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2010 Taiwan Ceramics Biennale

Korero: International ceramics in conversation
Korero = NZ Maori for conversation, an exchange of views.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1849, said ‘In conversation the game is to say something new with old words.‘1
So it is when the conversation is applied to art, particularly ceramic art, for the tools are long known and layered in antiquity but the expression must be contemporary.
Studio ceramics, along with contemporary art of many genres is deeply engaged in exchanges - with other art forms, with histories, with philosophies, with wider domains such as industrial production, with current preoccupations and spheres of contemporary life, in fact with society and culture in all its diversities. Increasingly these are referred to in texts as ‘conversations’. The conversation seemed a useful basic peg for an exhibition premise. One understood by all.
My interests lie where contemporary ceramics offers a negotiation, either with areas long considered as more traditional or with received ideas from outside our usual conventions. I don’t much mind if the exchange is an amicable chat, a confrontational discussion or argumentative debate! What is vital is that the conversational exchange is intelligent and engaging of both viewpoints and of an audience.
Clay has no defining form and scant intrinsic value. Yet, it has been one of our principal means of understanding histories. We have no record of what was made from clay before fire was introduced so that water could no longer render it back to formlessness. Settlement, and consequent fire, meant the fragile objects made by hand might enter recordable history. Easily obtainable and simply fashioned, clay is mankind’s readily comprehended register of societal changes. Figure and vessel were the two principal themes. Fertility and consumption were the aims. Over time, ceramic’s two primary braids unravelled to offer numerous strands for each and ceramics has afforded conversations, across and down, throughout its long and rich histories. Today they are as often the starting point for contemporary explorations. And these explorations are enriched by an expanded arena because the field of practice has become undifferentiated and a wide-ranging interdisciplinarity is seen more and more. Increasingly, practitioners delve into what was formerly regarded as beside the point.
New concepts are dismantling old parameters and there is now fresh interest and writing from a broad range of academic fields which are injecting new layers of intellectual content into our tradition-laden ceramic culture. Globalisation - which dispenses with national boundaries, and the internet - which also removes many physical barriers, have challenged art, and with it – ceramics, to change. ‘Fortress Ceramica’ is eroding and our customary supports are washing away in a tide of communications. Differing genres are conversing and sometimes confronting one another via ceramics as medium. Cultural, national, historical, social, industrial, even personal concepts are today recognised as constructs which are often ideologically influenced. Nevertheless these are conceptually rich sources for contemporary expression and sometimes those expressions best manifest in clay. Boundaries are now indistinct and artists from many, formerly unconnected areas recognise that their discourses, once seen as separate, are now conflating despite differences in training. Fine art is cognisant of, and attentive to, work in clay while ceramics has new fields to prospect and mine.

This is an exhibition for a public gallery situated in a national ceramics centre where anticipation is for excellence and where the large audience will have many levels of understanding. My strategy was to create an exhibition, with focus upon international, contemporary ceramic activities that will communicate with the wide audience attending this gallery; an exhibition that consolidates and builds upon earlier knowledge of ceramics and extends that audience into some of the new realms with which ceramics currently engages.
This audience will range from arts professionals with existing vocabularies through to an interested viewing public. I tried to offer a lucid premise that could be appreciated and engaged by all, no matter their prior knowledge. Then those with basic knowledge have a core concept to build from and can recognise and join the conversation while viewing the show. Those holding more familiarity with contemporary clay expression or who enjoy taking things to a more complex level, can pursue that by observing the more subtle conversations taking place within the rooms. Much work exhibited will present both ends of a conversation discretely and require no other work nearby. But there are instances where the discussion levels are increased by judicial juxtapositions with work by different artists. Resonances are thus offered that an audience can respond to individually and at their own pace – a personal discovery process that can make an exhibition more memorable.
I envisaged several works by each artist, either as a single installation, a cluster or perhaps various single works. There must be sufficient work so that the audience can read into the conversations, facilitated by introductory texts, rather than the one-pot-shot most commonly seen in the competition. I aimed for an inclusive show encompassing the well-established with new artists commencing their international careers. I wanted to see object pieces, groups, installations and hoped for some performance; then, another layer of participation introduced by the inclusion, where appropriate, of new media, video clips, projected animation and sound. Ceramics in all its complexity.
The work from many of the artists featured is sufficiently multifaceted to fit comfortably into more than one conversation but a logical primary structure was my objective so that the audience might follow the storyline with ease and focus upon appreciation of individual works.
Something for everyone, in a way they can engage and enjoy, was my aim.
I The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vol. 11, entry for 1848, ed., Plumstead and Gil

Moyra Elliott is based in New Zealand and works currently as an independent writer and curator with a specialty in ceramics. She writes for journals internationally and contributes to books and catalogues. She is a curator of exhibitions for regional, national and international applications. She is active as an advisor for governmental institutions, exhibitions and competitions and speaks on aspects of ceramics in teaching institutions, art galleries and at conferences. She frequently serves as a juror for competitions. On the working party for some years, she was appointed to the inaugural Board of Objectspace in 2004 (national centre for object-making/design for NZ) and now contributes as Special Advisor for Programming. She is a member of the International Academy of Ceramics and foundation member of Craftworkers – a regional think-tank for writers, theorists and curators involved with the media of crafts.
She brings to these capacities a background that includes many years of her own studio for ceramics, exhibiting in New Zealand and internationally and the study of art history and theory, English and writing. She was Director of the Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Award 1990-96 – the years of international expansion and Curator for the Dowse Art Museum when it functioned as national centre for the craft media in New Zealand. She has taught ceramics studio and history for tertiary institutions and received a Fulbright Foundation award for the study of tertiary education in ceramics in the USA.
She is co-author of a substantial book on the history of New Zealand studio ceramics between 1940-1980, Cone Ten Down, which was published in 2009 and is author of an earlier book on the history of a public art gallery in Auckland, New Zealand. Research for her second book on New Zealand studio ceramics 1980-2010 has commenced.
Some recent projects and awards have included –
The 4th Creative New Zealand Biannual Craft/Object Art Fellowship.
The 6th Goodman Suter Art Project Award.
Fulbright Foundation Cultural Award for study of tertiary education in ceramics in the USA.
Asia/NZ Foundation grant toward leading a party of six ceramicists to China, 2006, to Fuping, China on a residency programme to make and place work into the new Australasian Museum of Ceramics.
Presenter at Australian Ceramics Triennale, Sydney (09), Verge Ceramics Conference, Brisbane, Australia (06), International Ceramics Biennale, Icheon, Korea (05) and The South Conference, Melbourne, Australia, (04).
Major curatorial projects:
KAN: the Green Gallery Collection, at Auckland Museum (06), The Greatest Show: Warren Tippett retrospective, Objectspace, Auckland (05/6), Lucie Rie in New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery (04).
Consultant to Te Papa: National Museum of New Zealand, Wellington, towards histories within, and rationalization of, national ceramics collection.
Creative New Zealand awards towards, research, writing and curatorial projects, conference attendances and presentations and artist’s residency projects between 1983-2010.