In times when contemporary art more strongly reflects the conditions and aesthetics of virtual realities, post-human theories abound, and the digitization of the world has created a fascination with surfaces and found images, a parallel art production is emerging; one that deliberately uses haptic materials and artisan production processes.
The two-part exhibition project Further Thoughts on Earthy Materials at the GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst Bremen and the Kunsthaus Hamburg
asks what the underlying questions of the shift towards techniques and the material of ceramics in the artistic production of the 21st century are. Further Thoughts on Earthy Materials brings together works of a younger generation of artists that take an unconventional approach to ceramic materialworks that do not signify a revival of traditions or a backward artistic movement, but rather break new ground in dealing with traditional processes and topics. The chapters in Bremen and Hamburg each explore different aspects through two group shows.
The Kunsthaus Hamburg chapter addresses the inherent paradox of fired clay: ceramics are considered one of the oldest cultural techniques of serial (re)production (used, i.e., in the manufacturing of bricks, or porcelain). Yet, apart from its serial character, the material also has particular haptic qualities that support immediate and individual sculptural creation. Clay can be formed with bare hands, but is simultaneously a medium that assumes extensive professional expertise and time-consuming craftsmanship.
The exhibition at the Kunsthaus thus presents artistic approaches that employ ceramic techniques as a medium engaging with contemporary technologies and issues and questioning these in their current relevance: which role does the recreation, depiction, and reproduction of three-dimensional forms play today (in the era of 3D scans and printers)? Which material, cultural, historical, or technical implications are connected with the medium?
The selected works take up questions concerning the significance of authenticity and originality as well as the archaeological, anarchic, and dystopic character of the material. It is exactly the intersection between applied and fine arts that renders this medium so sensitive to the subtle differences between utility value and cultural value. What makes the jar, the brick, the cast a sculpture, a work of art, an artefact?
Curated by Katja Schroeder
The GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst Bremen chapter investigates a premise inherent to earthy materials: the body.
Traditional ceramic manufacturing processes involve the constructing and shaping of material by hand, thus revealing the bodys presence in the object, which is marked by the unavoidable traces of its maker and to which it largely owes its one-of-a-kind character. Given ceramics inherent connection to the body, it seems only logical that the body has become a thematic reference in various artistic explorations of fired clay.
The GAK exhibition presents works that detail this perspective intrinsic to the material, both in the classic ceramic object and in installation, film, photography, slide projection, and performance. The topics explored also cover a broad spectrum, investigating aspects of the body through the medium of mud, clay, and soil. The works qualify as both intuitive and rational, abstract and representational. The reflection of the body, its states, alienations, limits, or perceptions are approached through a variety of perspectives. Questions about the ideal body under this era of deregulated capitalism, the border between external and internal perception, or gender categorizations are debated as well as the relationship between humans and animals or political conditions.
Curated by Janneke de Vries