J Kay Aplin – Architectural Ceramics
Snowflake Films have just completed a beautiful new film of Christin Johansson’s performance created especially for The Ceramic House: Ceremony of Her Porcelain Spirit.
On the 1st May 2014, the opening night of Fantastic Tales: Danish Contemporary Ceramics, Christin Johansson performed this new piece of work.
An intimate performance, designed for one person at a time. The participants donned white clothing and removed their shoes before entering an all-white environment. Here is a sense of what I experienced:
The curtains part and you enter a billowing white tent. The floor is earth, swept meticulously clean, and there is an arrangement of white objects carefully laid out on a white cloth. The purpose for each item becomes apparent during the performance. An egg timer is turned over, and then, for 15 minutes, the Spirit of the Porcelain embraces, invades every pore, lays her calming hand upon you and makes you still. There is gentle meditative music in the background, and you are entranced by the woman in front of you. Every movement she makes, every gesture, is methodical, ritual, symbolic, has a purpose. No words are spoken, yet with an incline of the head, a minute gesture of the hand, she tells you what to do. She takes a parcel of white fabric and opens it up, layer after layer, to reveal a porcelain egg. This she crushes, revealing a piece of paper which she offers to you. You read words of wisdom, and it is burnt, leaving the ashes. These are added to the porcelain powder, which is then transformed back into plastic clay over the course of the performance. She comes to you and performs various actions; she takes your hand, rolls a huge ball around the palm, smoothing it, before sprinkling it with porcelain powder and marking you with liquid clay. You feel the sensation of clay in all its stages: powder, liquid, plastic, hard. She pours you a white drink from a small white stove; it tastes of cardamom. The porcelain egg, crushed to dust, has become solid enough to work with. She offers you a ball of clay – your clay, and gestures for you to pinch it into a pot. This pot is placed in the bank of earth at the side of the space. She fills it with oil, and lights a wick. The egg timer runs out, she bows to you and you rise, feeling cleansed, calm, touched by her presence. You leave, silently. You feel blessed to have experienced this.
“Christin Johanson is one of the most radical young artists within Scandinavian contemporary ceramics. Moving between space design, performance, ritual and creation of ceramic objects, her artistic practice is truly groundbreaking.
Clay as bodily experience, as transpersonal mediator, as a bridge between layers of consciousness, time and space is the new territory that she is defining, leaving the spectator with a sense of having touched a new space within. Her practice is relational and embodied. She works with the senses, intuition and direct experience by creating settings where the rational mind has to let go, expanding into an unknown reality. Yet very far for a conventional ceramic practice, Christin Johansson is true to the very essence of clay as material. Clay is raw from the earth, intensely physical and thus offering an important aspect to contemporary life, which is often deprived of direct, physical experience and contact.