Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Maps and Images

Here are some maps and images of the islands. On the topographical maps note the extreme ruggedness of the terrain.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Grey Islands

The Grey Islands is an interdisciplinary ceramic art project that I will undertake during the summer of 2009 on The Grey Islands, an uninhabited island group off the east coast of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. For three months I will live on the islands where I will create and document a site-specific ceramic art piece. The project will be documented with video, photography, drawing and my own oral narrative. Ultimately I will compose an exhibition based on these documents and my time on the islands.

The installation itself will be quite simple. I will build a wood-fired kiln according to a traditional design, only I will invert the design so that in principle the kiln will be inside-out. Therefore, in a conceptual sense, the entire island will be "inside" the kiln - when I fire the kiln I will be firing the island.

My project is inspired by the work of John Steffler, Canada’s poet laureate and author of the poetry book The Grey Islands. In Steffler’s book the protagonist travels to The Grey Islands for an extended period of time to realize his romantic notion of survival. I relate to this character because I see a correspondence between his idea and the romantic yet cliché idea of the rural potter who survives on the margins of contemporary society and economics. As a ceramicist I have been exposed to this “rural potter” concept since the very beginning of my education - it is engrained within the lore of the ceramic genre, and therefore I feel it needs to be investigated. In a sense, my project presents a somewhat tongue-in-cheek analogy: How could the “rural potter” cliché translate onto a postmodern conceptual ceramicist?

Most importantly, this project addresses the topic of interdisciplinarity within the craft genres. Works being produced by contemporary ceramicists are increasingly difficult to understand because they often involve non-traditional materials, modes of dissemination, venues and audiences. As traditional definitions break down it is not uncommon to see artists dealing with ceramic content, issues and themes while (temporarily) abandoning the ceramic material in favour of something more expressively appropriate. My own practice has developed in this way, therefore my recent projects have included such diverse forms as performance, webart, intervention and photography, which, problematic though it may be I vehemently consider to be ceramic art. The ultimate purpose of The Grey Islands is to say that traditional hierarchies of medium and concept need to be reevaluated even within the material-oriented craft genres.


Thanks for checking out my blog about my upcoming art project The Grey Islands. I'll tell you a little bit more about the project itself shortly, but for the moment I'd just like to tell you why I'm writing the blog.

The Grey Islands is quite possibly the most challenging task I've ever set out to accomplish - artistically, logistically, conceptually and personally. Simply put, I want to record all the thoughts, fears, contingencies, and risks that will go into creating this piece. These will be useful to me in my reckoning of the project itself, and hopefully a little interesting for you to read. I hope this blog will answer questions about the project - not only questions that others may have (which have already been numerous), but also questions I am still asking myself as I prepare.

Please check back regularly and feel free to respond to anything you might see in here.