Strange encounters: Devils tower -understanding sensory intuition

Above pictured is a scene taken from steven Spielberg’s 1977 film ‘Strange encounters of the third kind’ in which Richard Dreyfuss aka Roy after having interaction with aliens becomes euphoric, at rock bottom after losing his family yet almost filled with a child-like wonder. Spielberg takes us back and forth between the global and the personal, with Lacombe and his assistant Laughlin (Bob Balaban) going all over the world gathering evidence, and Roy’s own journey as he tries to make sense of an image of a large mountain in his head, which turns out to be Devils Tower in Wyoming.

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For myself, I feel like Roy a lot of the time trying to make sense of the material sensibilities that allude my memories and mind, perhaps not as frantically but just as euphoric with childlike wonder. The part of the film I am particularly interested in with regards to Roy and his relationship with devils tower is the scene in which everything seems to come together and click; after Roy has built his home tower and sees the mountain on the television. In this moment memory and reality seem to collide, sensibilities cross and a mixture of confusion, euphoria and eureka moment happen which leads Roy on a quest to Wyoming of sorts.

Similarly yet perhaps maybe alien unrelated Roys experience of devils tower is similar to mine and my material/memory understanding.The key insight I guess you could take from Roys encounter or of his geography of the senses is that the senses mediate the apprehension of space and in so doing contribute to his sense of place.

What this moment in strange encounters is good at showing us is the spatiality of the senses and their role in shaping the affective relation of people to their habitat. “What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better [through our senses] and endow it with value”

Glaze experimentation – memory and sentimentality

Continuing with my glaze experimentation I began the ongoing tradition of submerging extruder parts in various glazes to see how the various chemicals react with one another, more so experimenting with volcanic sand in various glazes and porcelains to test and push its reactive qualities after a friend showed me various effects of the volcanic sand on a variety of ceramic bodies.

With memory, nostalgia, and sentimentality very much at the forefront of my contemporary ideas I began to try and see how glaze can be incorporated further as an approach for these sculptures; thinking back to how the dry vitreous slip  resembled that of the cracked earth on the farm in the summer I began reminiscing, expressing and attempting to demonstrate material interests that have alluded me my whole life, even if at this current moment in time I am completely unsure why.

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Volcanos, rocks and magma patterns have always interested me and are something that creeps its way into many of my sketchbook ideas, prints, and sculptural works. Until recently, with a greater understanding of ceramic alchemy have I been able to visually demonstrate this. Weirdly, it is not natural volcanos that seem to allude my memories, more so cartoon, digitized and comical portrayals of lava – immaterial representations of natural phenomena. Colours like orange, red, black and white ooze their way from my past into my more recent memories from watching television programs such as cartoon network, nickelodeon and the bright red RAW advertisement of WWF. You could say this is a harmless subliminal messaging of sorts, unintentional but purely situational. By placing the nickelodeon or cartoon network logo in the corner of the screen it’s a sort of branding rather than insidious brain washing tool, none the less has an effect of sorts.

much like memory, I want my sculptures to represent the ‘mish-mash’ of things. Memory for myself is just one giant cluster of ideas and experiences formed by the brain from the past and present all jumbled and reassembled in reality.

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Total Recall -as a model for understanding memory

Total recall – the ability to remember with clarity every detail of the events of one’s life or of a particular event, object, or experience.

Developing on from my research, I have been interested in the perplexing and conflicting ideas surrounding ‘total recall’ the idea of being able to find complete clarity within a memory. Within the film of the same title a man named Douglas quade decides to visit ‘rekall’ a company that provides memory implants of vacations, Quaid opts for a memory trip to Mars as a Secret Agent fantasy. However, during the procedure, before the memory is implanted, something goes wrong, and Quaid starts revealing previously suppressed memories of actually being a Secret Agent. The company sedates him, wipes his memory of the visit, and the film then continues with Douglas Quaid following a secret agent mission upon mars. Although scientific fantasy, the contemporary ideas surrounding total recall are incredibly interesting, and the movie is a fascinating contemporary model to question true memory, past experiences, and total recall. Because as a viewer, how do we know that ‘Douglas Quaid’ ever left the rekall centre, if it is indeed a secret agent fantasy he is undergoing ?

fundamentally, I find the ideas surrounding total recall perplexing due to the fact as individuals I believe we cannot find total clarity within a memory, we fill in the gaps, therefore we cannot be certain that any memory we have is necessarily true, thus within the film why we are left guessing what is real and what is fake. Our memories tend to be a mishmash of things, memory is formless matter, things that we tend to perceive as sentimental or nostalgic, as children it could be something we picked up or learnt, through our sensibilities or simply because we enjoyed or detested that moment. The older we are the more memories we gather, the more things that become sentimental to us and so the more gaps we have to fill etc. our memories are so expansive and even a moment that may have occurred yesterday could be very different from the actual sequences that happened.

 

Carwyn Evans – PADER – CSAD -2017

After coming across Carwyn Evans installation down in the foyer space at CSAD and attending his in conversation I was fascinated by his ideas surrounding his personal memories of farm life and welsh identity. As an artist similarly interested in personal memory, identity and how these ideas are reappropriated into physical tactile form, it was fascinating listening to an artist with a similar background to myself. Coming from a rural village in the middle of Gloucestershire, working on a farm within the local area I could connect and understand ‘PADER’ on a subjective level and analyse the ‘details’ of the sculptural composition. It is funny that these objects have been reappropriated in such a manner as for myself there is a running joke amongst the farming communities that farmers hoard ‘anything and everything’ as everything even junk has some form of use at some point in the future, perhaps it seems even for contemporary art/sculpture.

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when up close and personal with the composition you begin to dissect the objects from one another, we begin to unassemble the reappropriated. For example, the way the wood is joint together or the folded trefoil sheet that is laid underneath. When up close and personal even the most minimal of details such as the wax on the sheet echo an ulterior autobiographical message – that of the artist himself, his identity and his farming background.We as the viewer begin to try and build a picture of the artist, who is he? what is he trying to say? – The site of memory seems to be incredibly important to the artist.

when approaching the light at the back, kneeling down and taking a closer look I noticed mud splashes on the right-hand side. This could have easily been removed, yet it is interesting how the artist decided to leave these marks; not lazily but purposely left I believe. the mud splashes appear to have been splashed there by a tractor or quad bike wheel that could have been struggling in the mud. The artist re-appropriates personal memory from objects he connects with from day to day, tackling memory as formless matter in which he denotes meaning to material and further form.

Takuro Kuwata – beauty through destruction

Takuro Kuwatas work is rooted in Japanese technique and history, One of which is the traditional technique of ishi-haze or stone explosion, in which stones are allowed to overheat in the kiln to the point where they rupture and distort. Conventionally, this technique is used in the making of traditional Japanese tea ceramics; however, Kuwata uses his oversized rocks to distort, melt or explode within the firing process. Kuwata also employs kairagi, another famous Japanese technique in which is used to create imperfections within the glaze, as a result the glaze shrinks and cracks. Kuwata is unconventionally drawn to the imperfections that are produced from these processes and implements them to their extreme.

The uncertainty of the method allows Kuwata to stand back and let the firing and material processes take control over the resulting form, enhancing the organic nature and dysfunctionality of his objects.It is the oozing glaze and tactile nature of Kuwata’s work and his material understanding in relation to his sense of identity and heritage that originally drew me in.

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Kuwata’s practice is firmly rooted in Japanese history and aesthetics. The characteristics of the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi, which focuses on imperfect and incomplete beauty, including asymmetry and asperity, are all evident in Kuwata’s work.

Born in Hiroshima, but removed from the aftermath of World War II, Kuwata is offering a contemporary view of postwar Japanese anxiety as well as demonstrating a correlation between Japan’s recent natural and social disasters.

As a result of the artist’s history and past, The natural world plays an active role in Kuwata’s practice, with bursting stones and broken glazes acting as metaphors for erupting volcanoes and earthquakes, and even potentially the Hiroshima disaster that eludes his heritage, engendering beauty through destruction.

 

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alchemy as sculpture – glaze exploration

From rigorous glaze exploration I began to look at material, and what I can do with glaze in a completely different manner, alchemy at this point is important. Glazing is beginning to completely redefine the way I look at my objects. Similar to the test series I started at the beginning of this term I have again started consuming my old extruder tests in glaze and slip to explore different chemical combinations, colour pallets, and relationships between material textures.

As an artist I see myself as a bit of a control freak, I am consistently trying to dictate the outcome of my objects. What ceramics and in particular glaze testing has taught me is that the element of control to a certain degree is out of my hands. these tests have allowed the firing process to take control, reshape and redefine the way I began to look at my sculptures. It has allowed me to stand back a certain degree and be surprised at the chemical transformations various firing temperatures could produce.

In the image above what I find particularly interesting is the way in which the glaze has moved around the tube, how once again gravity seems to play an imperative role in a test series. The black slip and white crawl reminds me of a tar pit slowly pulling its surroundings back into the earth. Weirdly enough a clash between manmade vs nature seems to be a re-occurring theme within the aestheticism of my work. A conversation between materials is beginning to happen and what was an ordinary extruder tube has now taken on a new role, a new story and is redefined through ceramic alchemy.

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Intuition, sensibility and extruder parts

moving forward from my original extruder tests what I began to be interested in is how  I interacted with clay as an intuitive material ( something I briefly touched on at the end of last academic year), to start with a specific point such as a newspaper ball and to see how the object could manifest and evolve. This gave me a starting point, a set of rules in which I could exercise, play and control my sculpting. The object itself would manifest from a number of circumstances, such as texture, the plasticity of the clay and the imagery around my studio space; intriguingly that imagery (as seen in the background of the image at the top) mainly consisted of microscopic imagery and colours, imagery that has undoubtedly unconsciously or un-awarely fed through into the sculpting of these objects. The only constraint or controlling element with regards to this exercise is the component of the starting point itself, of the ball.

Finding the nature of these sculptures limiting and unsure of the direction they were going, I began to rethink my ideas surrounding memory, materials, and sense of place. Thinking about my childhood, memories of building materials and more immediate memories of working at places such as the farm in Gloucestershire over the summer. This then led me back to think about more immediate, industrial and mechanical ways of producing sculpture, historically and literally. This, in turn, led me back to using extruder parts. Rules at this point became important, this extruded element added a further set of rules which dictated and controlled the shape of the object. The problem for myself at this point as previously discussed is that from implementing rules the objects became preplanned rather than intuitive.

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putting the extruder sculptures to one side, over the next few weeks I began concentrating on material experimentation. I went back and considered my original series of tests, how I was interested in the way slips and glaze can consume, redefine and become the object. How although consuming objects in glaze and slip didn’t necessarily correlate to my past per say, it was the immediate memory that was important, how the presence of that previous object was captured within the oozing slip. I began to think about how I could correlate memory and glaze. Looking into dark orange/brown matte crack glazes to correlate with the dry earth in the summer on the farm, a further representation of my memories and a specific part of time, further nature represented through time.

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