Professors Bernice Leach (aka Michael Keighery) lecturing the students of the Insitute of Pornographic Antiquities about a treasure trove of archaeological treasure of erotic ceramics.
The 311 attendees at the Verge Ceramics Conference had a most stimulating range of papers to consider over five days. The organisers, particularly Stephanie Outridge-Field, battled against considerable odds after the event managers abandoned the conference two weeks before it was to commence. This meant that there weren’t as many structured opportunities for discussion as there could have been.
Some other highlights:
There was a high-spirited exchange between Michael Keighery and Noel Frankham in the panel on education:
In describing how students travel to various parts of Australia for their education, Noel said, ‘…and some come to Tasmania.’
Michael quipped, ‘And you’re welcome to those.’
Noel immediately exercised his authority as chair, ‘Sorry Michael, you’re fifteen minutes is up.’
Michael: ‘I do love you Noel.’
The session was brilliantly chaired by Noel with some hard-hitting truths about the underfunded arts education sector and the consequent compromises sometimes made for attracting and keeping overseas students.
There were some very interesting cultures represented. Ray Meeker and Kristine Michael talked about Indian ceramics including a pottery at Pondicherry. There were potters from Lombok, Tiwi Island, Ernabella and Hermannsburg present.
Garth Clark continued his magisterial contribution to the conference with a lecture that attempted to locate Peter Voulkos in the top ten of twentieth-century ceramicists. His Harold Bloom-like construction of a ceramics canon was unapologetically elitist and consummate. One particularly nice aside was his appreciation of the word ‘oeuvre’, as like something you’d spread on toast. Clark’s partner Mark de Vecchio was a similarly sophisticated New York new on the perspective of the twenty-first century ceramics, with reference to a fascinating recent show curated by Garth Clark of Free Spirit: Native American Ceramics.
Kevin Murray’s paper was sandwiched between the two New Yorkers and attempted to map an alternative path that connected with new art movements inspired by relational aesthetics. The paper will be online soon.
Other highlights included a passionate panel on the language of ceramics in regional identity and some bright new names in the emerging artists’ panel, including the radical young Ken Yonetani.
The conference highlighted a choice facing many craftspersons and artists today as they seek a relevance for their practices—the money or the box? Do you chase opportunities and turn your practice into a small business, or do you pursue your art as a critical voice otherwise missing in our society?
Let’s hope there’s discussion to come in the various ceramic lists.
The next conference will be in New South Wales. Michael Keighery is the chair of the organising committee, which includes Merryn Esser.