Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC) stated, "A room without books is like a body without a soul." Reading Room is an installation of new work by Tessa Laird and Peter Lange, exploring the humorous and mimetic properties of clay and raising questions around the utility of objects. Laird's considerable library of clay books scattered atop and around Lange's brick furniture forms the basis of this site specific installation created for the Objectspace Window Gallery.
In homage to the clay tablet origins of the printed word, Tessa Laird - a newcomer to the ceramic medium - has spent the last three years making clay copies of every book she has read. The desire to create facsimiles of inspiring tomes began while Laird was undertaking doctoral research at the Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland. Reading Room is the first public exhibition of this impossible bibliography in clay. An acknowledgement of artifice, her Clay tablets provide an interesting insight into the reading habits of a doctoral candidate. Mark Twain once stated, "In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them." While the books are humorous homages that are knowingly "useless", they simultaneously operate as exhortations to go and read the "real thing": their form frustrating the impulse to turn the page and read. Without a function, the books become fetishes, slyly mocking the collector's proclivity to hoard the book as an object without reading it, confirming Walter Benjamin's thesis in his famous essay "Unpacking my Library".
Laird has teamed up with ceramic veteran Peter Lange, who has created a new range of brick furniture for this all-ceramic reading room which is their inaugural collaboration. Lange's brick furniture, unlike Laird's books, is gloriously and surprisingly, functional. The Art Deco-style brick armchair invites the viewer to sit awhile and become immersed in this ceramic reading room, surrounded by a brick bookcase, table and pouffe.
While Lange's works are designed using computer technology, then cut with a precise diamond saw, Laird's works are handmade and full of subtle irregularities. Together these two very different approaches to clay underline its protean possibilities, and provoke new questions about the function and value of objects.
Reading Room has been created for visitors to enjoy. Please feel free to sit and browse!
Tessa Laird recently submitted her doctorate about the revolutionary power of colour to the Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland. Senior ceramicist Peter Lange is co-editor of the New Zealand Post Book Awards finalist Playing with Fire: Auckland Studio Potters Society turns 50 (2011). Both artists live in Auckland.
Saturday 11 August 2012, 11am: Exhibitors Tessa Laird and Peter Lange will give a floor talk about their collaborative installation for the Objectspace Window Gallery.