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For some time my work has been inspired by architectural forms, in particular Brutalist architecture. Fascinated by the variety of bold experimental forms Brutalism embraced, my research originated from wanting to know the intentions behind these buildings. I became interested in how our experience of space and form can have a deep psychological impact on how we exist and experience our environments. For me, there were clear parallels between the core formal aspects of architecture and ceramics. As Paul Mathieu wrote:


“If pots are in many ways, conceptually, miniature architecture, it could as easily be stated that a building is nothing other than a very large pot as well……articulated formally around the transition between an interior and an exterior, defining a volumetric space; the interior being functional, while the exterior is ornamental.”  Mathieu. P (2017)


My research has developed around this conceptual union, with much of my reading interpreting architectural and modernist theory as opposed to ceramics. 


“A Desire Called Utopia”

My interest in utopia was a consequence of researching modernist theory as a route to gain a better understanding of Brutalist Architecture.  As Groys (2013) stated “Modernity was the time of desire for utopia”, a sentiment echoed later by Jameson (2007) in his essay “A Desire Called Utopia”. I had been thinking about the intention of Brutalist architecture, what was it trying to do and what was the lived experience. I found links to utopian thinking in Bauhaus ideology, and further research led me to discover that Bauhaus architects had been recruited to help redesign areas of Moscow, they had guidelines based on socialist ideology about how the architecture would be used to redesign and control public spaces. This post revolution Russian architecture became known as Socialist Realism, its aim to create a classless functional socialist society based on Marxist ideology. Explained as “Ethics, translated into the truth of materials and structure” by Groaz.S (2020). Without wanting to delve too deeply into Marxist Theory and Utopian Socialism, what this research did reveal was (however unsuccessful) an attempt to use space and form to imagine and realise a perfect society. I became interested in the concept of ‘Utopia’ in terms of the striving to create a perfect outcome, the emphasis being on the process of striving for as opposed the realisation of. I moved away from researching architectural theory and delved more into utopian theory and utopian theory in relation to art.


My interpretation of the term developed as I more I became interested in the concept of ‘Utopia’. I came to understand it in terms of the striving to create a perfect outcome, the emphasis being on the process of striving for as opposed the realisation of. This understanding of utopia became clearer on reading work by Levitas. R and Jameson. F, and their interpretation of utopia as a method or process. As Levitas. R (2013) states “We should above all understand Utopia as a method, a method of exploring possible futures”. This helps remove the common conception of utopia as a place or finite solution, and places it in the process of getting to, the desire to and the promise of. Buchanan (1998) concluded when discussing Jameson (1982) ‘Dialectic of Hope’, “The Utopian Machine presents itself by not presenting that which in fact represents…Utopia is the act of promising”. In essence utopia is a promise of a better future, a notion which embodies the intent and process of reaching towards another future rather than the arriving at this imagined place. It cannot be the promise and fulfil the promise simultaneously. 


My interest in relation to my practice was this ‘process’ of striving for. It was an idea at the foundation of my practical experiments and underpinned my exploration of different processes. The concept at the core of my practice was the notion of perpetual reach for an ever-elusive outcome, and the artists desire to find the perfect solution to an ever-changing question. This idea which raises the question whether all artist endeavours are utopian by nature, and which Adorno (1970) referred to as ‘the realm of hope’, “Art as a promise, as the promise of another future”. It is inherently human to attempt to pursue the perfect imagined outcome, our minds imagine, and we strive to manifest a future based on fictional intent. Without this drive and ability to imagine possible outcomes humans would have not evolved as we did. Utopian thought is thus this process of imagination and desire, the aspiration of hope. Ernst Bloch refers to this aspiration of hope as ‘Anticipatory Consciousness’, with hope being at the core of the utopian dream. 


“Utopian consciousness wants to look far into the distance, but ultimately only in order to penetrate the darkness so near it of the just lived moment, in which everything that is both drives and is hidden from itself. In other words: we need the most powerful telescope, that of polished utopian consciousness, in order to penetrate precisely the nearest nearness. Namely, the most immediate immediacy, in which the core of self-location and being-here still lies, in which at the same time the whole knot of the world-secret is to be found.” Bloch. E. (1954)


In creating art which explores an abstract interpretation of utopian theory, the work invites the viewer to use the art object as catalyst for exploring a different way of experiencing the world. The attempt to set in motion, balance and juxtapose experience in order to realise an outcome which conceptualises the process of ‘arriving’ as opposed to the ‘destination’. The importance of thinking about how we get ‘there’ not what ‘there’ looks like. As Nadja Gnamus explains more concisely:


“Examples of art to be considered as bearing the function of utopian are not so much utopian representations as the are pre-images, enabling the occupation of utopia. In this regard, they are starting points for envisioning utopia: they have no programming effect and no plan of collective social transformation; on the contrary they function as incubators for establishing utopian thought…….it is about drawing attention to the own thinking and sensing experience based on focused sensorial construction of our relation to the world….The utopian moment derives from this very fine tuned focus that can cause shifts in feeling and thinking and thus interfere with the routine like and instrumentalised perception. The imagination to search for something new can only come from this interruption and change.” Gnamus. N. (2016)

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