Hosting the Biennale of Ceramics in Contemporary Art hosted at the Ariana Museum

Anne-Claire Schumacher

During the past summer months the First edition of the Biennale of Ceramics in Contemporary Art was hosted in  exhibition space of the Ariana Museum in Geneva. The Museum hosted the Biennial at the suggestion of the Geneva Cantonal Fund for Contemporary Art which had been involved in the Albisola project. The possibility of exhibiting all the works from the Biennale in one space, the dramatic use of spot lighting on the displayed objects and the sense of unity conferred by the use of homogeneous metal stands all contributed to providing a particularly favourable setting for the pieces. None of the visitors remained indifferent to the experience. They were on the whole shocked by the exhibition, particularly by the more provocative works such as those by Elke Krystufek or Nicola Costantino; children and teenagers, on the other hand, were astonished and delighted by precisely this aspect of provocation to be found in works created by adults and actually shown in a museum.
Among the successful projects, I would mention the interactive approach of the Korean artist Soo-Kyung Lee who succeeded, by means of the use of language and successive translations, to effect a dialogue between two powerful ceramic cultures: Korean and Italian. Another interesting project was that developed by Daniel Firman, who established a link between the potter’s wheel and the gestures of the DJ manipulating vinyl records, resulting in the creation of an original musical space. Another artist who has really immersed himself in the medium, and derived obvious pleasure in handling and modelling the material, was Kristian Hornsleth who, after a brief stay in Albisola, returned by himself to work for a whole month in the workshop of Danilo Trogu. The force of this work testifies to his involvement with the medium. The structure of clay is also present in the work of the sculptor El Anatsui: his digital river, in which he combines elements of raw clay with shimmering enamels created from bits of melted coloured glass, conveys a strong mineral presence.
It is undeniable that clay is a demanding medium, thus the assistance of local professional ceramists was naturally a necessity.  It is however remarkable the interest that today’s artists have expressed in a material as “outdated” as pottery. All the artists accepted the challenge of working with clay despite the risks of failure. This is proof that 21st century artists still have a lively interest in ceramics. The idea of confronting artists with ceramics is naturally an excellent one that is worth pursing and exploring.

Excerpt from the Proceedings of the “Local ceramic traditions and globalisation of contemporary art” conference, 19/20 October 2002, Fortezza del Priamàr, Savona.

Conference proceedings Local ceramic traditions and the globalisation of contemporary art