Critical Approaches to Culture + Communications

A Weblog by Ron Burnett (Founded in 1994 and now celebrating 23 Years!!)

This site began as one of the first academic sites in Canada when the World Wide Web was in its early phase of development. I have maintained it through many iterations since 1994.

Ceramics in the material world

Over the last ten years I have watched ceramics evolve at Emily Carr from a craft-oriented practice and discipline into an exciting art form. A book published in 1988, Ceramic Theory and Cultural Process By Dean E. Arnold links this evolution to the role that ceramics plays in archeology and to the many ways in which the past is 'uncovered' through artifacts and other objects. For me, the "art" is precisely in the material practice, in the ability of creators to transform the earth, clay and water into many different forms. The technology of firing and then applying colour to the object is a science, but the shape and shaping process is about sculpture, space, density and function. "There are many factors that affect the qualities of clays, such as mineral composition, degrees of crystallinity, plasticity, particle size and the amount of soluble salts, exchangeable cations, and non-plastics present. (Page 21)

In ceramics, ideas are eternally wedded to the ancient vessel; at some level, the process of any ceramic piece begins and ends on this note. The history of contemporary ceramics possesses countless riffs on the way a surface can appear from hyper-realistic, exact replicas of actual objects to enhanced natural surfaces of earthen glazes. Indeed, the surface invention is limited only to the imagination, skill, and experience of the artist, manipulating attributes of the clay vessel form that has been a steadfast tradition for thousands of years. (Akio Takamori: Between Clouds of Memory by Lara Taubman)

Here are some well-formulated questions that were asked about digital culture and ceramics in 1999: "After all, even in a digital era, artists are faced with the task of giving material form to their thoughts, intuitions, and ideas. Clay — along with the other physical materials — remains an ideal medium for this, whenever justified by concept. What might be the positive or negative significance of digitalization or dematerialization to artists working with a ‘natural’ and solid material like clay? Does digitalization provide stimulus for artistic concepts that are executed in clay? Does ceramics have something to say to digitalization or do the two worlds remain separate? Will ceramics become less physical, ‘lighter’ in the high-tech era? Or is it a medium par excellence that will keep both feet firmly on the ground and that meets the unchanging human need for self-expression in material form — perhaps now more than ever?" (BEYOND GRAVITY: CERAMICS IN A DIGITAL CULTURE Ceramic Millennium 99 — Workshop's — Hertogenbosch)