Black Cat, 6D01, and tactility

I went to the far west end of Dundas West today, to Black Cat Artspace. It was already just a few minutes before 9 when the streetcar finally arrived after a long wait, so I actually sort of expected to find a closed gallery when I got there. But of course, art openings don’t usually actually close at 9 (unlike Artscape Youngspace… =P). The opening was still going when I finally got off at Roncevalles.

“Come in!”

I looked around, marvelling at what I saw.

“Is there anything you like?”

“Everything is so cool!”

RT described “Tag on Cups” (that’s what it’s called) as “Graffiti artists around the city decorating prethrown cups.” But I don’t think “decorating” is doing justice to what’s there. Every single cup there was sgrafitto, mishima, or both. I was really impressed with the underglazing. And the patterns and the drawings and paintings—I tried painting once and I know what I saw was a lot of work. Yes, I know this is technically surface decoration, but this is very intricate “decoration” we’re talking about.

What really struck me the most, though, was that everything was so tactile. When I do sgraffito or mishima, the glaze would fill the holes and lines and smoothen the resulting surface out. Not these cups. You can still very much feel the carved parts—even the thin delineating lines of patterned lettering.

(Ok, RT has corrected me: The surfaces were carved; it was not sgrafitto or mishima. And it was body stain, not underglaze. I failed to recognize what techniques have been used. But I’m still very impressed.)

Which brings us back to our program’s “Del” show last Friday. One of the pieces was a tactile painting. But compared to these cups, that painting was not very tactile at all.

In fact, the day before I went to Del I was at MOCCA, and I was looking at the other set of oil paintings (the first set was oil on plexiglass—on the back of the plexiglass—so the surface was completely smooth), and I was marvelling how three dimensional those paintings were. The only thing I didn’t do was to actually touch them. But those paintings were all more tactile than the “tactile” painting at Del.

I’m still unhappy that Del was a two-hour show, and with close to non-existent promotion. But I’m also wondering if we’re being misinformed about the status quo of how tactile normal art forms are. Both Tags on Cups and what I saw at Mocca show that a lot of art is already very tactile…


I finally went into Muji yesterday to take a look. My first impression: Things aren’t so cheap, in general anyway, but no one would be mistaken that a store in The Atrium on Bay should be able to price things low.

But I did notice something: A few stacks of small bowls in crackled glazes, priced at $25 each. I looked at them and somehow they looked thrown. Then I went to the other side and found more bowls, priced at about $7 or thereabouts; they were white and smooth, obviously slipcast.

This is important context.

What is a science poster anyway?

So what’s a science poster anyway? It’s not a commercial poster, obviously, but what is it exactly?

So as I’m pulling my hair figuring out how to fit everything into the space, I suddenly realized a science poster is an exhibition design problem. What it is, really, is a 48″ × 36″ 2D exhibition space, complete with artefacts (photos, illustrations, charts and tables) and integrated explanatory panels.

No wonder font size adjusted for anticipated viewing distance is so important. We aren’t really designing posters; we are actually designing mini exhibits.

That is why they do it in SuperCollider

So this is why they use SuperCollider for sonification, I think. First a lot of things like metronome beats are just one line of code. And second how do you record something written in WebAudioAPI? If I did this in SC that would be one line of code (I have already forgotten what that one line was but I remember it was just one line), but since I did this in WebAudioAPI I’m still scratching my head.

And I don’t even have a lot of time left. I basically have to get up at 5am tomorrow, which means I have to sleep at 9pm or something today…

Still don’t know what to do at openings…

I went to both of Jay’s openings today—not a feat by any means, as the two galleries were really close by.

The artist was not there. I went, looked at all the artworks, took some pictures, and left.

I still had no idea what else to do. I knew no one, and I felt awkward to talk to people I didn’t know. I was not one of the artists.

art as an intrinsically non-inclusive practice

One thing we in the ceramics studio has been constantly reminded of is that ceramics is considered inferior because it is craft and not art. We are constantly being reminded of not only how the material arts are looked down upon in our school, but also how the art world as a whole is unfair.

Yesterday, when I finally got to going to the grad office to borrow some theses to look at (not borrow as checking out the thing, but as reading some library-use-only item on the spot). While most of these theses just made me even more worried and depressed, I did notice a couple of books in the bibliographies that I might find useful: One of them was Glenn Adamson’s (2007) Thinking through craft.

So I didn’t even wait until I got back home or to the studio; I just took out my computer on the spot and searched our library catalogue: The OCAD library has it, but it was checked out, so I immediately tried the public library instead, and found that both North York Central and Toronto Reference have a copy.

According to Adamson (p. 39), the defining characteristic of art, according to art critic Clement Greenberg, is “opticality”, that is, art exists to be looked at. This “opticality” is, in a way, seen as a condition for “autonomy” (i.e., the quality that a piece of artwork can be isolated from its environment and exist by itself, devoid of context), first proposed by the Marxist (gasp) Theodor Adorno (pp. 9ff) that is so prized in the modern art world.

(Obviously, anyone coming from math or translation would be immediately suspicious of anything that alleges itself to be self-sufficient or autonomous from all context. In our world such things don’t exist and cannot possibly exist. But let’s ignore that for now.)

Ignoring the fact that Adamson described Greenberg’s idea as “counter-intuitive” (p. 41) and mentioned that it has been attacked ever since it was proposed, an assumed primacy for “opticality” does seem to explain why the material arts are looked down upon. This would explain why anything two-dimensional would be more highly-prized, as if any technique used for two-dimensional work must be more difficult (this is not my observation, but a paraphrase of RT’s observation when we, the studio regulars, were discussing Project 31 in the studio), as if any two-dimensional work must be more valuable than three-dimensional work.

But this also brings us back to the only art course in my program that we had at the start of our second year (or even farther back, in first-year foundations, if anyone still remembers that one reading we were required to read): that is, can art be inclusive?

If opticality is of paramount importance, art can never be inclusive, or at least art centred solely around opticality can never be inclusive. If we aim for inclusivity in art, the primacy of opticality must be dethroned.

i just realized i should not have thrown away my many failed casts

Earlier today I mentioned to Martha (the one who’s doing the plates) that things aren’t looking good for me because I’m having too many rejects. (“I don’t know. Maybe I’m trying to do something that’s really hard.”) And what did she say? She’s having lots of rejects too. “This is ceramics,” she quipped.

But throwing isn’t like this. I’ve never had so many rejects when I throw and I can even reclaim the clay if a piece turns out to be a reject, so long as it hasn’t been fired. But for my thesis MRP I find the number of failed casts simply staggering. I was mentioning to Danielle (I think) yesterday that I was starting to worry about running out of slip, even though I have been using the studio’s giant bucket of reclaimed slip instead of my own. At this rate I will very soon use up all the slip in there.

So a couple of hours ago a thought suddenly came upon me: What if I translated those damaged casts back into print? I even did a mental rundown of what I would do to the failed cast I was holding.

But obviously, I didn’t think too much about it, because right afterwards I just threw that failed cast into the trash can.

Then while I was on my way home I suddenly realized I should not have thrown away any of those casts because they can be repurposed as an installation. And—imagine my surprise—that would even be a very “32 Pigeons” installation.

Martha thought I was in Sculpture and Installation. I guess there’s a reason. Or maybe it was Martha’s guess that was what got my idea going.

fourth test mould

It looks like a ball tool is not the best choice for carving into plaster, simply because you can’t carve into plaster with a ball; you need a knife of some kind. At this point it looks like a small drill bit might actually do it, though whether this is true won’t be known until 2 days later when I make a test cast.

And while doing a pilot “drill” with the needle tool looks like an attractive idea, it looks like it’s a really bad idea because when you hear that reassuring “pop” sound the needle has already gone too far into the plaster. So how do I do the pilot drill with something else? I’m not too sure. And I don’t really like the idea of making more and more test moulds. I don’t have time. I won’t have access to the shops very soon.

random fantastical thought

A random fantastical thought literally just came upon me a few minutes ago: When I was in the studio earlier today I briefly contemplated making some slipcast bowls, so what if I went further and merged my thesis MRP with Empty Bowls?

I really don’t know how feasible that would be: This seems to be a lot of work for a “small scale experiment”, and there will probably be a ton of problems doing this for thesis MRP. But this will actually be a very “32 Pigeons” thing to do (that is, “any work we do must be in response to a real art call”), which is actually kind of cool—but odd, since 32 Pigeons has not been active for almost a year already.

Maybe the simple slipcast bowls will be the real “small scale experiment” (and if that works out I will attempt “blocking and casing” and then carving into the mould), and if that works out I’ll propose merging my thesis MRP with Empty Bowls.


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