Friday, March 23, 2018

2017 Independence Foundation Grant Proposal

Making Myth – The Search for Ymir in the Land of Fire and Ice
2017 Independence Foundation Grant Proposal

From Ymir’s flesh the earth was created,
And from his blood the sea,
Mountains from bone,
Trees from hair,
And from his skull the sky.
And from his eyebrows the blithe gods made
Midgard, home of the sons of men
And from his brains
They sculpted the grim clouds.

The Poetic Edda. Grímnismál, stanzas 40-41

I am applying for the 2017 Independence Foundation grant in order to continue my research in mythology as it relates to geologic land formation. Geomythology, an interest within the Earth Sciences, associates phenomenal physical landforms with the cultural creation myths specific to that particular landscape. It seeks to add explanation to the natural environment through anthropological narrative that scientific reasoning cannot do on its own. It accepts that there may be scientific evidence hidden within these myths. Although based in fantasy more than anthropologic myth, my first encounter with this phenomenon was in 2014 when traveling through the high deserts of Utah in Goblin Valley State Park. A gorge filled with thousands of hoodoos, oversized sandstone mushroom-like lumps and mounds, each having their particular protuberances and appendages, the park can attribute its surreal landforms to natural erosion, although it is described as a valley filled with hordes of goblins and gnomes. This peculiarity began my interest in myth as it relates to landform. I began to consider the importance of applying fantasy to new and strange phenomena and how that idealization may relate to the process of comprehending new information.
Geomythology supports my two main artistic influences; my formal interest in material and process as well as my deep love and intrigue for fantasy and science fiction narratives. The study of geomythology parallels my studio practice in that it simultaneously keeps my hands in the muck of reality while my mind is preoccupied with escapist endeavors. My practice has grown symbiotically, where my material knowledge has begun a confluence with material myth, creating mysteriously abstract as well as creature-like figurative forms. As an artist, I find the cosmos creation myth of the Norse giant Ymir (pronounced “EE-meer”) particularly interesting, both from sculptural and narrative perspectives. 
With the death of the hermaphroditic giant, the first forms were created. The skies and the seas, the mountains and the rocks were formed from their dismembered body. I am always looking for the big picture, the origin of things and the truth to materials. As clay is fired in a kiln to become vitrified ceramic, I am a maker of rocks, as did Ymir’s bones become mountains. As a ceramist creates with the opposing elements of earth, water and fire to create ceramic forms, Iceland was created between the might of volcanic and glacial upheavals coexisting.
The Ymir myth is also the story of the creation of humans as well as other mythological races such as dwarves and trolls. These beings have inhabited popular culture for sometime and many people have been drawn to their appeal. As part of my research, I’d like to unpack why such Norse creatures have become relevant in todays mainstream media, such as the novel and television series’ Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. I am looking to unearth why we are continually drawn to this mythology.
Moving beyond the veil of fantasy towards specific explanations, geology and mythology provide more sound scientific and anthropologic evidence for how things came to be and why they continue to intrigue us today. They give credence to the form of things. They serve as foundations for hands-on exploration and research. I am proposing to visit and explore the geomythological landscapes of Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice for a period of six to eight weeks during the summer months of 2018.

The Independence Foundation Grant will provide me with a unique developmental opportunity that will allow me to travel to Iceland inspiring my artistic practice in both formal and conceptual ways by visiting sight specific locations that have geomythological intrigue.  Continuing my research on location, I will visit and explore in person sights that I have read about by geologist Dorothy B. Vitaliano who, in her book Legends of the Earth – Their Geologic Origins written in 1968, coined the term geomythology. Iceland, being the epicenter for Nordic myth, is a land formed of volcanoes and glaciers. The formations these two elemental opposites have created are truly remarkable. Sights I intend to visit include Asbygi, said to be formed by the hoof print of the All Father Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir, Lakagigar or the Laki lava flow craters, an environment so surreal it surpasses most science fiction landscapes, Mount Hekla, a volcano said to be the gate way to hell itself, as well as Katla, a sub-glacier volcano that when erupts melts the glacier Hofdabrekkujokull above it flooding the farm lands below. It is said that an evil witch threw herself over a cliff creating the first disastrous deluge. I can only imagine how it must feel to set foot on such potent ground.
 I will document my first hand accounts of these mesmerizing landscapes by making drawings and photographing them while on location. Pen, pencil and ink-wash drawings and sketches will be done infield capturing the dynamic forms created from volcanic and glacial convergences. These studies will be the beginnings of a new body of work that will incorporate the forms I witnessed as well as the folklore I stood amongst. While on location I will also take rock samples of the particular sights for future study in my art studio.
I would like to spend my travels by working with geology departments and artist organizations alike. I have contacted the department heads of three universities who have classes in geomythology, informing them of my interest in Iceland and have asked if I could volunteer my assistance on one of their Iceland field work trips or if they could connect me to a group of geologist who will be there during the summer of 2018. Dr. Jeff H. Tepper from University of Puget Sound and Dr. Lee Kump from Penn State have both replied with interest. I have also contacted Dr. Magnus Tumi Guomundsson head of faculty in the Earth Sciences department of the University of Iceland expressing my interest with the same endeavor. My intention of joining a field work team as a volunteer will give me more of a scientific hands-on experience than I as tourist could have on my own. Volunteering as a rock-hound will give me insights to geologic materials that will influence my formal approach to ceramics and hopefully shape the varied forms clay can take when exposed to different processes.
I would also like to spend some time reflecting on my fieldwork experience as an artist-in-residence at the NES Foundation in Skagaströnd, a small fishing village in the Northern region of Iceland. While there, I plan to extrapolate from the drawings and pictures I documented on location notions of the landscape and environment I found interesting and conjure forms akin to the myths those landscapes embody. While using the NES residency as a home base for a month, I would like to take day trips across the region, continuing my explorations of the land as well as visiting natural history museums and other culturally significant institutions of and relating to Nordic mythology.
Upon my arrival home, the Independence Foundation Grant will also support the creation of new ceramic sculptures and drawings that have been directly inspired from my travels and infield studies gleaned from Iceland. I will create a new body of work for the purpose of having a solo exhibition in late 2019 hosted by The Clay Studio, of which I am currently a full time artist-in-residence. Funding for this new body of work will go towards materials, kiln firings as well as studio rent costs at The Clay Studio.
This opportunity will be one of artistic growth and academic intrigue, one that will move my practice from the ethereal studio mind of fantasy toward a more concrete understanding of things. I will gain a hands-on experience of how the landscape we inhabit came to be and the importance those phenomena have on our human identities. This experience will connect me to a rational in my work that I would not be able to comprehend otherwise. Geomythology merges natural physical form with cultural heritage as reiterated through story telling in the hopes of creating a better sense of ourselves as we continue to exist on this earth. With Ymir’s death our world was created. With this opportunity I’m looking for truths that are currently beyond my comprehension yet have sustained our existence for centuries, if not millennia.

            The 2017 Independence Foundation Grant would fund a six to eight week research opportunity specific to the geomythological landscapes of Iceland in the summer of 2018. I am seeking to voluntarily join a geological fieldwork trip in order to gain hands-on geologic knowledge of what makes Iceland’s landscapes so unique. The second part of my travels will be a month long artist-in-residency at the NES Foundation, where I will begin to distill my fieldwork studies through drawings and personal journaling incorporating the Norse myths inherent to the land formations of Iceland. Upon my return, I will use my documentation of these landscapes to merge the formal and mythical encounters I had into a new body of work that I will display in a solo exhibition at The Clay Studio in late 2019.

Artist Statement
With consideration to the mysteries surrounding the mythological, the alchemical and the occult, as well as referencing fantasy and science fiction narratives and speculations, my artwork is based in a formal practice of accepting the unknown, the incomprehensible as well as the absurd. In todays insatiable quest for information at instantaneous touch, I prefer not to know the answers. I choose instead to stay bewildered and approach making experimentally, daring myself to make something ignorant. Within that mentality, I believe it is important to continue the human need to explore what is possible, to relinquish certainty in exchange for vulnerability. Rendering form as an amorphous solid, my work is a record of my physical presence with material. When swishing and smearing, poking and clawing, I am making the decision to stay mentally connected to this physical realm, however ambiguous that may feel at times. Hands-on interpretation helps me to consider the total state of things as they exist in the world today, as they will always be in a state of change, adaptation and evolution.

JASON LEE STARIN received his MFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art and Oregon College of Art and Craft in Applied Craft and Design in 2011, and his BFA in Ceramics from Grand Valley State University in 1999.  Referencing fantasy and sci-fi narratives, Starin's ceramic-based art practice values the importance of making tangible objects as they are construed between internal and external realities.  Originally from Michigan, he currently resides in Philadelphia, PA where he is the Ceramic Shop Supervisor for The University of the Arts as well as a Resident Artist at The Clay Studio.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Conjure Materials / Materialize Goblins

My main influence for my art practice goes back to Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman, in particular the chapter Material Consciousness. Sennett states that we are interested in and become engaged with material when we see it change. When it is in the moment of change.

Sennett states material change happens in three distinct ways.

“…Metamorphosis, presence, and anthropomorphosis. Metamorphosis can be as direct as a change in procedure, as when potters switch from molding clay on a fixed platter to building it up on a rotating wheel; potters who do both will be conscious of the difference in technique. Presence can be registered simply by leaving a maker’s mark, such as a brickmaker’s stamp. Anthropomorphosis occurs when we impute human qualities to a raw material; supposedly primitive cultures imagine that spirits dwell in a tree, and so in a spear cut from its wood; sophisticates personalize materials when using words like modest or sympathetic to describe finishing details on a cabinet. “

Beyond the French scientific philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s definition of the material world being categorized as either soft or hard in Earth and the Reveries of Will, I believe the very notion of material is also going through a change as our virtual technologies continue to develop.

Virtual technologies rely on our memories of soft or hard physical materials in order for us to comprehend our increasingly virtualized experiences, but go well beyond those initial interactions based on touch. During moments of interaction within these immersive virtual worlds we are thinking differently due to the virtual qualities of these virtual materials. Due to which, as Nicholas G. Carr states in The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember, there is a shift in our thinking because our world is different than the one we previously only knew. Our world is no longer strictly physical.

We coexist between both worlds now, almost seemingly and at a moment’s thought. I’m on my bus commute and I am running a campaign on a MMORPG at the same time. My back and shoulders are aching as I am creating massive and immersive 3D cityscapes. Virtual technologies allow our minds and our bodies to separate in very extreme ways, by simulating physical knowledge to the point of near indifference.

In my art practice, this concerns me. I am curious to know what is being lost in this transition from a purely physically constructed mind to that of virtually produced one. What do people think of traditional building materials today? Do people have the same knowledge of physical materials as they used to? To what extent do they know how the world used to work? My biggest concern is what type of people are we turning into due to this shift in the qualities of material and material knowledge.

In the past if we did not understand how something worked or more specifically if we could not comprehend how something wasn’t working, we created myths and mythological creatures to explain the incongruities. We conjured mythological creatures as manifestations of our own ignorance. They were scapegoats, things to point at and blame for our misinformed minds.

Are we creatures of destruction now? If we are growing more reliable on a virtualized reasoning of things and processes, are we the goblins of our once handcrafted world? By allowing for more virtualized experiences to be part of our lives, are we consequently also allowing for the deconstruction of our physical material knowledge?

In my ceramic-based art practice, I am attempting to show this loss of material knowledge as well as suggest that we are changing. My work attempts to capture a moment of my struggle to comprehend a change in material consciousness. They are often violent or somber moments of frustration and acquiescence. Some works have haunting and ominous presences. Some are mere wardens or barriers, structures suggesting that we have reached a limit in our physical comprehension. What gives me hope in my practice is the process, the labor behind the end product. The act of making keeps me engaged; it is a rebellious act against purely virtual reasoning and thinking. It allows for mistakes and irregularities to be part of the piece, which I value as being more human. I'm not striving for perfection, but instead, an honest record of my interaction with clay and glaze and charcoal and paper.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Letter of Love and Safety

Dear D______,

That's all good news to hear. I'm glad you are teaching, I think you need to. Congrats on setting a wedding date! I'm happy for the both of you. Planning can be a lot of work, take your time with it, it's your day, do what you guys want to do. Send me an e-vite, I'll see if I can swing it.

Things are well, again. I went back home to Michigan for the winter break and it was good to be with family and familiar surroundings. It put my mind at ease, I felt comfortable, safe and loved, which, I must say I have needed for some time. Coming back to West Philly after the holiday hiatus has helped me to accept the city for what it is. Although I find it very depressing and filled with destruction, paranoia and anger, I no longer have expectations that it will change, furthermore I no longer question why it doesn't change or who to blame for it's appearances and failures. It just is what it is. A dump. I hope to move to a better neighborhood in July when my lease is up. 

This past year and a half I've been in shock, taking in new information, a new culture, new architectural stories, trying to understand a different people, I forgot who I was, attempting acceptance. That, and this divorce, well it's been a very hard year and a half.  That, by the way, has been long, emotional and arduous, yet has been progressing as compassionately and congruent as possible between us. We have not seen each other since the day it happened, A______ lives and has started a new life back in her hometown in Michigan. Of all of it, I miss my friend the most. In a few more months it will all be over. Again, the new year has proven to feel more settled. I feel calmer and more myself again. Weird and moody. 

The new job at The University of the Arts is going better the second semester. It too, feels more familiar as I have found my place here. The professors and students both fear and respect me! Har! Just kidding, every one is very nice and they have all remarked on my attention given to organization and cleanliness, which in the field of ceramics means safety. That's the crux of my position, that and ordering and selling supplies. 

The Clay Studio is going well too, now that I'm an official resident. Before that I was just subletting and some folks were throwing some shade my way. They have left now and with this new batch of residents the playing field has been leveled. I feel very comfortable there and very supported. Hence larger goblins. At the school, I have access to 50 inch tall kilns, so they may grow to a very large size soon! 

The past six months of my life have been turbulent. On the surface, I've been awarded many things that I have wanted for a very long time, a decent job in my field, a respected residency, but I have considered at what cost? I have been separated from things I had previously took for granted, by both my own choice and by being victim to stranger's intentions - when I was mugged at gun point a few months ago a block from my apartment. Love and safety, things I thought were just standards in life, things that every one had or deserved in life are now gone, in the very least their definitions have changed in my mind. I'm not sure how to think of those things anymore and I feel like I lost some part of what I knew of humanity, of myself and my understanding of people. It has been an odd moment in my life, like I said, only in the past few weeks have I started to feel like those things are coming back in a familiar way again, in hopeful and reliable ways. 

It makes for some ugly twisted thoughts. I am very grateful to have my job and studio, without them I'm not sure I would be here or where I would be. It's odd to me that the city that I attribute to so giving me so much pain is also the same city that has provided so much support. Philadelphia. 

Thanks for asking how I'm doing. It was good to write this out in a letter form. Art isn't enough some times.

You still at the same address?


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ceramics in a Post-Internet State of Mind

Now what? WTF am I even supposed to do with this stuff these days; does any thing actually matter any more?  Sure, probably more so than ever!  Get it?  Things? Matter? Anyways...

I’ve been asking myself for a long time why I constantly feel compelled to make with my hands in clay in today’s internet based everything life.  It seems so ironic, messy and stupid to me.  It’s frustrating and exciting at the same time.  Every time I open up a bag of fresh clay or scrape some out of the pug mill I become excited for the possibilities that the malleable material suggests.  Now I know that may be due to some prolonged exposure to clay and the ceramic process.  It’s ingrained in my psyche, its who I am, its how I think through new situations and about the world.  Sure, but todays world, as it is vastly distinct from my late 1970’s through 1990’s upbringing, is increasingly immaterial.  I lived it; I watched it happen, I’m Generation X, Generation Crossover.  As an object maker, that is huge, and probably true for most people born in the same time frame or earlier, to comprehend that change in some way that makes sense to them; it may take some more time.  Solid things are now virtually, and therefore mentally, being replaced by digital versions of themselves, coded copies, archived, ready for up and downloading upon your command.  

The state of the object is just at the beginning of its transformation according to Bruce Sterling in his book Shaping Things.  From tangible Artifacts to three-dimensional printed Spimes and bio-nano-tech Biots, Sterling intelligently speculates our object oriented future, asking us gear up and adapt to rapid change.

So why make with clay still I ask?   

 Robert Smithson thought about geologic and immaterial things intensely and his awareness of comprehending two seemingly different states of consciousness still hold true today.  Heres a quote from, “Fragments of an Interview with P.A. Norvell, April, 1969”.

“To be located between those two points puts you in a position of elsewhere, so there’s no focus.  This outer edge and this center constantly subvert each other, cancel each other out.  There is a suspension of destination.  I think that conceptual art which depends completely on written data is only half the story; it only deals with the mind and it has to deal with the material too... There is no escape from matter.  There is no escape from the physical nor is there any escape from the mind.  The two are in a constant collision course.  You might say that my work is like an artistic disaster.  It is a quiet catastrophe of mind and matter.”

Smithson, of course is writing about the budding conceptual art movement in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, the height of immaterial thinking as art, as a thing, presiding ideas over objects, and by that I mean data and information having importance and meaning over formal concerns.  (I wonder what Smithson would have thought about three-dimensional printed Spime objects?)  He suggests that there is no escape. 

Messy and stupid is who we are and clay personifies that exceptionally, as it has for a long time now.  As my ceramic practice is part of my make up, I suggest it is also part of humanities, it’s who we are as a species.  A material relationship created over numerous civilizations and a few thousand years will be hard to just right-click delete.  And yet, I feel a disingenuous life creeping up in our near future, hygienically so, possibly puritanical.  In denial of our upbringing, our species strives for further advancements in technologically supported purification.  As a maker, some one who identifies by the work of their hands, the duality between a genetically imbued tactile comprehension of the world and one that is more and more removed from touch, continues to confound.  That may just be the state of things these days, but unlike Smithson’s description between immaterial and the material  knowledge, the line that divided the two is becoming more and more blurred through a hyper-reality of what is consider possible today.

It is easy to take a reactionary stance to all this, consider the Sloppy Craft label that was being thrown around a few years back.  What reeks of humanity more than drippy lumpy fucked up-ness?  Probably all consuming discussions about identity.  If I had a completely malleable virtual avatar of myself who’s aspects I controlled most every day of my life online, so too would I have the same expectations IRL.   

The idea of a post-internet culture/ society, what have you, is refreshing to me.  The concept is in its infancy, possibly premature for the masses, but it gives me hope that we have not thrown everything, and by that I mean what we used to consider everything, down the drain just yet.  My hope is that a post-internet mind is aware that there may be limits to our understanding of the tangible word, not everything can be converted, that may still we need some stuff around.  We need things to make for the act of making.  That is why art makes the most sense to me, of all things to make.  Ikea makes fine dishes and I quite like them, as an artist with a ceramic based practice, I know I could make something equally functional, but why would I?  We just don’t live in that world anymore. 

That being said, the things that post-internet artists are making or are having made I find utterly lacking in interest.  The work feels blasé, like they did all their art history reading, research is automated, then shrugged and gave up; creating for irony over any other human impulse.   Regardless of the thing produced, regardless of the form that is presented, the concept is still the same, nullifying individuality completely.  I suppose that’s what the internet did, it has rendered all its users ubiquitous, copy and past, hash tagging, reproducers.  That sucks if that is where we lead humanity, I don’t want any part of that, and yet here I am dealing with it as I write this.  My hope is that all this is a fad, we accept that yes, we outsourced our passions, but the desire to make is still within us and it is necessary to do so, let us mature as a species.   

From a ceramicists point of view, I propose that this sticky situation of “to make or not to make”, can be better understood if we take the time to examine the material qualities of the substance itself.  A formal approach I admit, but I think that’s my point of this rage essay. To be clear, I am discussing the material qualities of clay and not ceramic.  As one comes before the other, as soft clay is being interpreted, we may be able to shed light on the continuing desire and impulse of haptic comprehension.  

Clay, moist malleable ground with the potential for permanence, is in its most potently creative state right out of the box, mixer, or pug mill.  At that point it urges use, it seduces us.  Suggesting forms already, the freshly mixed clay, pulls at our imagination and insists we do something new to it. Clay is responsive. We play with a poke, a jab, possibly a good punch, before we bag it up or slam it into a heavy plastic tub for keeping.  There it waits for further instruction, taunting us.  When it is time, we haul out a lump, ten or twenty pounds, divide that into smaller portions and wedge.  An exercise affirming connection between mind and hand, imagination stirring in potential.  Clay is easy.  A child can do it, and as the adage goes, so many of us try to remember that the more our practice grows.  

Clay is a mimic.  It can’t be pinned down.  I think it is wonderful that clay, once fired, still confounds professionals and the public alike.   That such an old medium, a mere geological substance, can continue to stir up speculation and controversy, says more about our humanity than anything else.  Clay successfully dodges labels with each unique incarnation of form it takes; in the twenty first century that is a rather amazing thing to be able to say.  Clay is political.  The subject doesn’t take sides, the people do, creating a tension that will only spur discussions between the convictions of future generations.  The debate will never die, it is not in clays material nature.  It is messy and stupid, and constantly in motion, just like we have always been and should never forget to be.  From that point of view, we can make anything and should.   

The Philosophers Stone, Virtual Light, Nothing Left to Resist

In his book, Earth and Reveries of Will, An Essay On the Imagination of Matter, Gaston Bachelard considers the physical world in a state of hard and soft.  “The dialectic of hard and soft governs every image with which we picture to ourselves the inner nature of things.   This dialectic animates every image through which we participate actively, ardently, in the interiority of matter.  Hard and soft are the primary qualifiers of the resistance of matter…”  I find that observation of the world utterly mind-blowing, so simple and also so exact.  As a ceramist, I am quite familiar with Bachelard’s notion of the world, and yet consider other possibilities. 

Leather-hard is term ceramists use to categorize clay in a firmness state between soft and hard. It is a material state with in the making process that has numerous possibilities. At first it is a difficult condition to understand, one has to gain a tactile sensitivity to drying clay and that is only learned through extensive making.  Often the first few attempts to execute an intended project end in disappointment due to not having gained the sublets of leather-hard clay.  There are varying degrees of leather-hard as well.  With each tick on the scale of firmness, water moisture escapes clay and thus losses plasticity.  What was once pliable, slowly renders to crumbles.  After some experience a ceramist becomes attuned to the varying leather-hard states of clay and realizes that each one is moment when something can be done to a work in process.  Leather-hard is a making moment, when decisions in form can be executed; they are charged moments.  Between clay’s soft and hard state is the moment of potential.   It is no longer held by its weight to the conditions of gravity as it is when soft, also, it is not yet to be handled lightly as it is fragile when in a completely dry and hard state.  Leather-hard is a third state of thinking about things. For me the leather-hard state is a moment of consideration, clay is at its most limitless in form.

Considering that material qualities inform thinking about the world, and using the concept of leather-hard as a theoretical jumping off point, I would say that the world now consists of other states of mind, between the physical and the virtual.  Over the past twenty years I have spent exceedingly more time on-line.  Just as the material conditions of the tangible world have informed my thinking, so too have the immaterial conditions of virtual space. 

I was born in the late 1970’s.  My understanding of things was formed pre-internet.  To know things was to touch stuff, to get messy.  I was introduced to clay at a very young age and working with it has created a foundation of my understanding of the world, a tactile material knowledge.  When I was an freshman in college in the mid 1990’s the internet was made available and thus began my engagement with virtual space.  I was talking to unknown entities from who-knows-where in chat rooms, they could have been anybody.  I was going to webpages and buying things with money, a very risky endeavor back then.  The words to describe the internet were co-opted from real material things and places; this was the beginning of my confusion with the internet, but also my growing interest.  Peers in the freshman dorms thought I was a geek for spending so much time on the shared computer, now it is probably quite the opposite. Generation X became a generation of crossovers, of transition, from clay to code. 

A few years ago during graduate school, 2009-2011, I started playing with some form building software called Google SketchUp, and it had a major impact on my notion of materials, objects and spaces.  What I once knew to be hard messy hand-work was now neither soft nor hard, just mind-bendingly confusing, it was a complete 180 degree turn around in thinking about what a world could be made from.  The more time I spent working with those particular digital materials, the more my thinking about things changed.  Things that I knew to be concrete, both physically as well as psychologically, were no longer rendered in my mind as being from purely physical origins.  Objects became, before my very eyes, simultaneously immaterial and obsolete.  One was replaced by the other and not in the soft to hard transitions I previously understood about objects through my use of clay, a material that changed based on conditions of time and climate.  The objects I was creating online were no longer held by these same circumstances, they had been created by a new set of criteria in a new world.  

I spend more time on a computer and in a virtual world now than I ever did growing up.  That world, ever expanding, ever growing technologically, has radically altered how I think about things.  I still work with clay, I still make ceramics.  In a way, I think clay is the perfect medium for understanding this shift in thinking from the material to the immaterial.  Clay’s amorphous qualities allow me to adapt to new forms; it allows me to regain a perspective of the object with each leather-hard interpretation.  Each poke, each bend in the clay, keeps my mind as adaptive and plastic as  the material is.  Its limitless possibilities have helped me to become pliable when it comes to considering things, and as quickly as the nature of things is changing, that quality is of utmost importance  to have today.  Ceramics continues to serve a purpose.  Its material qualities serve to help our psychological transition from the soft and hard to the limitless and immaterial.  Ceramics continues to help us think about change.

My experience with the internet is ubiquitous these days, we have all had to acknowledge its influence on our lives.  It is a major conversation in many circles of thought, including art.  What I don’t see, is many ceramists talking about it, and that concerns me.  They are not considering the internet-mind.  If at all, the internet appears to be only considered as a marketing tool for self promotion, which it excels at, but the way it does so has its effects.  My mind thinks differently because of the amount of time I spend online.  I have witnessed that change in my thinking.  Connections happen instantaneously with clicks. Places are no longer a condition of static objects casting shadows.  Space is an infinite tundra of flat code.  Forms hover ominously at eye level.  The sun never sets, never rises.  Life and death merge into one continuous loop, if they exist at all.  Producing in virtual space, with digital materials, eliminates a resistance to material.  I can’t leave a lasting mark, I can’t carve out a space.  Labor defines nothing.

All of this would suggest the need for new forms.  I don’t see ceramics doing this as much as I think it can.  Ceramics appears to have given itself a pass, made itself exempt from the meta-modern post-internet condition of life that the rest of the world it trying to figure out.  Ceramics continues to re-create rather than innovate.  (Three-dimensional printing is merely individualized industrialization, a mere appliance, another gadget to clean up after wards.)

But what would a ceramicist make if the notion of the object is in flux? If a whole generation of young people consider objects and images equal?  What to make then? What would be the best design to exemplify our current formal situation? This has been my existential quandary for the past few years since graduate school.  I love making with clay / nothing physical has any meaning anymore.  And yet, I wake up every morning in the sunlight.  I still have to watch for cracks in the cement when I’m walking outside on my way to work.  The physical world never went away, just the context of how I look at it has changed.  Everything is fantastic these days, nothing material is taken for granted, I see labor in every object. I see misuse or care, and a story in every thing I can pick up and hold.  Everything has become a sculpture in a way. The internet-mind is a mental condition, a context which places everything in a virtual light.  That is the condition that needs to be told.  I believe ceramics has that possibility and needs to add its wisdom and experience.  It needs to look forward.  I continue to need its help.    

Although, in the end I ask, what’s left? Ceramics can’t transcend its material state, its material qualities.  I am left with desires to make objects but wrestle with the permanence of that end product.  Making lives on as an innate human expression but objects appear to have become irrational or in the very least non-relevant, taking up space.  Ceramics and all things really, after considering the contemporary state of objects in todays post-internet world, appear to be nothing but takers-up of space, mere records of time obstructing my physical path.  Needless to say, and maybe this has been the case for many makers over many years, I struggle between the need to make with my hands and my logical mind, but will say that the post-internet context that continues to blur realities, exemplifies this struggle ten fold in very rational ways. Without the ability to work against matter, how do I know my place in the world?

Jason Lee Starin, 2015.