Friday 16 May 2008

Buff presents: Make or Break, a Collaborative Exposure of Clay

It’s been another good week for craft; the second this year. Not bad at all. And this is, in part, due to Buff, 2nd year undergrad students from Camberwell College of Art, London, who produced Make or Break as their end of year show and to the seven cool chicks from Stoke Newington who produced X-hibitionism, see below. The C Word only narrowly avoided missing Buff’s glitzy occasion altogether, but for an email arriving in Sophie’s (studio mate’s) inbox. ‘A one-night extravaganza… ceramics….music… and more’ it announced. Excellent, I thought, and swanned off to investigate further.
Village Underground, the splendidly grand Shoreditch venue they selected, is vast, tall, shapely, with tunnels and big HUGE open spaces, and small concealed spaces and vaults and steps and metal girders near the ceiling you can hang things from. Everything, in short, the ceramicist has ever dreamt of. Bliss.
‘So is this your work?’ I enquired of some beautiful one in long eyelashes and BIG platforms who looked like he’d swept straight out of Club Whatever, ‘It’s all been conceptualised and made collectively,’ he explained, gesturing to the whole gathering of works and people. Pause. Sit up straight. Look straight into his eyelashes, ‘You mean,’ I suggest nervously, ‘you’re subverting the entire degree process?’ ????????????????
‘OH yes’ he assents, huge smile.
Wow, I thought. The C Word was officially IMPRESSED. And still is.
I gazed, watery eyed, at the scene. I was in a corner, at the end of a sort of catwalk runway with Philip/a who was serving ‘shots’ of something red in small white ceramic cups from a large white ceramic bucket. He was all dressed in shiney black and the pots were all ‘dressed’ in shiney white. I looked up at the ‘pregnant’ trapeze artist sitting on a swing, clutching her clay belly, and beyond her to the ‘workshop’ where people were making things out of clay and placing them on plinths. To my left, through an arch, in a lower ceilinged space, were various tea parties, a washing up session and a ‘vent vault’ where the audience was being encouraged to smash plates against the wall. Through another arch, up some steps, were two video screens, and numerous small television screens, taking it in turns to show industrial plate making scenes, a naked man spreading-clay-all-over-a-naked-woman-type scene, more industrial process scenes and so on.
Wandering round in mesmerised circles, I was accosted by a gentleman in dress suit and topper with plate of clay balls inviting me to make something. I think I declined, but I enjoyed watching everyone else, and looking at what they’d made. Completing the circuit, I was in time to witness a change in the swing scene, the sort of pregnant angel on high had fallen (?) not literally, but she’s gone and on the floor, on a white bed, was a pregnant man, clutching his clay belly. Back to the runway of small white cups, and so it went on, an endlessly changing spectacle.
So, woman as vessel, the myth of making man from clay, the act of birthing the creative impulse, Broken, Shattered, Matters domestic, Matters relational, Social objects, it was all there in one show, and yes, I had drunk strong coffee that day, but I wasn’t that high, and, yes, I’ve seen bits of all of these things before, but not all together, not so faultlessly, so immaculately, so assuredly performed, and certainly not in such an intensely theatrical, spectacular, luminous setting. That was what made me feel high. Chutzpah! It was the sheer Chutzpah of it. And, of course, the anti-authorship spirit of the enterprise. There will now be a minute’s LOUD NOISE while we celebrate what collective action can achieve, and then hope the UN manages a bit of collective action in Burma.