Nincompoops Dealing Smartprice Water and Discovering Reciprocity

Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4,000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? We are the rocks dancing. Why do we look down on them with such a condescending air? It is they that are the immortal part of us.

/John Seed/

 

My degree show consists of two parts- three large illuminated pyramids with ceramic vessels balancing on the top, and a 2 meter long CNC routed wooden landscape of Cornwall with small ceramic pouring vessels and copper-cast root extensions.

 

With this project I explored the concepts of ecology and nature-culture divide. My starting point was a teapot, for its rich cultural, political and social history as well as the philosophy of Teaism and Taoism. I abstracted the shape of the teapot to symbolize my two main notions- the idea of being connected to the land, having a sense of place, and the lightness of being – basically treading lightly on the land. I used roots as a metaphor for our connection to the land, while the pointy or rounded bottom of the vessels illustrates the light point of touch. During the making process I distilled the teapot shape to a pouring vessel. This allowed me more creative freedom while keeping the symbolism of the teapot. The action of pouring being a symbol for the rituals of everyday, finding the beauty in the mundane.

 

After reading Suzie Gablik, Christopher Manes, James Lovelock my artistic response became both critical and utopian. This is one of the reasons why I created two different displays.

 

Landscape

 

I situated the pouring vessels in a landscape so it would allow me to play with the ideas of sense of place, our perception of environment and most importantly the human relationship with nature. The landscape piece is based on the topography of Cornwall, from Penryn towards Hayle. The depth of the terrain has been altered, abstracting the forms of landscape and making them universal. This brings together the idea of local and global- the processes happening here could be anywhere, but they are here, but potentially they are universal. By laminating four layers of wood (walnut, sapele, oak and pine) I am representing the soil layers.

 

The pouring vessels outside this landscape installation are very much functional objects with food-safe glazes and can be used for a range of liquids. I think of these vessels with their noses and cork heads as being anthropomorphic. To further emphasize this human quality as well as allow them to merge with the landscape I distorted them in the specific time in-between the wet and leatherhard stage. In terms of material and colour choice, I used porcelain for its aesthetic quality as well as for its drying rhythm. For this project I used two different glazes- a mossy green glaze and a crystalline peach glaze. I was playing with the idea of a glaze standing as a metaphor for a quality of some sorts. Initially the light ones came across to me as being naïve, maybe the way a western person would not know its way in the wilderness. Whereas the mossy glaze stood for reciprocity of our relationship to the land- being shaped by it and shaping it. However, when arranging them on the landscape this metaphor flipped around for me, and now I think of the mossy ones as the modern people- the way we are so nature-obsessed. Everyone wants the natural product, the natural effect. Yet the all-natural product is mostly not as natural as we would like to think. So maybe even though in the “Green party” and recycling their milk cartons, they are still stuck in their ways. This way the cork came to represent the kind of block a lot of us have put to the spiritual side of life that our ancestors embraced. Whereas the light pots became the ones that are trying to find that spirituality in their lives and to find their roots. Yet, all of them actually have the light glaze inside, its just a matter of revealing it.

 

The process of arranging the pouring vessels on the landscape is meditative and allows envisioning all sorts of narratives. This is very gratifying, as I tend to get caught up in the technical side of things, trying to achieve that consistency of line between the outside and inside shape of the vessel, getting the spouts to pour just right, wedging the bubbles out of reclaimed porcelain, getting a square stick to make a pyramid. All these practical matters that need to be considered doesn’t allow much headspace for contemplation along the way. Therefore it felt most rewarding to be reflecting on the thoughts I have had through the project.

 

Pyramids

 

The pyramid display came from my frustration with our anthropocentric culture and human arrogance. The pyramid symbolizing the pyramid of evolution, that some like to think we are at the apex of. The anthropocentric pouring vessels with the pointy bottoms on the top of those pyramids illustrate my notion about the absurdity of such an idea, creating a precarious, seemingly impossible act of balancing.

 

However, while developing the project I came to the idea of reciprocity- the notion that our relationship with environment is based on give-and-take symbiosis. It seems that Western people tend to take more than give, yet I believe that a more honest relationship is possible. Therefore the shadow of the roots projected on the sides of the pyramids represent that even though naively imagining ourselves at the apex of evolution, we are still rooted in nature, we are nature.

2013