Making Knowledge: CLAY


Looking   listening   smelling   touching  tasting

with Laura White
At CUBITT Gallery and Studios
Tuesday 14th February 2017

Participants - Undergraduate Fine Art students,  Goldsmiths College,  London.

An Exploration of the Indissoluble Relationship between Mind, Body and Environment. What it means to engage with and negotiate materials - the hand and brain engaged simultaneously through matter – you could call it “hand in the brain” a non- separation between hand and cognition.

We will be getting up close to stuff so be prepared to get messy.


Materiality is the behaviour of materials.  
Materials are what our physical world consists of.
Unless we eventually exist as brains in jars - living a totally virtual existence - materials will always matter. 
Material in relation to art practice is often associated historically in terms of process and yet materials are also social,  political,  gendered,  intellectual and so on....

I would like you to come on a material journey with me today...

I am fascinated with materials and learn and expand my thinking not only through first hand experience, such as thought making and observation... but also through research and engagement with - material science, material culture, design and craft theory, sociology and anthropology. This is probably because these areas really focus on materiality and how things come into being – a more recent phenomenon in art practice you could say… It is only fairly recently in contemporary art that a renewed focus on process and materials is being addressed – such as the writing of Sophie-Ann Lehmann and Petra Lang-Berndt.

A lot is being written about materiality recently - words like 'New Materiality' such as through the writing of Ann-Sophie Lehmann are out there - a non-separation between an intellectual and manual material engagement (this non separation also expands between nature and culture, object and people) explored such as through the writing of anthropologist Tim Ingold. Looking at material and process as subject, rather than as a by-product of an artwork. You can see this in lots of current artist practices - whether it is Phyllida Barlow, Helen Martin, Lucy Skaer, Michael Dean, Christina Mackie. You only have to look at the work shown in the new extension of Tate Modern to see this new focus on materiality and shows such as Entangled – thread and Making at Turner Contemporary in Margate, curated by Karen Wright which was opened recently by the new Director of Tate Modern - Frances Morris.

I would like YOU today to engage with materials in many different ways - with an openness - TO WAYFARE….. and to learn from each other…. And to find and extend our language to talk about materiality - materiality as subject matter. People can find it difficult to talk about materiality and reduce it to terms like 'play' and 'JUST making'. Materials and making is complicated and is an intellectual as well as physical activity, and should be taken seriously like any subject matter. (Also go to 'Materiality - An Exploration', which formed the other part of this 'Day of Materiality.')

Think about:
• Only being in the process without thinking about what things will become.
• How physically engaging with a process can offer insight into the material (clay) and the form it takes, and inform an understanding of ceramics/clay/pottery and how it comes about.
• Handling materials and tools, such as to experience the sensory material of clay - smell, sound, texture, taste and movement, and its material instability.
• To explore our bodies physical and cognitive capacity when working with the clay.
• How the environment - material, people, furniture, tools and architecture we are in influences how we make/do things.
• Explore Knowledge-making as a dynamic process arising directly from the indissoluble relations, which exist between the mind, body and environment.
• How might this process yield new insights into how knowledge is generated, such as the social aspect of DIWO (doing it with others) to challenge our experience?
• What it means to Learn a new skill (working in clay) how that affects us beyond this space?

1.  All start by picking some up some clay (cut equal sizes for everyone) and 'play' with it to talk about its qualities – Can you stretch it? How firm is it?(what is it made of?)
How does it smell? How does it move? What does it taste of? What does it sound like? How stable is it?
Think about the qualities of the clay – what can it do and what can’t it do?

2.  Quick interactions:
a. Make something as long as possible just using your hands and without the clay having contact with anything other than your body.
b. Make sounds with the clay.
c. Make something as thin as possible, until it almost breaks. How thin can you make it without it falling/breaking apart?
d. In pairs sculpt clay around parts of the others body? (How can you use your body to manipulate the clay other than with your hands?)

3.  Make something Tall or make something Wide. Work on your own, in pairs or groups. At the end we will join all the parts together.

See it as a process - always keep open to change. Watch others making, respond to materials as much as imposing yourself on them.

The outcome will be a product of the process. Everything will be destroyed at the end.