“I dreamed the taste of pulverised bricks”
by Aurélie Barnier
I dreamed the taste of pulverised bricks invites visitors on a total sensorial experience: oneiric and gustative, but also audible and tactile. Because while brick, made of dried or cooked clay, is a manufactured, imperfect form, it takes on the appearance of rock, and when pulverised, with a sharp clack, it is restored to the earth underfoot and to fine dust that we inhale...
This exhibition is by Sophie Auger-Grappin, the artistic director of the La Borne residencies1 and Natsuko Uchino, the 2016 resident, whose practice is based as much on art as on environmentalism.2 It takes place in two places, the Centre Céramique Contemporaine La Borne and La Box_École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges. The result of their thoughts on contemporary ceramics, its ties to craft and its relationship with the environment (understood both in the sense of landscape, both natural and constructed, and ecology), it brings together professional ceramicists, artists, or photographers of all generations, whose works relate to clay as a material. Here, we find utilitarian and artistic pieces combined in a poetic and sometimes confused fashion – like in the photographs of Véra Cardot and Pierre Joly in the studio of Elisabeth Joulia, pioneer of the artistic revival of ceramics – traditional and non-academic gestures, scientific and popular cultures, decorative objects and conceptual art, vases painted on the inside and paintings in enamel. The curators’ commendable desire was to defeat the ongoing restrictive categories in the field of ceramics and affirm, following Michel de Certeau3, the “rebellious freedom of practices”. Countering the form of historic panorama, the exhibition deals with the relationship to the earth with a formal and intellectual diversity that proves invigorating, despite some disturbing associations and the erratic level of quality of the artworks, whether they were craft or contemporary artworks.
Ambiguity is even sought in the supports, with many bricks, rocks, or tables to beat back the earth.
At La Borne, the works are arranged on gravel stays or Volvic volcanic slabs, literally referring to the mineral aspect of the ceramic – in the same way that some of Cécile Noguès’s and Natsuko Uchino’s ceramics very closely resemble stones. This scenography is full of twists and turns between rocks, low walls, and natural slopes on the ground and was inspired by the Japanese landscape tradition4, restricting the pathway and detracting from the legibility of certain artworks, or even from the overall concept. But it also encourages us to take an almost choreographed path that enriches the physical understanding of the whole, as well as the perception of some of the elements in their technical, historical, sociological, and formal specificity. Ultimately, this choice of layout is therefore successful!
At La Box, the spectator is also invited to enter the system of presentation, on a bench in planted tesserae5 or a pile of carpets serving as bases to sit on, giving visitors the chance to rest their eyes on the artworks at varying heights and to ascertain their size in relation to their own body. In this way, the anthropomorphic interplay of certain oversized vases and jars or moulds and baked loaves of bread in the form of faces are magnified without, however, being imposed.
The relationship to architecture, a practice also founded on soil and brick, is evoked in the works by André Bloc6 and Pierre Baey7 or the monumental cob installation by the students of ENSA-Bourges.8
We also have the experience of the occupation and saturation of a space through its domestic practices and the projections that each individual might imagine there...
And this experimentation awakens all of the senses: sight, touch, and smell, but also taste, particularly through a photograph by Thierry Fontaine9 – the only trace of a performance that consists of covering himself in clay, which, from dream to nightmare, gives rise to a disturbing sensation of suffocation, in the heavenly setting of a Reunion Island beach – and finally, hearing, found in the installations by Karine Bonneval and Charlotte Poulsen who, by amplifying sound recordings of ceramicists at work, explore the sound properties of ceramics and associate the movements of production with their speech.10
Laaroussa, a video by Selma and Sofiane Oussi11, also brilliantly expresses this essential connection between matter and body, between an ancestral gesture and its contemporary, choreographed reappropriation: the modelled clay is absent, suggested only by the movements of hands encased in clay, but it is from its telluric power that they seem to draw the energy of their fascinating, minimalist dance. Here, as throughout the exhibition, we think of repetitive music and its hypnotic effects.
Like an echo, Richard Serra’s film Hand catching lead (1968) sums up the curatorial project: matter escapes the hand of the creator and takes on a life of its own.
I dreamed the taste of pulverised bricks
Centre Céramique Contemporaine La Borne
15 October < 22 November 2016
La Box _École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges
26 October < 26 November 2016
- The village of La Borne was long the home of artisanal pottery production for functional use. It was later reinvested in the 1950-1960s by designers of all kinds, who came to seek inspiration from traditional methods and revive the activity of the big wooden kilns for their artistic practice. In this same quest to share knowledge, the La Borne Residencies (set up by the La Borne Ceramics Association) host artists each year that wish to explore the potentialities of ceramics.
- Natsuko Uchino started working on ceramics in 2007, as part of the American project Art and Agriculture, which combines art, environment, and agriculture, with the idea of producing containers derived from the same soil as the food that they will hold. In this way, she devised a direct relationship with the various practices of the soil: that of the landscape, farming, and potter’s clay.
- In The Practice of Everyday Life, volume I, Gallimard, Paris: 1980; expression used when discussing mechanisms of resistance that emerge in opposition to standardisation.
- This scenography is reminiscent of those of Charlotte Perriand, particularly for exhibitions of architectural models, also inspired by the design of Japanese gardens.
- Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann, Daybed: Bordeaux, brown, 2015.
- Sculpture habitacle, 1962-1964.
- Cité, 1986.
- Merz Bau Torchi, 2016, production in situ at La Box_École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges; proposition by Natsuko Uchino for a collective artwork with Audrey Calmel, Yun Da Chen, Ève Dufour, Bahar Kocabey, Nicolas Mazzi, Grégoire Messeri, Camille Savre, and Manon Vallé, students at ENSA _Bourges; project supervised by Laurent Gautier, head of the modelling-ceramics workshop and coordinated by Florentine Lamarche-Ovize, lecturer.
- Garde, 1997.
- Chanson de gestes, 2016. While the forms of these works are inspired by the corolla of tulips or the horns of wind instruments or gramophones, they also remind us of the shape of a shell, thus evoking the wonder of children holding one to their ear to hear the sound of the sea. Similarly, they might echo the fantasy of the field of archeoacoustics that would like to be able to read into the grooves of ancient pottery works as though they were vinyl records...
- Laaroussa, 2011, video project inspired by the work of the Sejnane potteries, in northwest Tunisia.