A brief reflection on practice


Funda Susamoglu, Decamp (2012)


How do we develop an approach to production that has a strong rationale, rather than producing high-quality, discrete objects?

What does it mean to focus on the quality of your process, rather than the quality of finished pieces?

What does it mean to you to take risks in your practice?

How can you be playful in your practice?

In Play Anything: The pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom & the secret of games, Ian Bogost proposes play as an approach to dealing with a particular set of limits, otherwise known as a ‘playground’. The true creative act, Bogost suggests, is the identification of this playground, i.e. discovering what the rules of the game are.

Play invites us to draw an overdue conclusion: that the potential meaning and value of things – anything: relationships, the natural world, packaged goods – is in them rather than in us. Play is not a kind of self-expression, nor a pursuit of freedom. It is a kind of creation, a kind of craftsmanship, even. By adopting, inventing, constructing, and reconfiguring the material and conceptual limits around us, we can fashion novelty from anything at all. Although they refer to poeisis – the making that grounds poetry – instead of play, the philosophers Bert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly come to a similar conclusion about finding meaning in a secular age: ‘The task of the craftsman is not to generatethe meaning, but rather to cultivate in himself the skill for discerning the meanings that are already there.’  (p. 223)

Bogost notes that the philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead invented the neologism, ‘creativity’ in 1926, conceiving it as the process through which novelty arises.

As Whitehead himself puts it, “creativity is always found under conditions.” Those conditions are much broader and deeper than human existence alone. Just as play names the conditions under which something can be manipulated, creativity names the conditions under which novelty can take place. Creativity always involves context, and not only the context of abstractions, like interior design and background music and wealth and comfort. Whitehead is doing metaphysics, remember, not self-help or aesthetic theory or business consulting. Creativity is not a part of human experience, he urges, but a fundamental feature of existence. The fallacy of creativity, we might call it: mistaking our human exertion as the central factor in acts of creativity, rather than a peripheral one. (pp. 149-150)

This reminds me of Schopenhauer on genius:

….genius is the power of leaving one’s own interests, wishes, and aims entirely out of sight, thus of entirely renouncing one’s own personality for a time, so as to remain pure knowing subject, clear vision of the world…

Which, in turn, reminds me of a short text I wrote for an exhibition catalogue:

Interpretation so often engenders the habit of judgment. Let’s say that, rather than judgment, our aim is to facilitate meaningful interaction with both human and ‘more-than-human’ objects, to become an object among objects.

Don’t worry about the ‘meaning’ of the work, but focus on how your senses place you at the centre of a composite, ‘display’ object, consisting of space, light, sound, smell, text, displayed objects and, of course, bodies. How can I use my ears, my eyes, my nose, my skin, my voice? How can I contact a strange stranger and how might a stranger contact me? Imagine that you are a beam of light, playing on the surface of the art object; a sound wave bouncing off it; a fly about to land…

Imagine yourself to be a Benjaminian critic. Enter into the work and activate its subjectivity rather than making it an instrument of your own subjectivity.

(Funda Susamoglu was an exhibitor)


Ian Bogost (2016) Play Anything: The pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom & the secret of games, New York: Basic Books

Arthur Schopenhauer (1818) The World as Will and Representation.

Conor Wilson (2015) ‘the significance of sensory states and objects’ in The Sensorial Object, curated by Dr. Natasha Mayo and Zoe Preece,Makers Guild of Wales, Cardiff.

Author: bsadceramics

Course leader, MA Ceramics Bath School of Art & Design

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