Last night I went to the launch exhibition accompanying the three-day conference on Ceramics and the Expanded Field at the University of Westminster, which runs from 17-19 July. It's part of a major research project by the Ceramics Research Group, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The conference is subtitled: Museum as Context, Creation and Authorship, Process and Material, Audience Engagement.
My image shows an intervention by Clare Twomey, a British artist who constructs large-scale instllations, sculpture and site-specific works from clay. She has exhibited at Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Crafts Council and the Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto-Japan. An interesting aspect of her practice is her collaboration with industry, including Royal Crown Derby, Emerys minerals and Wedgwood.
This installation comprises a large bounded space in which a performer casts objects from slip (liquid clay) in plaster moulds. The objects are small kitsch figures with which the performer populates the space in a manner she chooses. Her performance is poised and balletic. She does not respond to questioning. If you talk to her, the exhibition attendants ask you to stop.
Raising the question of art's relation to the audience is hazardous, as the Yellowist outrage on Rothko's Black on Maroon demonstrated. Here, it seems, the relationship is looking.
Craft pottery went through a phase in which the work had to be designed, made, fired and sold by the maker (and if he didn't sell it, it had to be used by the maker as well). That was a departure from Arts and Crafts practice, in which a separation between designer and executant was normal: William Morris did not print all his wallpapers and William de Morgan did not paint all his pots.
There was something problematic in that for Morris. He advocated an economy in which things were made by autonomous workers, but his factory was not like that and he explained that it could not be like that until after the revolution.
Twomey's work is post-craft where the relation between conception and execution is subtly different from that in the Arts and Crafts Movement. In neither is the maker the artist, but here the artist doesn't just employ the maker but, because the maker is the work, she employs the work itself. In early craft, the maker was employed to make the object; in post-craft the maker becomes an object.