I had an incredible experience working in the medium of ceramics this semester.
During the course of the semester, I was able to try out totally novel methods of artistic production (for me, anyways) and begin to understand new ways to visualize and articulate my ideas. It was an exciting opportunity to learn and grow alongside some of my favorite fellow artists.
For my semester-long project, I produced as many porcelain animal bones as possible with the final intention of showing them at the Clean Fossils exhibition. When I installed the bones at the venue I decided to arrange them in a circular shape, making the bones denser towards the center and gradually making the formation more and more sparse towards the outer edges.
The original plan was to allow the viewers to walk upon the sculpture and break the delicate (and less than delicate) porcelain bones wherever they trod. I wanted the piece to be interactive and intimate. I hoped that that the destructive act of walking would inspire a somber mood and ideas about fragility and human impact.
As the show drew closer, my ceramics professor, Brian Harper, suggested that I make the sculpture into a performance piece by being the first person to walk across the bones.
I was a little bit nervous about the idea at first (one of things I like about making art is that I can create it while no one is watching and then reveal the product afterwards), but I knew immediately that it was a good choice for the piece. I thought that no one at the show would be paying attention to me when the time for the performance came but, to the contrary, quite a crowd formed along the edges of the circle. I kind of freaked out, but hope that the performance did the piece justice.
After I walked across the bones, I invited the viewers to join in.
Many of my fellow artists at IU Southeast knew that everyone would be able to interact with the piece at some point during the evening, and the word spread at the show. I was surprised by how excited people were about participating, and the resulting mood was different than I expected.
I really thought that people would be timid to walk on the porcelain objects at first and take the act really seriously. I mean, most people associate breaking things with a sense of fear and gravity, right? I thought that that particular sensation would only be compounded in the environment of an art show, where anything with an artist label attached to it is considered to be of extreme value. However, as soon as I declared the piece "open," people rushed to the piece, some even running or skipping across it. I'm pretty sure that there was some dancing on the bones as well.
While the reaction wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it brought me a lot of joy to watch so many people enjoying the work. As an artist, it was a very new kind of feeling for me. Most of my work is static and two-dimensional, and I never really know if anyone likes the work unless they take the time to tell me. With this piece, I was able to actually see people loving the work. It was so incredibly fulfilling and exciting. I'd really love to do the piece again.
If I ever repeated it, though, I'd love for the piece to be more closed-off, I think. Like, you'd have to go through a curtain or something one person at a time. This way, the experience would be more intimate and private. I think that it would foster a very different reaction.