I have been thinking over which artist I wanted to add to my International Top 10 for a few days now. Then today I was included in a conversation that helped make up my mind. The discussion was about the intentional breaking of a work by Ai Weiwei , whom I featured in my last top 10 post, by another artist as an act of protest. This lead to an ethical conversation about some of Weiwei’s practices and for me into thinking about the destruction of ceramic as part of its life cycle. So then choosing Keith Harrison became a straight forward decision.
An English clay artists who works a great deal in performance, Harrison was banned from the ceramics studio in school and so was forced to think in unconventional ways. This has led to an incredible approach that is as much about electronics and sense experience as it is clay. Here is a 5 minute video with Harrison explaining his evolution and process for himself.
Honestly I had been aware of this artist for a while but had never really considered looking more deeply until c-file did a web article on one of his latest pieces titled Bustleholme. In this work, Harrison collaborates with the grindcore band Napalm Death in an attempt to destroy tile and speaker effigies of english apartment blocks through sound.
And here is the video:
Neither the music nor the esthetic of the brightly colored commercial tiles are at all what I would normally respond to, but in combination they create that magic third element that goes beyond what each might be on their own. The lack of destruction might be seen as a sort of failure but really that seems beside the point. The genius of the work is in the moments of its living, including the music crazed man tearing at it during the show. The work seems to invite that sort of act, being placed not in a gallery setting but in a metal concert, honestly its my favorite part of the video. And in fact Harrison himself seems to invite it in a previous performance titled Moon. This is a two-minute video and completely worth the watch.
For more information on this artist here is his page from his residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I personally love the intellectual rigor he brings to this fierce and strange work.