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Master Keramikkonst

Zuz Wilkirska

Craft and Everyday Entanglement
Art/craft practice as an act of resistance by defying the certainty of classification

Den här texten finns bara tillgänglig på engelska

This project deals with: the real-life side of craft making. It traces the desire for contact / relation / connection, which manifests differently on various stages of the practice. Does the dominant art-centric narration of the craft field correspond to the needs of a maker?

Part one: Introduction.

1.1 This story
It is a story about the need for a personal, close connection. A struggle for meeting this need.
It’s a story about noticing things and listening to them. A tale from the state of contact.
It’s about the stubborn insistence on listening and noticing, even when the world expects you to speak and to act.
It’s about being true to one’s needs and seeing where that leads, without knowing in advance.
Ultimately, it is about trust.
But let’s start from the beginning.

1.2 A need to share
The question: ”what is it that you really want to share” is haunting me as I go through the dense forest of notes. Sheets of brown paper full of text glued or pinned on them cover the floor of my room in Strömensberg, Gothenburg.

If you’re reading this booklet at the exhibition, you can see and touch my ceramic sculptures; maybe you’re holding one of them in your hand right now. These sculptures are supposed to be experienced closely and directly. I made them by engaging in contact with clay, listening and following – like when having an informal conversation.
There’s also another sort of dialogue: a constant correspondence between what I learn through my ceramic practice and what I’m learning in life. And this is why what you’re holding in your hands is a book, and not only a sculpture. The entanglement of life and practice resulted in experiences that are more valuable than the objects.

1.3 The project started (and ended) as a study of contact.
The initial elements of the practice correspond to the structure of this book:

  • Working in contact with others (part 2)
  • Following the logic of open contact when approaching ceramic work (part 3)
  • Allowing the finished objects to be interacted with, and learning from that (part 4)

I took clay to my friends’ living rooms, kitchens and studios. I took time commuting, insisting on working in the company of those that I wanted to spend time with. Later, I took the fired sculptures with me to the meetings, lectures and bars. In different ways – both for myself and for my creations – I was choosing contact instead of isolation. Provoking circulations, stirring the pot. I came to see this as a decision – not giving up on trying to reach what I need in this particular moment of life. Soft resistance against submitting to structures that make one’s work feel pointless and sad.

1.4 The human experience
I don’t intend to hide the original motivation behind this project: an aid in counteracting the problem of isolation and loneliness. I used to think that it’s my own problem. We are taught to see things and people as independent. Only recently I fully realized that even this mindset has its roots in the tendency of western culture towards individualism; that the general drive toward freedom is, at the same time, a drive toward alienation and abstraction.

The truth of an individual is not such a personal matter; not a vague, subjective category. My human experience is a product of history, places and societies, a complex net of factors. Entangled with so many other stories, conditioned by capitalist system and the manufactured, globalized, colonial culture – it is the most real and valid thing that there is to observe. My position and my experience doesn’t (entirely) depend on and belong to me – it’s just a fact, a story that’s simply real. And this is why I decided to speak from that place. My truth is not only mine; my conflict might be a symptom of much bigger tension.

1.5 Confronting the conflict
There’s also a tension between the culturally framed position of an artist or an idea of a decent artistic project, and my actual experience. There are two visions of this [ceramic art, graduation] project: one that conforms with narratives and expectations of an institution and the other one that is aligned with ”real life”. I insist on the presence of both of them.

I was often trying to achieve two contradictory things at the same time:

  • conform, and deliver ceramic works and position ceramics as the main area of value in my work;
  • not conform, and just keep on learning important stuff in life, and build things with people, and figure out how to be and work together (having art/craft practice as an aid and not as an obstacle in it), and subvert systems, and reverse narrations; and most of all, to figure out how to share that sort of value with others.

1.6 So what is it that I want to share?

I insist on the logic beyond the binary systems; on ”yes, no, and other options”. I insist on finding the angles of approaching art practice that is more inclusive of: how it connects to our human experience and everyday life. I want to find a way to resist, to work towards changing the structures that I find harmful.

bell hooks wrote: “for when a people no longer have the space to construct homeplace, we cannot build a meaningful community of resistance”.

For us, who move not only between countries and cities, but also between rented apartments in the unstable housing situation, homeplace is not necessarily a place anymore – it’s a network of relationships of care. Friends. The space – or lack of space for these relationships – is in the structure of our everyday lives, structures constructed for us, not by us. I think this is why I find my investigation of contact – and searching for ways to make it practically possible – so important. I ended up learning not only through and from, but also with and by my craft practice. How? This is something that I’d like to describe and share.