Touch and Science

I saw one of my favorite pieces of the entire conference when we were visiting gallery openings on Friday night.

Whenever NCECA lands in a city, the conference organizers take over just about every gallery in town for ceramic exhibits.  This year’s conference featured more than 100 exhibits in more than 80 different venues.  Travel to a city for three-and-a-half days, like I did, and you could spend the entire time going gallery-to-gallery, never even stepping foot in the conference center, and still come away from NCECA feeling charged and inspired.

As things stood, Elaine and I opted to catch a shuttle to some gallery openings on Friday evening.  We visited the Winter Street Studios (an old furniture factory repurposed into 75 artist studios) and Spring Street Studios (a former moving and storage facility that now houses 80 studios).  These buildings reminded us of much-nicer versions of the repurposed lofts you can find in North Philadelphia and Fishtown.  The spaces felt like hubs of busy, creative activity – even when you imagined them quieter then the busy crowds on Friday night.  There were sixteen shows, by my count, at Winter Street, and fourteen at Spring Street!  It was an incredible, diverse, exciting place to be.

So back to the piece I loved so much.  Ceramics III students, I’m asking you to think about Collection as a theme for one of your works.  What if… Check out this piece by artist Holly Hanessian.  Here’s what the artist asked us to do – these instructions were cleanly stitched onto a very tactile-looking piece of fabric on the wall:

  • Two people need to participate.
  • Take a piece of wet clay and place it between your hands.
  • Squeeze firmly then relax.
  • Keep holding hands for 5-15 seconds.
  • Give each other your undivided attention.
  • Feel the wet clay surrounded by your warm hands.
  • Slowly release the clay from your hands.
  • Look at the clay print together in the light.
  • Place the handprint on the next open spot ont he mat.
  • Pick up the clipboard and fill it out.
  • Stay in touch!

From Hanessian’s website:

In 2013, I will go to Pittsburgh to work with Dr. Greg Siegle’s lab working with alongside behavioral neurological scientists at the University of Pittsburgh. I will be the artist in residence for TREND (The Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience, and Development. They will be examining the data retrieved from brain image patterns while the handshake is taking place. The project will culminate in an installation during the fall of 2013 at the Society for Contemporary Craft in their downtown One Mellon Gallery space in Pittsburgh, PA.

Of course, Elaine and I made a handprint!  The questions on her brief survey asked us to rate the experience and talk a bit about how many hours a day we spend on a computer, and to provide contact information.  I imagine that some of this survey information is research toward her installation.  How interesting – first, that the TREND lab is working with an artist in residence – and second, that they are going to be working with her on brain imaging!

C3 – Did you ever think that your ‘collection’ could become participatory?  Isn’t participation one of the best aspects of clay?  I was so moved by this piece.  I’d be curious about your reaction.


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