Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ceramics as Refuge - Anton Rejnders

I attended a very interesting lecture and seminar by Anton Rejnders organised through Irish Ceramics Education (ICE) last week. ( Nearly two weeks ago - I have the horrible habit of retaining blogs in draft form) for far too long!) Many images of his work spoke to me ( I will add these later), but ( not surprisingly) it was his ideas/conceptualisation/ of where ceramics presently sits as a medium that I found the most interesting.

He showed us some images of his thought-provoking work during the morning session. I was struck by the way he referenced the fragility of working with clay by way of his placing large pieces on fragile (plywood?)  plinths; thus incorporating the plinth into the overall sculptural form. There is always this plinth debate at the heart of ceramic discourse, and I always welcome subversive responses/ conclusions. The plinth & lack of use of mixed media, I think, accurately displays the disparity between ceramics and its teachings under Fine Art and Art & Design respectively.

In the afternoon he further expounded his ideas through a lecture, recently delivered in Australia, entitled, if my notes serve me well, Future Directions: Is there hope for ceramics? I approved of his non-production stance. His discussion of short term market driven economics and the ethos of quantative production certainly sat well in my general thinking. When asked, towards the end, why he made in clay, he responded 'to grow' - and he meant in the most holistic of ways, as a useful citizen on this crowded, polluted earth. There was a mindfulness about him. Rare in the arts world of inflated egos and cool-cat cliches.

The thing he said that particularly caught my imagination was his notion of ceramics going into a refuge.
I wonder if this thinking is what he considers to be 'the poetics' of the medium. I have decided to write to him and ask for more information regarding his thinking and his relevant source material.  He was generally, very reassuring re the path of the maker through clay, and I think all of us who were sitting absorbing his words benefited from that thought.

* insert images / website link

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Narratives: Parallel and Broken as intervention

My recent derive leads me to reconsidering the use of narrative in socially/ culturally engaged critique. The stories in times of uprisings and revolutions certainly carry their fair share of narrative ( oft times propaganda).

The following is an excerpt from an essay I wrote during my MA Studies. The context, unsurprisingly, is Siwa...I include it to remind myself, and anyone interested, in the relevance of broken narrative as intervention. I notice Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed , are making a comeback around the country as an educational tool.

             Parallel narratives and mythologies are steeped around Siwa Oasis, from Alexander the Great and the Temple of Amun, to Cambysses army of 40,000 men who perished in the treacherous sand sea never to be seen again, to the conception and subsequent eco-build of the luxurious hotel at Adere Amelle. The remote Oasis town as subject, lends itself particularly well to ideas regarding novel forms of essaying, poetics of thought, and, to touch on Jean Luc Nancy’s The Inoperative Community, is an interesting site upon which to briefly discuss ideas concerning an Interrupted Mythology.[23]

             Nancy speaks of ancient and perhaps ‘primitive’ mythology serving to define and unite community, as ‘the unique voice of the many’.[24] He contests that this mythology was interrupted by Enlightenment thinking that strove to find ‘a new mythology’ based on the already complete or fulfilled mythology of classical Greek and Roman society. It is in this fulfillment and exposure of itself as myth, that the (now) previous myth(ology) is interrupted. Thus is birthed: the myth of the interrupted myth, where the two opposing definitions of myth co-exist. The idea of layered myth, both ancient and interrupted, could be seen to be at the centre of the contested identity of Siwa Oasis. Writing of the mythology of interrupted mythology ( a kind of re-jigged literary narrative essaying), it is argued can be seen as an intervention in itself. Not only does this intervention technically resonate with Brecht's theatre technique of - Verfremdungseffekt (translated as "defamiliarization effect", which likewise cuts the narrative, through the incorporation  a "distancing effect", or "estrangement effect", but also appeals to the viewer/ reader to seek layers through layers of meaning, a process most relevent to the complex everyday situation we find ourselves in due to the transnational implications of hegemonic globalisation. Brecht adapted many theatre techniques around the notion of the V-effect, these have been taken up by actors, directors and social critics alike, and include the use of movement between third and first person narrative; past and present tense, use of placards; the idea of the audience creating the narrative and harsh sudden lighting. [25]

These methods are most useful to the essayist looking towards trans genre means of communication. In the context of Mythology Interrupted, Nancy reiterates on the theme of communication, the essence of this essay, afterall:

‘Communication ‘itself’ is infinite between finite beings. Providing these beings do not try to communicate to one another myths about their own infinity, for in such a case they instantly disconnect the communication.’[26]

Returning to The Maghreb Connection, to conclude this investigation relating the theme of a transnational context to trans genre and hybrid solutions through artistic and activist practice, we note that, ‘…part of the book's intention is to serve as a basis for continuing theaters of learning and questioning, as well as continuing processes of production, in the expanded field of art reconceived as visual geography.’ [27]

The Maghreb Connection, like the proposed stages of intervention in Siwa Oasis against the ongoing branded overdevelopment of local craft enterprise, is an ongoing project of open-ended longevity. An intervention, of the sort proposed may only be a small offering In the enormity of the challenges we face on the planet, but If it in any shape or form assists the local community to reinstate self-determination and autonomy in their decision making process then it is a success. It is argued that projects of an open ended nature are greatly needed in the fast paced globalised world we inhabit.

By thinking widely on problems at a transnational level, we are able to expand our scope for response through imaginative and challenging mechanisms and systems of linkage. To quote Ursula Biemann one more time:

‘Essayist practice is highly self-reflexive in that it constantly reconsiders the act of image-making and the desire to produce meaning. It is consciously engaged in the activity of representation itself. These characteristics make the genre particularly suited to study complex relations. Essayist work doesn’t aim primarily at documenting realities but at organizing complexities.’[28]

And there are complexities. A dazzling myriad of complexities, that only we can figure out, and that, Georg Lukacs , when ‘comparing the essay to other forms of literature, using the metaphor of “ultra-violet rays” (sees)  refracted through the literary prism.’[29]

[23] Nancy, Jean Luc, The inoperative community University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis and Oxford. 1991
[24] ibid
[26] Nancy, Jean Luc, The inoperative community, p.67.  University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis and Oxford. 1991
[27] Ursula Biemann; Stuff It,

[28] Ursula Biemann; The Video Essay in the Digital Age, P10 pdf downloaded from geobodies/ from Zurich? Book/ now pdf.
[29] ibid

Thursday, November 22, 2012

(A cyber) "derive" in response to Gaza situation(1)

(This blog entry, in the main, was written in the days before the ceasefire was announced yesterday evening.)

It's a beautiful early winter's day here in Lough Cutra. I could be out photographing. I could be squatting over the rims of my deliberately lob-sided bowls beside the wood burning stove that I am supposedly making for the Christmas market while rummaging through madcap schemes for desert located clay excursions into the Sahara. I could be limbo-ing  through the smashed glass window round the side of the Southern Gate Lodge in renewed attempt to launch my Heritage-For-All campaign ( more of all that another time) - all these things would be easier than compiling the blog that awaits in fragmented discord before me. But then I never did take the easy route.

For days I have been following events in Gaza, mainly through social media as I don't have a television set out here. I'm finding that I keep skirting round the issue, of how to respond, with one distraction after another. A few nights ago I posted several images to facebook, including this no-nonsense map and the disturbing and controversial image ( that facebook later removed) below the map of dead children. The use of such images has to thoughtfully considered. I'll elaborate on my own personal take on this later in this blog. ( Which I suspect will run in to several parts).

A friend, also an artist; a very talented painter, and someone who was as mobilised as I during the invasion of Iraq 2003, responded to my posts  - asking (generally)  'what are we supposed to do?'

This question has lain heavily on my mind ever since. The attempted ceramic rims, the previous blog re Anton Reijnders re Ceramics as Refuge have been postponed as I try to figure out a creative response that is worth its muscle. It's not like this thinking is new to me; after all, I was dealing with the tumult of the Jasmine Revolution, the Egyptian Revolution ( I lived and breathed) and the Libyan Overthrow of Gadaffi all through my MA. Bear in mind Siwa is adjacent to the Libyan border and its Berber community has more in common with its cousins in Libya than Egyptian central government. ( much debate will follow on this in the future inshallah as I grow and develop the project in Siwa.)  In fact during the MA, the revolutions of the Arab Spring usurped all my up-til-then planning for the doing part of my project. Suffice to say, revolution isn't new to me. In all honest's truth it has resided at the core of my being as long as I can remember; during the course of my MA I announced mid way through a weary critique ( I was on the receiving end ),  that I was at heart an activist, who just happened to go to art school.....

I collect tweets they are easy to transpose from one page to another, a simple cut and paste job and none of the uploading of awkward files this pc connection has such a problem with. I stare at them for direction and once again remember back to MA research. I have now moved on. Perhaps I will even activate my dormant twitter account in the name of social practice:

RT : Frantic families pouring into UNRWA schools from n strip, on horse carts w just blankets 

RT : rt Evacuation leaflets causing panic as people think an invasion on  imminent 

: Egypt's Morsy: "Travesty" of Israel's  aggression to end "in a few hours." ” seriously CNN? Really!??

Schools and shelters are being filled as the IDF warns -ns to move into the city centre. INVASION. OCCUPATION. 

 on Tuesday blocked  Security Council statement on the  conflict saying it was "counter-productive”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Within These Walls of Karsheef

I am gradually organising the blog into pages and deciding what information goes where.  I have decided that the statement I used for my 2011 MA project (MA LSAD), will be placed both here on the home page (to give an overview to what I'm about) but will also feature in the description for the Siwa page of the blog. I don't intend to go in for repetition on a general scale, but in this instance I feel it is useful.

I find I cannot upload the video as its on a hard drive in Galway. I will deal with this over the weekend. In the meantime I will endeavour to provide links to my soundcloud page. I am not, at present, a big soundcloud user, but when I was in Egypt during April/ May 2011, I found it a useful storage space for my recorded files. As sound recordings seem to be increasingly used in my practice (and as I also write/read aloud quite a bit of poetry), I could imagine that Soundcloud is a resource that could prove very valuable in the future. Please go to Siwa page for further information.