State of Ceramics is an ongoing series of discussions centered around evaluating the present and future of the ceramics field. These discussions are free and open to the public—the clay community and the clay curious—and are intended to be informal, open, and inclusive dialogues where participants are encouraged to share their unique perspectives and voices. Each State of Ceramics discussion is led by different ceramic artists—often those who are exhibiting at A-B Projects—and is prompted by specific, unanswered questions they have about the shifting dynamics of contemporary ceramics. This is an opportunity for us to take responsibility for how we want to shape our field. These collective conversations are geared towards understanding the state of ceramics, expanding possibilities, and building community as we move through this process.
Fall 2020 State of Ceramics .edu edition
This free online series is designed as a collective curriculum specifically for ceramic educators and students operating in digital space, and offers a menu of hands-on clay exercises, readings, resources, and collective discussions generated by artists Cathy Lu, Andres Payan Estrada, and Sigrid Espelien.
2020 has cast into stark relief the relationship between current events and how we conceive of and relate to bodies— how the coronavirus attacks and spreads between bodies, how human rights are unjustly equated with the physical attributes of bodies, how bodies navigate virtual space, how fires consume bodies of land, and how government bodies claim and wield power. Clay has the potential to be a device for elucidating these issues; clay bodies can be understood as a proxy for our bodies. With this in mind, each State of Ceramics section and discussion will focus upon specific questions that Cathy, Andres, and Sigrid engage with in their practices, as they relate to the shifting dynamic of contemporary ceramics within the overarching theme of Our Clay Bodies.
Scroll down to download the exercises, readings, and discussion guides developed by each artist; wrap them into your curriculum or pursue them individually, and then join us online for collective discussions with the artists. These materials and events are free and open to all—teachers, students, the clay community and the clay-curious—and are offered as a menu of components from which you can choose what is right for you. State of Ceramics is intended to be a point of engagement, so we ask that all participants who attend the discussions please keep their video turned on, show their faces, and consider contributing their voices. State of Ceramics is an opportunity for us to take responsibility for how we want to shape our field; this work can only be done together.
Our objects—who makes them, how we use them, and how we preserve them—are indicative of who we are and to which cultures we belong. Depending upon our relationship to those objects and cultures—whether we are generators and/or consumers, whether we are participants in power structures and/or marginalized by them, whether we are ‘insiders’ and/or ‘outsiders’—we can misrepresent and misunderstand entire communities. In this discussion we will question the validity of an ‘authentic’ object, examine how value and values change across time, and delve into the fine line between cultural sharing and cultural appropriation. How can enduring ceramic objects contribute to representing, reflecting, and revising our understanding of ourselves?
Optional preparation for this conversation includes Cathy’s exercise and reading a short text by Horace Miner. Download her discussion guide prior to the online conversation–print it out or look at it on your phone while participating in the discussion:
- exercise: Cultural Objects & Ritual
- reading: The Body Rituals Among the Nacirema, Horace Miner, 1956
- discussion guide: Cultural Objects & Ritual
Our deeply engrained human instinct to touch is one of the primary ways that we connect with each other and with the world around us. We use tactility as a form of exchange, a way of leaving an imprint or a trace, a method for discerning our realities within and beyond our own bodies, and even as an attempt at understanding the incomprehensible. For Body Language: Human Trace and Digital Touch, we will explore how our nascent impulse to touch influences contemporary forms of communication and how our evolution into the digital realm affects, impacts, and relates to contemporary material and object politics. Clay—and its ability to record our touch—has archived our histories, individualities, and social structures; how are we using it to propel ourselves and our communities into the future?
Optional preparation for this conversation includes the exercise and tutorials Andres developed for digitally touching clay in the most satisfying way, two essays authored by Andres, and three additional readings. Download his discussion guide prior to the online conversation–print it out or look at it on your phone while participating in the discussion:
- material for exercise: 25lbs of B-Mix.jpg
- exercise: #DigitalClayBodies
- tutorials for exercise: lesson 1, lesson 2, lesson 3
- reading: #ceramics by Andres Payan Estrada
- reading: Extending Vocabularies by Andrew Livingstone
- reading: Material by Monika Wagner
- reading: The Melancholy Object of Art by Peter Schwegner
- discussion guide: Body Language: Human Trace and Digital Touch
A lump of clay doesn’t start its existence in meeting a person’s hand, it has a long history on its own: transported in a truck, being packed in a plastic bag, going through a pugmill, dug out from the ground, and transported with wind, water and glaciers over thousands of years; but first, stones crush into sand, sand crushes into silt, and silt rubs against itself until becoming tiny clay particles under 0,002 millimeters. The moment of a person touching the clay is equivalent merely to a sneeze in a human’s lifetime. In Norway there’s no processing of clay (everything available for purchase is imported), there are no brick factories, and there is almost no ceramic industry left. And yet, there is an abundance of local clay. How does this impact our connection to clay? Is it important to know our clay, know our clay’s history, know our clay’s locality? This discussion will address lay as a material not only perfected for our artistic visions, but also as soil, land, and territory.
Optional preparation for this conversation includes the exercise Sigrid developed about local clay, and a brief reading. Download her discussion guide prior to the online conversation–print it out or look at it on your phone while participating in the discussion:
- exercise: Clay Stories
- reading: Waste Glaze by Katrine Køster Holst, translated by Christine O’ Hagan
- discussion guide: Clay Stories
FEBRUARY 2020 | Phoebe Cummings
Ephemerality, Recording, and Ceramics as a Time-based Medium