world around us into multidimensional realm of endless points of view, possibilities and meanings.

More ideas that emerged from this exercise, which could be possibly explore:
Preservation – mummifying – 2D – second life
2 overlapping ideas, objects, feelings, create a new possibility.
Second dimension is the space between boundaries, and when the inside of something becomes the outside, revealing the transparent space of a boundary from completely different angle.