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Nature Needs Its Vultures?

BROWNSWORD, Neil (2014) Nature Needs Its Vultures? In: Ceramics and Politics Symposium, 14 November 2014, Holbourne Museum, Great Pulteney St, Bath BA2 4DB. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or description

This symposium explored different approaches to contemporary ceramics practice, to accompany Paul Scott’s exhibition 'Confected, Borrowed and Blue', an Installation at the Holburne (1 November 2014 – 18 January 2015).

Brownsword was invited to present his on-going artistic mediation of Stoke- on -Trent, and how the recent effects of globalisation have impacted upon its heritage industries. Since the late 1990s Brownsword’s practice has explored socio-political narratives concerning the legacies of the cities industrial ruination upon community and place. It was structured partly as a reflective examination Brownsword's earlier practice and frames his work, 'National Treasure' that developed out of Topographies of the Obsolete, an artistic research project which has engaged a group of international artists to explore Stoke’s post-industrial landscape.

Other speakers included: Keynote speaker Dr Paul Scott, Professor Stephen Dixon, Weinachtsfrieden: Ceramics and Political Narrative; Dr Linda Sandino, Politics, Crockery and the V&A; Carol McNicoll, The Politics of Pots; Dr Neil Brownsword, Nature Needs its Vultures? The symposium was convened by Dr Jo Dahn and Prof Moira Vincentelli.

Nature Needs its Vultures?
Past policies of outsourcing labour to the Far East, corporate mismanagement and failure to accommodate rapid shifts in the global market place have resulted in the closure and demolition of key historic sites of ceramic production and high unemployment. To indicate the extent of this decline, in 1948 around 79,000 were employed in the North Staffordshire ceramics industry, today there remains just over 6000. The regions loss is not only consigned to economics but has cut deep into the long-established social bonds of an industrial community. Those who once held esteemed positions in the ceramics industry are left feeling useless, as they are unable to ply their unique inter-generational skilled practices to other kinds of work. A fractured connection between past, present and future now exists, where a sense of belonging, identity and pride has been gradually eroded.

For over a decade Neil Brownsword’s artistic practice has remained a potent form of recording this human transience and historical change within the region. His exploration of post-industrial landscape as a raw material has renegotiated North Staffordshire’s associated socio-economic histories and production infrastructure through a variety of perspectives and practices. Remnants and traces of human labour embedded within ceramic archaeology and factory discard are frequently referenced and appropriated, to raise awareness of the rapid decline of a traditional industry and its patrimony of skills. Brownsword’s re-activation of redundant factory sites through international artistic research projects have recently been important contributions to the cultural regeneration of the city. This presentation will discuss the ethical implications of working with such ‘loaded’ non-art sites and elucidate Brownsword’s ongoing investigation of place, and the displacement of its heritage industry.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Additional Information: National Treasure (artefact) introduced new critical insights into aspects of skill displacement following the aftermath of decades of deindustrialisation in North Staffordshire’s ceramic sector. It examines shifts in production from the ‘shop floor’ to the factory tourism model, through an innovative combination of live performance, installation, social practice, film and artefact that ‘bring the traditions of the [ceramics] field into a new category of experience’. Brownsword’s parody of this ‘artisan on display’ format, critiques how the parade of ‘indigenous’ artisanal craft from the visitor centre experience, obscures the realities of profit first strategies of mass-automation and global outsourcing. Ex-industry China painters were employed by Brownsword to follow the genre of the romantic ruin commonly depicted in 18th century British ceramics. Painting on the backs of discarded platters found at former historic sites of production, with images that documented Stoke-on-Trent’s post-industrial fallout offered a new perspective to social realism within ceramic practice. By incorporating the dynamics of hired labour, National Treasure offered an innovative method to elevate and disseminate the endangered practices of a rapidly disappearing culture of labour. The work also explored the ethical implications of appropriating people and their skill as a raw material – a subject relatively absent in contemporary ceramic practice.
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Art and Design
Event Title: Ceramics and Politics Symposium
Event Location: Holbourne Museum, Great Pulteney St, Bath BA2 4DB
Event Dates: 14 November 2014
Depositing User: Neil BROWNSWORD
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2019 13:51
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:56

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