Several weeks ago I spent two days in Stoke at the Ceramics Conference hosted by the British Ceramics Biennial 2013.
During my first visit I had quickly popped into Bergen's Topographies of the Obsolete a collaboration between the British Ceramics Biennial and Bergen Academy of Art and Design and quickly realised this was something I needed to spend more time with.
This artistic research project initiated by Neil Brownsword and Anne Helen Mydland partnered with several universities across Germany, Denmark and the UK. This had been a year's work exploring the site specific and associated histories of post industry.
Installations had been positioned across the Spode site in rooms, offices, work areas which opened to the public for the first time.
What I really enjoyed about this entire showcase was each project was entirely rooted within Spode, the site was a solid hinge for every individual response and clay was something that became secondary.
In some of the responses clay was used because it was integral for the final outcome in many cases clay wasn't used at all the appropriation of materials and objects were used such as the moulds and the re-contexulisation of existing objects taken from the site such as Neil Brownsword's Vis Unita Fortior (United strength is stronger)
Toril Redalen work based around dust Andrew Browns sound works the diversity was really inspiring to see and experience how considered and sensitivity handled each response was to the site.
There was a distinct feeling every artist involved in this work really had an ingrained knowledge and understanding that can only come from really immersing yourself in to the space and environment you are working with.
Here are a few examples.
This body of work is also accompanied by two excellent texts
Topographies of the Obsolete : Critical Texts
Topographies of the Obsolete : Vociferous Void
Both well worth a read for anyone interested or working within contemporary art practises.
During the conference we had the opportunity to accompany Andrew Brown around the site to participate in his sound piece (A Walk Through S)
Approx 25 visitors were hooked up to individual iPods and followed Andrew in and around Spode whilst being taken on a physical, visual and experiential journey through sound and conversation. The interesting element here was the sound work had synchronised with many of the temporary installations and site responses making the experience multi layered for the viewer.
This installation was positioned upstairs in the old offices spaces. Camera Obscura were made utilising the old Spode moulds positioning them to capture the iconic Spode chimney a landmark instantly recognisable within the landscape.
Erna Skuladottir The Desert
The Desert instantly resonated with me. Large surface areas covered in clay carpeting the space in which it sits. I'm always drawn to materiality when dealt with on scale.
It was a response to abandonment likening this space to an empty barren desert. Marks cracks crevices are everywhere within Spode each has it's own story and insight in to the processes and production that had taken place here within the past 250 years.
This piece of work started with a walking exploration around Stoke itself.
Collecting place,space and identity.
What really captured me about this was the presentation at first each object appears to be have been quite randomly positioned.
However, it becomes clear that it has been curated according to the location each piece had been collected creating a clear narrative from the original walking route.