Re-modelling clay: ceramic practice and the museum in Britain (1970-2014)

Breen, L. 2016. Re-modelling clay: ceramic practice and the museum in Britain (1970-2014). PhD thesis University of Westminster Art and Design

TitleRe-modelling clay: ceramic practice and the museum in Britain (1970-2014)
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsBreen, L.

This thesis analyses how the dialogue between ceramic practice and museum practice has contributed to the discourse on ceramics. Taking Mieke Bal’s theory of exposition as a starting point, it explores how ‘gestures of showing’ have been used to frame art‑oriented ceramic practice. Examining the gaps
between the statements these gestures have made about and through ceramics, and the objects they seek to expose, it challenges the idea that ceramics as a
category of artistic practice has ‘expanded.’ Instead, it forwards the idea that ceramics is an integrative practice, through which practitioners produce works
that can be read within a range of artistic (and non-artistic) frameworks. Focusing on activity in British museums between 1970 and 2014, it takes a thematic and broadly chronological approach, interrogating the interrelationship of ceramic practice, museum practice and political and critical shifts at different points in time. Revealing an ambiguity at the core of the category ‘ceramics,’ it outlines numerous instances in which ‘gestures of
showing’ have brought the logic of this categorisation into question, only to be returned to the discourse on ‘ceramics’ as a distinct category through acts of
institutional recuperation. Suggesting that ceramics practitioners who wish to move beyond this category need to make their vitae as dialogic as their works,
it indicates that many of those trying to raise the profile of ‘ceramics’ have also been complicit in separating it from broader artistic practice. Acknowledging that those working within institutions that sustain this distinction are likely to re-make, rather than reconsider ceramics, it leaves the ball in their court.


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