Credits: Joanna Still (ceramics, photography), Hazel Smith (text, video creation), Roger Dean (sound)
Clay Conversations arose out of collaborative conversations I had with British ceramicist Joanna Still. After several meetings and exchanges, Joanna created some ceramics which evoked various forms of communication, for example a clay book, a calendar, and an abacus, but which also had an abstracted connection with the objects to which they refer. I wrote several short poems in response to Joanna's ceramics, conversations we had, and textual material she sent me (such as a newspaper cutting about Haitians eating clay plates because they could not afford food). My poetry also drew on experiences I had independently, which seemed to connect with the project, such as a visit I made to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
I then started to experiment with the video program Final Cut Pro, and with a variety of techniques and processes such as split screens, superimposition and merging of images, and a range of filters for image transformation. Besides the images of the ceramics, I worked with photographs and emails resulting from Joanna's travels in Zambia and Ethiopia, where she was sponsored by Voluntary Service Overseas to conduct workshops with local communities. These were very inspiring and suggestive, and seemed to fit well with my own increasing interest in a cosmopolitan poetics that moves between different cultures in the same work. I adapted some of the poems I had written for the video, often fragmenting and reorganising them in new ways to optimise integration with the visual images, and to exploit the possibilities of the split screen dynamic.
To accompany the video (presented here as a Quicktime video), Roger provided a recorded soundscape: it reflects both the violence and care with which clay and ceramics are treated. With one short exception, all the sounds here are found sounds directly involving clay and pots. Several are recordings of Joanna at work, others are of stone/pot interactions recorded by Roger, while a significant selection of the sounds are taken from the freesound online sonic database maintained in Barcelona. Notable amongst these recordings is a five-minute recording of clay gradually distributing itself as it hydrates in a body of water, made with an underwater microphone by KG Jones. We would also like to acknowledge, in keeping with the Creative Commons license that applies, the use of material from Benboncan, Heigh, homejrande, NoiseCollector, Robinhood and volivieri.
Clay Conversations, which runs for just over 10 minutes, was first presented at a performance by austraLYSIS at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in December 2009 and has been subsequently screened in the UK. It was previously published in Scan Gallery,2010. «http://www.scan.net.au/scan/gallery/gallery.html».