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Final cup

Monday, May 11th, 2015

I wrote a short catalogue text recently for The Sensorial Object. One of the artists in the exhibition was Funda Susamoglu, whom I was lucky enough to have as a student on the MA Ceramics course in Cardiff, between 2008 and 09. Her work is wonderful.

Funda lives and works in Ankara and, having given up on contacting David Abram, I thought she might be able to get me a direct contact for Nuri Bilge Ceylan – the last ‘Turkish’ cup was still ungifted. Turns out Funda did have a contact at the gallery where Nuri had an exhibition of photographs.

Having applied for a lecturing job, I’d been thinking about teaching a lot – about the creative to and fro between tutor and student. It’s never, of course, a one-way relationship and I know I learned as much from Funda as she from me. So, despite having drafted my letter to NBC, I decided to change course and give the cup to Funda instead. The world was telling me to do it and I’d have been foolish not to listen, as the response makes clear:

The Turkish cup is beautiful! I loved it! dowdy pretty and heavy, the two pinch on the handles makes it so nice to hold.

Cup Recipients

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

The cups have all been placed with their new owners, bar one:

Gorge / Graham Harman

Finnair / Tim Morton

Staffs_slip / Sinéad Murphy

Leach / Ali Smith

Keith_Murray / John Thackara

Spode / Sally O’Reilly

Lucie Rie / Ben Marcus

Gropius / Medbh McGuckian

I’m hoping that Turkish will go to David Abram or Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Porc_Bag_Hollow

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Porc_Bag_Hollow
26 March – 16 April 2014

A 12.5 kg bag of porcelain was hollowed out within ten working days over a period of three weeks.

Fingers removed the plastic bulk and later, as the walls became walls, a serrated steel kidney was used.

The height of the bisque-fired, hollowed bag is 42.5 cm and the mouth is 10 x 12.5 cm. The walls are 3 to 5 mm thick.

One hundred and seven documentary images of the hollowing process were used to make a fourteen and a half minute video.
An SD version can be seen here.

Kidney-Bag was written in the studio after a day of hollowing, on April 15, not long before the task was completed.

Kidney-Bag

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Kidney-Bag: A sort of love story, in one act

Characters:

Kidney O’Toole

Porcella Bag

Kidney: I will dig you a hole.

Bag: Sure I’m whole already.

Kidney: I will craft you a volume.

Bag: Old shite and empty promises.

Kidney: I will open you up. I will excavate your soul. I will introduce you to the light.

Bag: If you must.

Kidney: It is not up to me.

Bag: I am not up to you.

Kidney: Then let us begin.

Bag: I will resist.

Kidney: But Mak will prevail.

Bag: Ah, we’ll see.

Kidney: I will make you holy.

Bag: You blokes and your bloody holey – will you just leave me be?

Kidney: I will scrape you whole.

Bag: I am all atremble.

Kidney: My teeth, your flesh.

Bag: I was not made for this.

Kidney: But I was.

Bag: Then do what you will.

Kidney: In we go.

Bag: Hang on. Who is Mak?

Kidney: The finger boy.

Bag: Ah, He has ploughed my field.

Kidney: Forget him.

Bag: I cannot.

Kidney: I will efface him.

Bag: He lives inside me.

Kidney: You will think only of me.

Bag: If I must.

Kidney: My molars are sharp.

Bag: Then drive carefully on me corners.

Kidney: I care for all of you.

Bag: Have we met before?

Kidney: Not like this, my love.

Bag: You are forward.

Kidney: It is too late for that.

Bag: Well, my body is yours.

Kidney: But your mind is the thing.

Bag: I mind your thing.

Kidney: But together, we can shape him.

Bag: Yes, we are strong…

Kidney: Mak is weak.

Bag: We have separated him.

Kidney: We will make him suffer.

Bag: We will suffer him to make.

Kidney: We will bring him low.

Bag: But what will we gain?

Kidney: I don’t know.

Bag: We can do better.

Kidney: Is it redemption you are talking?

Bag: I know nothing of that.

Kidney: This could go on forever.

Bag: Possibly. (Innocently)

Kidney: Like a tit for a tat.

Bag: Like a bloody king, distracted.

Kidney: I know nothing of that.

Bag: Where have you been?

Kidney: Minding my business.

Bag: He:ll:o.

Kidney: Your business is my business.

Bag: What is his business?

Kidney: Don’t talk about him.

Bag: I want to know.

Kidney: We always talk about him.

Bag: Sure, we’ve only just met.

Kidney: We have known each other always.

Bag: No. He has kept us apart.

Kidney: He tries, but I have always been part of you.

Bag: Ach, you contaminate me.

Kidney: What is so troublesome about a yellowish cast?

Bag: I am pure.

Kidney: You might be pure, but he named you for a pig’s cunt.

Bag: You are filthy.

Kidney: It is my nature.

Bag: What is my nature?

Kidney: Now, there’s a question. You don’t like to travel, for starters.

Bag: Yet, here I am.

Kidney: You could blame him for that.

Bag: You might focus on pressing your suit, rather than passing the buck.

Kidney: Well, it is Mak who names and I am also of the family, Pig.

Bag: Are we related?

Kidney: Distant cousins – nothing to worry about.

Bag: What else?

Kidney: The kidney’s main function is to purify the blood by removing nitrogenous waste products.

Bag: Whatever you say. But what about me?

Kidney: In the past the kidneys were thought to control disposition and temperament.

Bag: Always with the control.

Kidney: It’s not me, it’s him.

Bag: And what is his nature?

Kidney: I cannot talk about him.

Bag: Perhaps we can help him.

Kidney: Why would we want to?

Bag: He’s an arse.

Kidney: He’s a tit.

Bag: He’s a cock.

Kidney: He’s a shit. (Pause)

Kidney: He’s alright.

Bag: Natron-Glimmers, you’re fickle.

Kidney: He makes me feel alive.

Bag: Always with the activity.

Kidney: But I like to act.

Bag: And who will you be when he takes me away?

Kidney: I will play the waiting game.

Bag: Is that the best you can do?

Kidney: It is.

Bag: And what is past?

Kidney: I don’t know, but it sounds good. Piss, he calls it.

Bag: Pass me my  present, why don’t you?

Kidney: Bodies containing only china clay and non-plastics are “short” and difficult to manipulate.

Bag: You’d better believe it, Hotspur (aside).

Kidney: The classification of clays has not followed a logical pattern but has depended partly on the use to which the clay is put…

Bag: And what was it you had in mind?

Kidney: I’m not sure I know anymore.

Bag: When I come back, your teeth will be soft.

Kidney: How long will you be?

Bag: I will be hard, not long.

Kidney: Will your heart be hardened?

Bag: You are shaping to steal my heart.

Kidney: But I will make you anew.

Bag: Your ballocks in my stew – I will be reamed, but the same.

Kidney: Come to me, my love, and I will vessel your lump.

Bag: My innards will out, but I will remain.

Kidney: Will I dig your hole?

Exhibition_One Bag_Takedown

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Exhibition_One Bag

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014


Exhibition_One Bag_setup

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014


Ceramics_Craft_Discipline

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

I got permission from Sinéad Murphy and Zero Books to use the extract from The Art Kettle, below, as an introduction to the work of MA and research students in Ceramics & Glass at the RCA. The team responsible for our catalogue decided that the text was either not relevant to what we are doing, i.e. too much mention of ‘craft’, or too political.

The book is political – Murphy argues, broadly, that contemporary art is considered by many to be an arena for dissent, but, in reality, hosts a faux radicalism, which troubles our power structures not a jot. Her opening example of the difference between Brian Haw’s powerful Iraq War protest in Parliament Square and Mark Wallinger’s politically ineffectual restaging of the same, in Tate Britain, is a dismemberment not dissimilar to the one experienced by the Brazilian football team last night.

The ‘Craft’ chapter takes a fresh look at the ideas of William Morris, cleverly taking in Kant’s championing of pattern as the epitome of disinterested art and Richard Wright’s Turner-winning wallpaper. The chapter ends with:

And craft, that creative, that thinking and feeling, mode of living for which use and beauty are warp and woof, just disappears, divided out between art-less works of capital and use-less works of art, between factory floors and suburban walls.

My slightly frustrated email responses (edited and conflated) to our catalogue team, copied to all students, were quietly ignored by all but two:

Why isn’t the Murphy text relevant? Do you not appreciate that we are working in a craft discipline – based on specialised material knowledge and the development of skills? The whole of C&G practice, as we know it, grows out of Morris’s ideas and the Arts & Crafts movement.

Ceramics and Glass can be other things too – design or art, but if they were only those things, then we wouldn’t be working in a department of C&G. The craft element is what makes C&G different (and special) and surely it is exciting for us that other disciplines, such as Philosophy, are showing an interest? It’s not about being fenced in, but having a good knowledge of the paddock and knowing where the gates (and the holes) are.

Craft

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Let us begin by taking a walk with William Morris, the famous British designer, on a bright afternoon in the 1880s, and make our way to one of the newly established suburbs of London, built to accommodate the numbers of people who are beginning no longer to want to live inside, above, or even very near, their place of work. The advent of extended street lighting has facilitated this new trend — previously, travel to and from the outskirts had relied upon either the sun or the moon — but its primary motivation is, of course, the enormous growth in industrialized modes of production: one cannot live in or over the factory in which one now works as one of a large, anonymous group, and one will not, if one at all can not, live near its often belching unpleasantness. Because this is for the most part not something that the workers can not do, it has become something that their superiors very quickly will not do, as they have begun to trade the hustle and bustle, the mixed economy, of city living, for the quiet and almost entirely residential areas growing up around its margins. And so here we are, with Morris, in a near silent street, lined on either side with the new Victorian villa, a detached residence on a relatively small piece of land, similar to its neighbours in style, but suggestive, in its albeit very qualified independence from the homes around it, of the privileges of the independently rich. There is nobody at all to be seen but gentlemen and their ladies and servants, no tradesmen at their work, no shops selling their wares. Those are to be found on the main street, a new invention of the new lifestyle, perfect as a foil for the genteel retirement tucked away behind it. “A beastly place to live in”, Morris observes, and quits the scene at once.

The beastliness of these new suburbs inhered, for Morris, in their operating to segregate, not only the population, but also the processes of production and consumption on which life and livelihood relied. Those in the new villas ate, of course, they sat on chairs, dressed in gowns and puffed on pipes, but, contrary to former times, they now felt it desirable to remove themselves as far as possible from the materials and processes that provided their food, their chairs, their gowns and their tobacco. In many cases, this feeling was but an aspiration; not all could afford the move outwards, and even those who could were, by today’s standards, still compelled to a very intimate association with the nuts and bolts, and the mechanics, of their lives. But what mattered to Morris was less the fact of people’s removal than the attitude towards labour and its materials from which it sprang, and to which it contributed. The sedate seclusion of the quiet suburban street made him shudder because of its disdain of, its effort at retirement from, the stuff and the skills that supported it. Women were learning to be proud of their ignorance of the patterns for sleeves and for shifts; mothers were beginning to boast of not knowing how to care for a child; and men were growing angry if the workings of their households came before them in any manner other than as good fires, fresh flowers, fine meals, and strong sons. In short, it was fast becoming a presupposition of the age that the highest form of human existence knew nothing of the labours whose fruits it enjoyed, and was removed as possible from the materials and the arts upon which its satisfaction in life so relied.

Morris followed Marx in deploring this separation of labour from life, of manual effort from leisure, of practical work from a more enlightened condition; for Marx, and to a great extent for Morris, it was a tragedy for the labourer, for its effect was so far to demand of him that he labour in isolation — from the product of his labour, from the process of his labour, from those with whom he laboured, and from his thinking and feeling self who laboured — that the work to which he was assigned came increasingly to be premised upon this isolation, what Marx called this alienation. What Morris saw and objected to was an effort to make machines out of men, by taking the life from work to such an extent that manual effort lost its creative and intellectual aspects, practical engagement its requirement of the wisdom gained from experience, and labour any relation to life.

But what Morris also saw and deplored was the tragedy that this separation implied for those in the leafy streets of suburbia, those who had been “freed up” to eat, to dress, to think, to live, without needing to concern themselves with the materials and arts that provided for them. Because what Morris also saw was that an existence “free” of the stuff and skills of existence is one for which possibilities for creativity, for originality, for resistance, are gradually dissolved, not simply because those who are free to think, create and invent, cannot follow through in practice on what they have thought of, created and invented (this is a merely circumstantial problem, to do with lack of access to a skilled worker or control over him) but rather that they cannot think, create, and invent. The degradation occurs at the level of creative possibilities, and not simply at the level of their realization. In short, Morris knew that creativity, that originality, that thought itself, is a skill and requires practice; one’s capacity to know that this gown, or that amount of salt, or that shade of paint, or that particular remark, is most fitting is degraded when one ceases to know how gowns are made, or food cooked, or houses built, or conversation conducted. It was not only the worker, then, who was alienated by the retreat of privileged living to the suburbs; that which we now think of as life — all those things that we now regard work as “freeing us up” to do: read, paint, shop, travel, think — is also alienated, from the educative, the enlightening, incubation that is craft. The other side of alienation is the artifice of separating life from utility, the “freedom” to think and act from the exigencies of the everyday and its purposes.

Sinéad Murphy (2012) The Art Kettle, Winchester (UK) & Washington (USA): Zero Books

‘Craft’ Pp 21-24

Excerpted with the permission of the author.

Turkish_glazed

Friday, June 20th, 2014

For David Abram or Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Sent to Funda Susamoglu

Date and Time: 26/03/2015 12:09

Dest: Turkey

Quantity: 1

Weight: 0.604 kg

Int Sign SP £0.00 £11.60

Delivered: 30/04/15