The Seen and The Unseen

As I have been looking at discarded objects in my own practise, I wanted to consider how we value objects. A recent exhibition at the Tate Modern Exchange made me question if we only associate value with objects when we know how they’ve been made? Artist Clare Twomey made the Tate Exchange into a factory for a period of a week, were member of the public could come and complete shifts, being a part in the process of making a clay tea pot, jug or flower.

Images of Tate Exchange taken by Ruth Linnell

“The factory I have built for Tate Exchange is not a real factory, it is not a real place of work, it is a place of simulation with the intent to draw us into a conversation about how we connect to our everyday ideas of labour, value and exchange.”- Towemy

During the second week of the exhibition (which was when I saw the work), this production line became a place for people to think about raw materials and the different systems of value we apply to material culture. The idea was that you leave your thoughts – written on a card – in place of a ceramic object made in the factory the previous week.

When collecting my own teapot, I started to read other peoples thoughts on value and material culture by recording their responses to the question cards. I became fascinated with the rejected pottery which had its own shelving unit, clearly not meant to be looked at by the public. I started to find these objects held more of a story and in my eyes have more value as they were each unique. all the items we had seen produced on the factory floor had been made with casts, making them all similar. Therefore, there was an excitement to the faults which had occurred and these pieces became like a trace of human production (especially as the ‘workers’ had untrained members of the public).

Broken Vessels
Photograph of Tate Exchange taken by Ruth Linnell
Broken Vessels
Photograph of Tate Exchange taken by Ruth Linnell

In Twomey’s Artist statement she says: “In the redundant FACTORY the workers have gone but their voice and breath remain. The machines, the materials, the benches become small monuments. The space is filled with the evidence of the human, but the wholeness of the factory is fractured, a space now exists where the human is craved, the purpose of the factory has become a proposition of both loss and potential. The tasks of labour are now listening, reflecting, observing. The visitor is invited to and consider their own relationship to and experience of production.”  I believe that this evidence of human presence is most clearly felt when looking at the discarded, cast away products of the production line.

Please see: A Wooden Triangle & Discarded Objects

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