Bruce McLean Jug [finished]

Bruce’s demo jug was glazed and displayed for the Open Day at Sion Hill, last Saturday:




I love the looseness of it…

[Thanks to Rich Winfield for the glazing]


George Letsas on Brexit

…It is disappointing that the Supreme Court reverted to the archaic notion of parliamentary sovereignty in the Miller judgment…

…But the real constitutional issue is not who gets to cancel the individual rights flowing from EU membership (Parliament or the executive), but whether these rights can be extinguished overnight. The Supreme Court judgment assumes that Parliament can do away with all such rights, make or unmake any law. But no political decision, not even a referendum, can do away with rule of law principles, such as protecting legitimate expectations and respecting the right to family and private life. Consider the case of the EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK and Britons who have made their lives elsewhere in the EU. Deporting someone on the basis of their nationality, when they have lawfully made their life in a country on the explicit understanding that they were entitled to permanent residence, would strike at the heart of the rule of law. Taking such rights away with no justification other than the outcome of a plebiscite may have a place in fascist and authoritarian regimes, but not in a constitutional democracy. Nobody may lawfully expel an EU citizen who has made their life in Britain, not even Parliament…

…Arguments based on ‘what the people want’ are not only irrelevant in a democracy, but also ontologically spurious. Nothing can be revealed about what the people want in a process that serves a different function, that of constructing the vision of justice that should govern our polity. Winning a vote doesn’t mean no more argument is needed. Citizens are best viewed as participants, together with the three branches of government, in a complex process aimed at selecting, specifying and implementing particular conceptions of justice. As Ronald Dworkin observed, the ultimate basis of legitimacy is the substance of the principles of justice that underpin our laws, and over which no institutional actor, not even the electorate, has absolute control…

… Arguments based on the line that this is ‘what the people voted for’ are politically suspect. The political strategy of invoking the will of the people as a way of avoiding having to justify a decision, both before and after elections, captures the essence of the term populism. Populism should not be understood as an appeal to the emotions of the electorate and to rhetoric capable of mobilising large numbers of voters. Rather, it is the deliberate attempt to bypass the normal channels of representative democracy, and the institutional checks and balances it imposes, by invoking as the sole justification for political action the nebulous concept of what the majority of the people want, or what they voted for in the most recent election…

London Review of Books Vol. 39 No. 6 / 16 March 2017

Full article here: ‘Brexit and the Constitution’

Sally O’Reilly at BSAD



The wonderful Ms O’Reilly will be with us on the Tuesday 28th March:

Workshop: ‘Doing Writing’

Short, sharp shocks of translation, perturbation and manipulation will be performed through a series of exercises involving text, voice, objects and images. By contingent means we will examine fundamental aspects of writing, including rhetoric, genre, recontextualisation and interconnectivity. Please bring pen/pencil and paper, laptop or your writing equipment of choice.

Artist’s Talk: ‘Gripping Stuff’

Sally O’Reilly writes for performance, page and video, interleaving academic research and technical knowledges with the comic, the fantastical and the psycho-social. In ‘Gripping Stuff’ she will introduce some of her recent projects – including a performance in an open-air swimming pool, an opera about the potency of objects, a shoe that gossips about artworks and a satirical novel about oil, sensualism and academia – and discuss the importance, or otherwise, of ambiguity, social forms and discourse theories to the political traction of contemporary art.


Sally O’Reilly has contributed to several international art magazines and numerous exhibition catalogues; she has written the novel Crude (Eros Press, 2016), the libretto for the opera The Virtues of Things (Royal Opera, Aldeburgh Music, Opera North, 2015), a monograph on Mark Wallinger (Tate Publishing, 2015) and The Body in Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson, 2009).

She was writer in residence at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (2010–11) and at Modern Art Oxford (2016); producer and co-writer of The Last of the Red Wine, a radio sitcom set in the art world (ICA, London, 2011), and co-editor of Implicasphere (2003–8), an interdisciplinary broadsheet.

Process [David Byrne & Paul Noble]

People tend to think that creative work is an expression of a pre-existing desire or passion, a feeling made manifest, and in a way it is. As if an overwhelming anger, love, pain or longing fills the artist or composer, as it might with any of us – the difference being that the creative artist then has no choice but to express those feelings through his or her given creative medium. I proposed that more often the work is a kind of tool that discovers and brings to light that emotional muck. Singers (and possibly listeners of music too) when they write or perform a song don’t so much bring to the work already formed emotions, ideas and feelings as much as they use the act of singing as a device that reproduces and dredges them up. The song remakes the emotion – the emotion doesn’t produce the song. Well, the emotion has to have been there at some point in one’s life for there to be something from which to draw. But it seems to me that a creative device – if a work can be considered a device – evokes that passion, melancholy, loneliness or euphoria but is not itself an expression, an example, a fruit of that passion. Creative work is more accurately a machine that digs down and finds stuff, emotional stuff that will someday be raw material that can be used to produce more stuff, stuff like itself – clay to be available for future use.

David Byrne [reflecting on a conversation with Alice Rawsthorn, former director of the Design Museum] Bicycle Diaries, p.192

Reminds me of a talk for the RCA Painting course by Paul Noble. I’m always interested in the way artists approach, or talk about, skill. It’s surprising how defensive even very successful artists can get when you draw attention to technique (Patrick Keiller was another). I asked Noble about it and he duly said that technique was unimportant. I can’t agree – surely his drawing relies on a sophisticated technique that will have taken years to hone, whether or not it was seen as an important element of the work’s content? He also said something like, “you don’t want to be reinventing yourself every day when you get to the studio”, which I like, even if it doesn’t fit with the disavowal of skill. Love his work too – some great ceramics in the 2007 Gagosian show, Dot to Dot:


Krug | Cruche | Jarra | Jug (1 litre)

Meanwhile, back in the studio…

I will be delivering new work today, for this:

Layout 1

The work is a play on the volume of a jug, made at Prinknash Abbey, Gloucestershire. My friend, Kevin de Choisy, thinks it a very poor example of the form, but I quite like it. Anyway, it’s what’s inside that counts…

One Litre Jug_Prinknash Pottery_web


Krug | Cruche | Jarra | Jug (1 litre)

But if the holding is done by the jug’s void, then the potter who forms sides and bottom on his wheel does not, strictly speaking, make the jug. He only shapes the clay. No — he shapes the void… From start to finish the potter takes hold of the impalpable void and brings it forth as the container in the shape of a containing vessel. The jug’s void determines all the handling in the process of making the vessel. The vessel’s thingness does not lie at all in the material of which it consists, but in the void that holds.

And yet, is the jug really empty?

Martin Heidegger The Thing (1971)

When, in the appearance of the handle, one of its two functions is completely neglected in favour of the other, the impression made strikes a discordant note. This often occurs, for example, when the handles form merely a kind of relief ornament, being fully attached to the body of the vase, leaving no space between vase and handle. Here, the form rules out the purpose of the handle (that with it the vase may be grasped and handled), evoking a painful feeling of ineptness and confinement, similar to that produced by a man who has his arms bound to his body.

Georg Simmel The Handle (1911)

Wilson has developed a way of working that incorporates research, making, drawing, documenting, writing and existing objects – often included through ‘guided chance’. The exhibited works are selected by-products of an ongoing ‘game of Jug’, instigated by Heidegger’s essay and the subsequent ebay purchase of a jug made at Prinknash Abbey, the home of concrete poet, Dom Sylvester Houédard (‘nada nada’ from ceolfrith 15). Working out the limits of the game is a form of speculation on the reality of a jug.

Poseidon_Full Void_Nada_webJug+Hand_Front_Tip [Converted]JUG_6



George Saunders on writing

We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he “wanted to express”, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.

The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the ass to discuss truthfully…

An artist works outside the realm of strict logic. Simply knowing one’s intention and then executing it does not make good art. Artists know this. According to Donald Barthelme: “The writer is that person who, embarking upon her task, does not know what to do.” Gerald Stern put it this way: “If you start out to write a poem about two dogs fucking, and you write a poem about two dogs fucking – then you wrote a poem about two dogs fucking.” Einstein, always the smarty-pants, outdid them both: “No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.”

Full article here.