Monday, 6 December 2010

'Beautiful objects do not serve ordinary human purposes, as plates and spoons do.'

'Paper, I understand, was invented by the Chinese; but Western paper is to us no more than something to be used, while the texture of Chinese and Japanese paper gives us a certain feeling of warmth, of calm and repose.  Even the same white could as well be one colour for Western paper and another for our own.  Western paper turns away light, while our paper seems to take it in, to envelope it gently, like the soft surface of a first snowfall.  It gives off no sound when it is crumpled or folded, it is quiet and pleasant to the touch as the leaf of a tree.'
(Jun'ichiro Tanizaki)

In contemplating the potential of subverting the meaning of objects by removing its functionality, I had thought of paper as a contrasting material to ceramics.  The idea of replicating the same tea cup that I have over analysed and explored, with a material that alters it completely somehow seems like the next logical step.  A paper tea cup is non functional or at least (if tea were poured into it) capable of only single use as a different type of container or vessel.  I'm not sure if all of my research into the individuals projection of meaning onto the object has been about the explorations of the projections themselves, or perhaps routed in the basic idea of the unique relationships that the individual has with the same one object.  In other words without any alteration of form, the object carries a number of identities.  In this sense the object becomes almost human without consciousness.  I am interested in the expression of this unique, multiple identity using colour perhaps taken from the unique brew of every cup of tea.  In a paper cup the tea could be absorbed and captured, or the tea itself bottled and catalogued like a series of fingerprints.

Pantone Colour Chart Mugs Series (The shades of tea and coffee)

As an artist/maker I feel that a more informed perspective of consumption is available to me.  The act of making paper by hand adds a value and quality to an end product which I think carries the authentic qualities of Japanese paper described by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki.

'While we do sometimes indeed use silver for teakettles, decanters, or sake cups, we prefer not to polish it.  On the contrary we begin to enjoy it only when the luster has worn off, when it has begun to take on a dark, smokey patina.  Almost every householder has had to scold an insensitive maid who has polished away the tarnish so patiently waited for.'

As well as identity of the object, my focus of exploration has become routed in ideas of communication, interaction and social ritual.  The particular tea cup that I have used in my short film and experimentation carries a narrative: given to me as a gift from a friend who I have shared many tea drinking moments with.  The distance between me and my friend has now limited our methods of communication, talking over the phone rather than over a pot of tea drank from ridiculously large mugs.  Thinking about the desirability of such objects as colourful mugs and the technological advances of new models of telephone.  I thought of my friend and her particularly old fashioned telephone in contrast to the tea cup she had chosen for me.  The tea cup and telephone define our relationship and the effects of time, distance and circumstances upon our communication.  To further explore these connections between the two objects i have borrowed my friends telephone.

I always desired the telephone as much as I love the old farm house where she lives.  As much history and nostalgia is attached to the object as is attached to the house.  The phone has always reminded me of my grandparents and the objects around their house when I was growing up.  There was always a ceramic, old fashioned style telephone money box filled with pound coins that my Grandad would give us as pocket money.  Furthermore when my mum was a child her grandparents were the only people on our estate who had a telephone, and neighbours would put money in the money box to use the phone.  When my friend lent me her telephone she apologised that she hadn't had time to clean it but i was glad.  As Jun'ichiri Tanizaki wrote: 'We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a "sheen of antiquity" of which we hear so much is in fact the glow of grime.  In both Chinese and Japanese the words denoting this glow describe a polish that comes of being touched over and over again, a sheen produced by the oils that naturally permeate an object over long years of handling-which is to say grime.'

The tarnished surface of the phone is a record of the generations of communication, and the yellowy discolouration and intense tobacco smell describe its position and functionality as a part of the identity of the house.

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