Tuesday 12 November 2013

British Ceramics Biennial, 2013 - installations

British Ceramics Biennial, autumn 2013.
Some of the installations at the Spode factory. This post is best read after the one on the Spode factory because the installations are best seen within the context of the industrial site that they refer and respond to. 

The Steelite International Pavillion - Corinne Felgate.

Felgate asked the staff of Steelite to strive to produce as many perfect failures as possible, resulting in the 1000 pieces inside this installation - these pieces 'now stripped of any function serve as portraits of the human condition'.




Made in China, Clare Twomey.

Eighty porcelain vases. Seventy nine were produced in Jindezhen using transfers while one was hand decorated at Crown Derby using 18-carat gold. The latter took longer to complete than the 21 days it took to complete and deliver the 79. In commissioning these vases Twomey is unpicking some of the issues faced by globalisation and outsourcing of production, and questioning the way value is assigned.

Tableware Re-Build: led by Ruth Spaak  (one object)
Women of the local Self-Support group have painstakingly constructed elaborate works from destroyed and deconstructed objects salvaged from the original Spode factory site.  

Table constructed by Andrew Klimecki, partly constructed in the very tableware that traditionally sits atop a table.



Take Stock, Ibstock Brick Pavillion, Lawrence Epps. An interactive piece.
Extruded little figures - office workers encased in brick blocks.
We were invited to each take one brick away with us - special Take Stock paper bags were provided. Over the course of the Biennial the ever-decreasing size of the installation was captured on camera. Once the work was gone, the sculpture was replaced by a projection of the disappearing sculpture, played in reverse, so that the audience was seen to be building the work, piece by piece.

 Better Out than In, Emily Gardiner.

looking closer 

Stacking Cylinders, Emily Kew 

Ball and Chain, Sarah Younan, (slip and stoneware) 

looking closer 

and again. 

Lumen, Jo Aylmer (Parian porcelain vessels on lightbox) 
Exploring the effect of light on translucent ceramics.

Sleepover, Christie Brown  
'The figures were made in response to Sigmund Freud's personal collection of figurines that were first shown in the Freud Museum in the room where he once slept. Drawing a parallel between falling asleep into a dream and leaving the museum, this is a narrative that has been interrupted which may resume at any time and that these inanimate objects may become animated when we are not looking, in ways that are beyond our control, like in dreams'.

looking closer 

and again. 

Contain, Annie Jones (porcelain, metal, various chemicals and glass) 
An investigation of relationships between degeneration and growth through experimentation with the inherent qualities of ceramic materials. Reactions are produced by a concoction of chemical composites.
looking closer

and again. 

Beyond Borders, Sarah Worgan

Left Behind , Naomi Robinson

'Over 100 vessels echoing the memories of the original Spode factory - a mixture of old and new, with the use of materials found around the site and the imitation of decayed areas of the building alongside modern processes and my own response to the site'.

Looking closer

Factory Life, Grant Aston

'The Industrial Revolution shaped Stoke-on-Trent to its present form: a linear city built along canals which supported the factories, mines and steelworks.

I am fascinated about how people lived in the City during its industrial peak. The environment was shaped by the practical necessities of industry. It captivates me imagining people living within the mechanism, sometimes harmonising with it and sometimes in discordance.

This is a piece exploring the themes of industry and identity by using architecture and colour from the Spode Blue Italian ware and interacting with the fabric of the building. An attempt to reflect how the spirit of the City is using the industrial heritage of the past as an identity with which to move forward into the future'.

Looking closer

Checking Off, Miche Follano

Discarded remnants were gathered, specifically objects that were once useful among the workers; 367 unique vessels representing the individuals that existed here at the closure of the factory in 2008.

Looking closer

Potlatch, Jane Cairns

'The original Spode factory site is exactly the kind of site I want to work in response to. It's a practical and pragmatic building, marked by everyday use and ordinary actions; a factory, not a grand building or somewhere especially marked out for its aesthetic qualities.

In making this work I wanted to find ways of re-presenting the beauty I found in the fabric of the building, keeping the context explicit but creating enough distance to let people see it afresh.

The title Potlatch comes from the native American practice of giving gifts with no expectation of receiving anything in return and the Situationist publication with the same name and ethos.


  1. I find Potlatch the most moving piece, because it is the artist's response having worked through any direct 'memorial' of what used to be in the buildings. It is a piece which would work anywhere, and we only know that it is a response to the site because the artist said so.

    The installations are most thought-provoking, and you must have been thoroughly mentally exhausted by the end of the visit. Just considering them superficially is work enough.

    The pieces which call to me immediately, apart from Potlatch, which I really love - and I like her Forgotten Function pieces on her website, are Lumen by Jo Aylmer - although I'm left rather cold by the work on her website, and Sleepover by Christie Brown. I have long been a fan of Christie Brown's work, and regret to say that I was not as drawn to this piece as to previous ones. Maybe I needed to be there - but the forms still interest me, nonetheless. I do like that kind of group of figures that one walks through or round - rather like the work of Juan Munoz, or Ana Maria Pacheco.

    Thank you for all these images to think about.

    1. Potlatch is my favourite too. There were two more pieces by Jane Cairns but the photographs came out all fuzzy - I must have moved as I was taking them - and I was really sorry about that. I also liked her artist's statement.

      Lumen was fun and I really liked Christie Brown's and you're right, it is like Ana Maria Pacheco's work - I am a real fan and loved the exhibition I saw of her work in Coventry many years ago. I have never seen any of Juan Munoz' work 'in the flesh' so to speak.

      It was an exhausting day. By the time we got to the Gallery and Museum we were very tired but then the work there was so stimulating that we sort of revived. No energy to look at their permanent collection though, even though I would have liked to have looked at the Lowrys properly. The ceramics collection is very good as you would expect in Stoke, but again, no energy. And, of course, we had the two hour drive ahead of us....I always look forward to the Ceramics Biennial though, as I know it's going to be an excellent day.