I prefer the informality and relaxed approach to Western tea drinking rituals probably because it is the culture that I know, but more importantly because it allows for the projections of meaning that I personally understand and value. As a proposal for the Interdisciplinary Art & Design third year's 'A4' exhibition, I was asked to write an explanation to outline the relevance of the piece that I was intending to submit:
The porcelain cups and string that I have made visualise the progression of my research into subverting objects in relation to their functionality with a particular focus on materials.
‘In general, we deal with things as resources to be used and then disposed of when no longer needed. A styrofoam cup is a perfect example. When we want a hot or cold drink it does its job, and when we are through with it we throw it away. How different this understanding of an object is from what we can suppose to be the Japanese understanding of a delicate, painted tea cup, which does not do as good a job of maintaining temperature and which has to be washed and protected, but which is preserved from generation to generation for its beauty and its social meaning. Or, at the other extreme, an old earthenware mug, admired for its simplicity and its ability to evoke memories of ancient crafts, such as is used in a Japanese tea ceremony. It is hard to picture a tea ceremony around a styrofoam cup.’
('Heidegger on the Connection between Nihilism, Art, Technology and Politics' by Hubert L. Dreyfus)
I have also been researching the receipt of beauty and perceptions of ‘good taste’ and value, contrasting the differentiation between Eastern and Western cultural differences of opinion. This is why the cups are cast from porcelain adding a perceived value to them that I was attempting to mirror in the value of communication, interaction and the social ritual of drinking tea. The connection between the teacup and the phone is also in reference to my friendship with the person who gave me the cup as a gift, and the phone represents our new method of communication now that distance dictates that we can’t have a chat over a brew etc. The phone also directly links back to my research into Japanese culture as an object that I have always desired, aged with use and time.
'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 tea soaked string between the two cups also represents the adaptation of communication rituals depending on circumstance, location and social/cultural class. With my other teacup models that I have made and am progresively making I am exploring the idea of subverting their functionality through the use of materials, paper in particular.
'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.'
Here lies the rout of my interest in the standardized A4 white paper of the Western world. Marcel Duchamp broke the standardized rules of art for the gallery space (or the white cube), and my piece comments on the impracticality of a strictly understood set of standardised meanings surrounding the teacup as an object. The line of communication within any culture cannot be confined to set dimensions without limitation. The cups and string with the string spanning the length of the area of a piece of A4 paper aims to describe this limitation as a result of standardisation.
(Images by Brad Hodgson)