The documentation and dissemination of two performative temporary works commissioned for the V&A Museum in September 2006

Lead Research Organisation: Bath Spa University
Department Name: Bath School of Art and Design


On September 29th 2006 two commissioned site-specific ceramic works titled 'M25' and 'Last Supper' will be fired in front of an invited audience at the V&A Museum over a period of three hours. The research funding requested here, is to prepare the documentation of this event using film and photography, to provide a permanent record for a much wider, secondary audience and establish the status of documentation as a work in its own right.

The V&A commission is part of an ongoing investigation into the potential of available electrical industrial technologies to transform clay directly. The work examines the relationship between clay and electricity and how this known constant may be disrupted by a third factor suggested by a household appliance, the commemoration of an event or a specific location.

Since 2000 works have explored the potential of clay to be converted directly from a raw state using domestic and industrial electrical heating elements. A host form, typically an architectural detail or an electrical appliance, functions as a structural support for the work and serves as a vehicle for its subsequent firing.

The works 'M25' and 'Last Supper' are part of an enquiry into the process of transformation as an intrinsic part of the work. Visible firings have taken place in private and public venues in the UK and abroad, including works for Camden Arts Centre, Gasworks/Arts Council International Fellowship in New Delhi, London Underground and Imperial College. The transitory nature of the works requires that the original event should be documented and subsequently presented as a short film or animation, shown alongside the residue of the firing.

The requested funding will allow for the creation of a work which records and reflects the V&A event. As the artist directs and is in control of the documentation of the original event, this then becomes an intrinsic element of the new work. The proposed dissemination of the documentation, will allow for a time-based gallery event to be accessible to a potentially much wider secondary audience through digital media formats such as a DVD and stills photography.

In the process of documentation, the role of the audience as a part of the work is also considered. The reaction of the audience reaction observing the process will be recorded. The siting of the camera outside the usual documentary frame challenges the received notion that the work is of prime significance and that the audience is essentially passive and anonymous in the process of bearing witness.

The research proposes a place for process-based ceramics in which the transformative nature of production is an intrinsic part of the activity and is made apparent to a wider audience through the medium of film and photography. The resulting documentation will function as a significant contribution to the current debate about definitions of contemporary ceramics practice.

The research outcomes offer a possible solution to the current challenge for public ceramic art collections such as the Crafts Council and the V&A Museum, as to how they might "collect" and re-exhibit transient work. The curator of the ceramics collection at the V&A commissioned these two works in recognition of current ceramics practice that positions itself outside the conventional object-based remit of the V&A collection. The documentation of the work will itself become a part of the permanent collection to be shown in the new ceramics galleries which provide a larger area for contemporary ceramics.

It is intended that the research outcomes form part of a wider process-based ceramics exhibition based on the V&A event. Photographic documentation will be shown alongside a short film of the project, developmental drawings and models in the flagship gallery in Belfast, the Ormeau Baths, in 2007 and also included in an international survey of contemporary ceramics curated by Clare Twomey at a venue in the UK, also in 2007.


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