A case study of the interdisciplinary art project ‘Blue Collar - White Collar’
By Arild Berg
OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University
Full text: Online Talk for the Korean International Ceramic Bienniale 2019
Link to online talk: Online Talk: Artistic research of dogme film in ceramic art - A case study of the interdisciplinary art project ‘Blue Collar - White Collar:
The Korean International Ceramic Biennale has invited to an artistic scene that will lead the future of ceramic art with various networks connected. The 'convergence' through 'connection' will be expanded gradually even after the biennale, creating a paradigm for continuous exchanges.
The theme of the conference is very relevant because there is a need to see the art of ceramics in new contexts in a changing world.
We contribute to this with the project Blue Collar - White Collar
The 4th industrial revolution has been called “the rise of the robots”. There is a great robotization of work, in health care, office work and in other areas. The “old” professions disappear; industrial workers (blue collar) and office workers (white collar) is on their way out.
This has been interpreted on one side like a terrifying development while others have seen it as a new industrial revolution. The Davos meeting discussed two different directions where one predicts a development leading to mass unemployment and the other direction sees a potential for increased employment based on that people increasingly need to be more in touch with each other in life’s everyday situations. The community is approaching robotics but one also sees the tendencies for crafts’ reappearance. New values and new business models may occur in the consumer society in a robotized community. We wish to question this development through artistic reflections on the theme with art works, text and film, showing perspectives from craft and handicraft-based processes. A conceptual framework for one of the projects was to make ceramics in blue and white as a reflection on the theme. Such an approach shows lines back from the 4th Industrial Revolution to the 1st Industrial Revolution.
New ways of working with ceramics emerge all the time, and a relevant question is therefore: what does it mean to be a ceramic artist? What do ceramic artists do? What kind of knowledge is needed in future work life? There is of specific interest to go beyond the established traditions and to look for new interdisciplinary use of ceramics, because the skill of making ceramics has shown to be very flexible in history with use spanning from kitchenware, via spaceship surface to contemporary art installations. This study is a contribution to identify what kind of knowledge that is happening in an interdisciplinary project of film making and ceramic practice.
My name is Arild Berg, I have a master’s degree in ceramic art and a Doctor of Arts degree in contemporary art. I work at Oslo Metropolitan University, which is the third largest university in Norway, with a student body of approximately 20 000 students and 2 000 employees. The university specializes in professional training in fields such as nursing, technology, art and design, physiotherapy, engineering and teaching and is a recognized environment for professionally oriented and vocationally relevant research and development.
A specific focus is chosen by a research question. In this study it is:
How can new knowledge be identified from an interdisciplinary approach of dogme film in ceramic art?
Guiding propositions in the case study, inspired by Varto (2009), Krauss (1979) and Taussig (2009):
Beside working with artistic research at the University I am also a member of the art group AvArt, who consist of four ceramic artists sharing a studio in Oslo. In the project Blue Collar White Collar we have a collaboration with a film maker Mona Hoel.
The Dogme film concept started as a protest against the Danish funding system, focusing too much on commercial films. By inventing ten rules the concept secured that more contemporary stories came to life, on decent budgets. This protest is strongly related to the questions explored in the ceramic art exhibition "Blue Collar - White Collar"about the role of craft in the ongoing robotization and rationalization of our society.
Documentary filmmaker Mona Hoel developed a short film about the project Blue Collar - White Collar that has been a part of several exhibitions: the title is ‘Rhythm of the hands’. The project has obtained funding from the Norwegian Arts and Crafts Association and from Arts Council Norway. Site-specific exhibition of the project has been executed at several galleries and art events, such as at Gallery Naas Crafts in Gothenburg, Sweden, in summer 2017, at Buskerud Art Centre and at the National exhibition of Crafts in Norway in 2018. We have made installations and tableaux with elements of blue and white where art objects in different ways has explored space, three-dimensionality and activation of the viewer. The documentary film "Rhythm of the hands", illustrates how the slow process of creativity in the ceramic art is applied to the courage of storytelling as a whole.
Mona Hoel is a recognized film maker and has been travelling world wide with her dogme concept of making documentary films. She is well known for introducing the concept of dogme film in Norway. Between her international journeys, sitting in her home, she heard voices and sounds from activities in the basement below her flat, and got curious. This way she revealed the ceramic studio AvArt and she started to make a documentary film about the ceramic processes of creativity happening below her own living room. The film shows short presentations of the four crafts people and how their work find various expressions in society, through exhibitions, dissemination, public art, workshops, teaching at an activity center… through both ceramics, jewelry, glass blowing, and collaborations with other artists. The film maker capture the time that passes, the seasons changing, work drama and joy outburst, hand in hand with the artistic process. The film has a visual emphasis on hands' skills and rhythm in unison with the individuals’ artistic signature and workflow. This is seen in contrast to the robotization of a society, where craft become an important counterforce.
She documented the way we worked in practice. She asked questions about our feelings and thoughts during the creative process of making. During this meetings in the workshop we reflected about both the need for art, our personal stories of becoming artists, and how we connected the art to our lifes in different ways, both in childhood and in everyday life now.
The documentation process made us reflect upon our backgrounds, the reasons why we work with materials as an artistic expression and how our approach might differ from other generations.
Armed with a GoPro camera we were encouraged to record worries and happy experiences also outside the ceramic studio, to demonstrate how we connected our artistic practice to our everyday life. Here is Elise reflecting on how her work with colour connect to shades of blue in nature. Some of the results of the projects are shown here, with comments from the art critic Ulf Boelsdotter.
Elise Kielland's work process, based on the shades of blue and white in color between the sky and land on the horizon, has resulted in a soft pastel-toned palette. These tones have since been given free play in designs inspired by older medallion tradition, during a long production period in stock in stock. Although no plate is similar to the other, with great fingertip feel they have been paired two and two in molded table positions ... (Boelsdotter, 2017).
Arild Berg's nonpictorial surfaces are visually the opposite of Kiellands and seem to have gained their intensity and movement as a result of a fast and spontaneous work process. His choice of almost deep shades of blue and broken white gives the tiles an intense, on the verge of three-dimensional expression, which is in stark contrast to their clear geometric shape, in a way that I find very appealing (Boelsdotter, 2017).
Swang's bold combination of denim fabrics combined with porcelain clay is exciting and innovative. She has worked with simple, both cylindrical and wave-shaped vessel walls that have been crocheted in one or two different jeans fabrics. The combination is as unexpected, in a sense a free choice, and is also varied across ten different works. Clearly, Swang's imagination sits in the front seat, even though the technical execution is of the highest class (Boelsdotter, 2017).
In my opinion, Linda Jansson Lothes (born in Gothenburg, Sweden) work is characterized by the same experimental desire and creative flow… Jansson Lothes desire for color and ‘extra everything’ has got to take a step back in "Blue Collar - White Collar". Instead, she now shows a number of bowls and wall pieces… almost minutely disciplined and - at least in my eyes - slightly cuddly… I am deeply fascinated by the bowls of women at the bottom because at first glance they appear as some kind of decorative mermaids, before they transform to feeling worrying instead. After seeing pictures of several works by Jansson Lothe, I find that precisely the need and ability to tell and dramatize goes as an exciting red thread through her work (Boelsdotter, 2017).
Art critic Gjertrud Steinsvag about Blue Collar White Collar, at the annual craft exhibition in Norway 2018:She writes that in spite of many fine contributions, there are two work that causes herto get the pulse a bit above the normal pulse: one of them is the project Blue Collar - White Collar:
The four ceramic artists work with a common interest in the correlation between the 'return' of the craft and the fact that a robotized workforce makes manually work outdated. The artists work directly with the traditional blue and white ceramics to draw parallels between today's discussion and the first industrial revolution, where Arts & Crafts movement formed a counter force for industrialization.Filmmaker Hoel has been following Berg, Jansson Lothe, Swangand Kielland for more than a year and has made a great short film, where we get insight into thoughts and reflections about making, immediately as we can see just that - to make. I find that AvArt's mini exhibit room installation has a form of thematic superstructure and dissemination that could be a very interesting starting point for all in the annual exhibition of crafts.
How can new knowledge be identified from an interdisciplinary approach of dogme film in ceramic art?
Guiding propositions in the case study (Yin, 2009), was inspired by Varto (2009), Krauss (1979) and Taussig (2009): The art philosopher Juha Varto thinks that you can learn new things from unique art experiences. Krauss has inspired many artists with her groundbreaking essay about how sculpture can happen in an expanded field. Finally the social anthropologist Taussig has criticized the neutral or objective approach in ethnography, and thinks that it would be interesting to take up some of the more subjective, performative approaches done by some of the first anthropologists. This way cultures can be explored in new ways. The propositions therefore were:
This theoretical framework is a development of my doctoral thesis from 2014: Artistic research in public space ? participation in material based art (Berg, 2014a, Berg, 2014b). This was a study about how participatory, creative processes can happen in various locations, such as in a religious context of a church, in a school and in a geriatric ward for mental health in a hospital.
Varto claims that in artistic research it is valuable to analyse the project from a more theoretical side, and from a more philosophical side. He promotes these perspectives to be reflected upon:
Final reflections on perspectives on the interdisciplinary art project:
Emerging issues from the case study has been reflected in educational perspectives. It could also be relevant to see some of these issues would be relevant in work life, or in business models, but in this presentation the focus is on education. The emerging issues has been transformed to be relevant to learning outcomes in the second cycle of EHEA/Bologna, such as in a masters degree. Such a student with expertise in dogme film in ceramic art practice have documented ability to show how there is a need for art in society, and to reflect on how understanding the world can be obtained through unique experiences of the aesthetics in material based art. Further the student should be able to reflect on what it is being human, in the span from making objects for practical use to making objects for reflection. A meta reflection in artistic practice can be done by exploring identity in the digitized society through the tactile experience of craft. A skill would be to document of how to feel connected to the physical world through ceramic practice. One of the central points would be that the process is an important part of the goal ? not only the object, and that experiencing the dialectic process of making the physical object and the film can be a central part of the artistic work. Furthermore a student would be able to explain how Art can be integrated in everyday experiences and in various jobs. The student would show that through the film media you can understand the physical artwork better, and through the physical artwork you understand the film better.
A final reflection to the project as a whole is that there has become a mutual, complementary understanding in the meeting point of dogme film and ceramic art practice. However there are still many more case studies to explore in the interdisciplinary field of ceramics and other subjects. This bit contributes to identify some of the new knowledge that can be even more relevant in the future.
Berg, A. (2014a). Artistic research in public space: participation in material-based art (Vol. 33/2014). Helsinki: Aalto University. Retrieved from https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi/handle/123456789/13788
Berg, A. (2014b). Tactile Resonance in Art. Ruukku: Studies in Artistic Research, 2(2). Retrieved from http://ruukku-journal.fi/en/issues/2
Berg, A. (2018). Participation in hybrid sketching. FormAkademisk - Research Journal of Design and Design Education, 11(3). https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.2676
? Boelsdottir, U. (2017), Blatt och vitt hantverk med olika bottnar [Blue and white crafts with different foundations], Art critic in Goteborgsposten. Retrieved from https://www.gp.se/kultur/bl%C3%A5tt-och-vitt-hantverk-med-olika-bottnar-1.4416198
Kennedy, D., Hyland, A., & Ryan, N. (2007). Writing and using learning outcomes: a practical guide. [Cork]: [University College Cork].
Krauss, R. (2006). Sculpture in the expanded field. Spaces of visual culture.
Steinsvag, G. (2018). Mangfoldsdillemmaet [The Dilemma of Diversity]. Kunsthandverk [Craft], 38(4). Retrieved from http://www.kunsthandverk.no/anmeldelser/2018/10/11/mangfoldsdilemmaet
Taussig, M. (2009). What color is the sacred? Chicago, [Ill.]: University of Chicago Press.
Varto, J. (2009). Basics of Artistic Research. Ontological, epistemological and historical justifications (E. Lehtinen & L. Manki, Trans.). Helsinki: University of Art and Design Helsinki.
in, R. K. (2009). Case study research : design and methods. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
Here is the team AvArt in the project Blue Collar ? White Collar together: from the left: Mona Hoel, Mimi Swang, Linda Lothe, Elise Kielland and Arild Berg.
The project has been invited to new art exhibitions in 2020 and in 2021. You can also have a closer look at each participants contributions at the great web site of the Korean International Ceramic Bienniale 2019.
Thank you for listening to the presentation, and please contact for more information if you would like some. You listened to Arild Berg, Doctor of Arts, at OsloMet, Oslo metropolitan University. The recordings were made 28th of July 2019.