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Playing with clay

Posted: 2009-04-18 22:53:31, Categories: Helsinki, Art, 513 words (permalink)

Clay works and people watching them. Picture taken from the center, on top of the remaining pile of clay. In late March, a white hall appeared on the Kaisaniemi field in the center of Helsinki. Inside in the middle of it stood a pile of one hundred tons of clay. For ten days, anybody could sign up as a volunteer, step in the hall and get creative. Over a thousand people participated, ranging from professional artists to random passers-by and small children. It was a collaborative art project called Clay and the Collective Body.

The hall had no windows, simply white roof and light gray floor. No cameras, mobile phones nor tools were allowed inside, just people and clay. The artist Antony Gormley wanted to make it a primitive experience: touch the earth and be a child again. It worked from the beginning — anyone could play that game, nobody needed to be told what to do. Antony said that many were a bit hesitant first but then got an idea or found others to work together with and became enthusiastic about creating something.

Imaginary clay scene of three people in front of the Men-an-tol stone in Cornwall. Part of the idea was that one could build on what others had built and that produced some of the most interesting results. Someone placed simple blocks of clay after each other on one day, later someone else shaped one section of it to look like the Great Wall, a dragon head appeared at one end and fourth artist added some flowers on top. Most however chose an empty space and started working on something from scratch, either alone or in a group. We are taught to just watch and not touch the art of others and that behaviour can stick quite deep.

After ten days the artwork was finished: doors were opened for public to walk around, view and take photos of the result. It was an amazing wealth of creative energy gathered in one place, reflecting all aspects of society. There were sculptures of people and animals, pictures of war and death, happy love scenes, historical buildings, items from recent news, realistic looking everyday objects, abstract shapes and surrealistic views. One could easily walk for two hours looking around and still find many unnoticed works and details during the next round.

Now the doors have already been closed and the clay returned back to earth. It's similar to snowmen in the backyard and sand castles on the beach: no permanent objects to be preserved for years to come. However, there are plenty of photos and some videos on the official site of the project. The first photo in this blog entry shows an overview towards one corner taken from the center of the hall, and the second is the scene I made together with Sandra, a German girl who was visiting Finland. It was fun both to create and to admire what others had created.

Clay and the Collective Body was the first project of the recently founded Pro Arte foundation, which plans to bring one visible modern art project in Helsinki each year. I hope the next projects will also include public participation in a way or another and be as inspiring as this one!

3 comments

Comment from: ryan [Visitor]
Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to more of such projects in the future too!
2009-10-12 @ 06:48
Comment from: Tech News Source [Visitor]  
Wow, what a cool post. I am a technology and gadget junky and you have shown me something I have to add to check out further, 100 tons of clay wow. Thanks, Jason
2010-05-08 @ 16:09
Comment from: Laura [Visitor]
This is totally awesome. I love the concept of “now the clay has turned back to earth” as it’s a very intriguing way of looking at art. I’m into theatre, so fleeting art is paramount in my tastes! Keep up the great work :)
2010-10-19 @ 03:52

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Copyright Arto Teräs <ajt@iki.fi>, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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