Ceramics as Theater and the Necessity of Video

Either by question or comment, people are often curious about the blending of ceramic and video that is at the heart of the Foxy-Wolff collaboration.  Partly, it is a simple matter of blending Gabe’s and my skill sets, this is just what would naturally come about from a collaboration of a  ceramist and a film maker, but after reading a wonderful essay in Ceramics Art and Perception (issue 92) titled “Is Ceramics a Genre in Theater”, I am compelled to think more deeply.

In the article, the author, Orly Nezer points to a definition of minimalist art that came out of the 1960’s.  Theorist Michael Fried identifies minimalist art as “neither paintings nor sculpture, but rather a situation that takes into account the actions of its manufacture, the activities that have preceded it and to great extent, the presence of the spectator”.  The author goes on to develop a thesis based on this quote that put the viewer in the center of a work of art for the context that is given through that act, and another from Eric Bentley on the nature of theater, “A impersonates to B while C is watching”  This quote establishes the necessity of time in the idea.  So we are left with an audience and a measured time of action.

edmund de wall 3

Orly then identifies several ceramic installations that meet this criteria.  My favorite is Titled “Signs and Wonders” by Edmund de Waal, it was installed in the Victoria and Albert Museum  in 2009.  For tis installation, de Waal honors the ceramic collection of the V&A through recreating them in porcelain from memory.  The works were then placed on a circular aluminum shelf suspended high above the gallery floor.  This placement distorts and blurs the work for the viewer.  Orly claims that this placement requires the imagination of the viewer to complete the work.

In each of the works discussed, the audience must participate, and that participation can only occur while in contact with the work.  From this keen observation, Orly goes on to include functional pots into this definition, because their use gives them context and meaning and their value is in a collection of gestures that goes into their making.  A pitcher is not really a pitcher until its poured.

So then how does this pertain to Foxy-Wolff and our toys and videos?  I think it’s an easy jump to view the handmade toys and houses as functional objects that are not really complete until they are played with.  It’s true that ceramic is an absurd material for toys but that is, in a way, the point. We act out these strange adult scenarios with toys too fragile for a child.  The play is closely regulated with firm rules so that the video has the look and feel that we need, but none of it has any meaning until they are watched.

It is true that the recording of the play removes the necessity of the ephemeral, but perhaps this is not the play of the script that is really being recorded.  I begin to wonder if the play that we are really interested in is the continuous dialog of the collaboration itself.  Sometimes light and funny and at times a battle with immovable opinions, but always compelling as we continually push for more and more from the work and each other.  Maybe that question; why ceramic and video? is at the heart of the entire project. Though for me at least, its one that I don’t really need to answer.