There are surprising parallels between the work of physicists and artists as they often approach some of the same themes, albeit with different methods and with different mindsets. As the Fine-Art-Muographers community continues to grow with the support of art, science and educational engagement organizations like the Muography Art Project (a collaboration between Kansai University, Tama Art University and University of Tokyo Muographix/ERI) and ORIGIN, (a network including Muographix, CMS, ATLAS, ALICE, ICECUBE, VIRGO, LIGO, LHCb and other high energy physics and astrophysics collaborations and research centers) questions continue to arise about how artists and scientists may more effectively communicate and collaborate.
Muography has inspired some recent ceramic sculptures by Hungarian artist, Agnes Husz. “CODE”, which incorporated her unique ceramic construction method with live performance, video and a soundtrack (in collaboration with the composer, Ten Goto) was created for “Answer From the Universe Vision Towards the Horizons of Science and Art Through Muography”, a group exhibition coordinated by the Muography Art Project at Tama Art University Museum which presented the work of 13 artists from Japan, Hungary, Austria and the USA. Her work “Infinite” was also displayed at Muography Art Project exhibits in the Kansai University Museum, Osaka and East Art Museum, Okayama. In this interview, she discusses the process of the creation of her sculptures and her experience collaborating with the Muographers community.
Q: “CODE” incorporated 3 different elements: live performance, music and video. Could you describe the performance aspect of this piece “CODE” and how you prepared for this during your residency at the Tama Art University Museum for the “Answer From the Universe Vision Towards the Horizons of Science and Art Through Muography” exhibit?
The elements of “CODE”: the multimedia experience, the mixture of the past, real time, the sound performance, and [the dynamic process of the] streching, cracking clay which was prepared in front of an audience, made this work a very important one to me.
For the performance, I demonstrated the process that I go through when creating my sculptures in the studio. It would be nearly impossible to create the forms of my ceramic sculpture with any other method. First, I prepare the clay by rolling it into slabs, each about 12 cm – 30 cm wide, then I usually apply a layer of paint to the surface of the slabs (black paint was applied to the slabs prepared for “CODE”). Once this is done, I take one of the clay slabs, [holding both ends separately and lengthwise], in both hands. I gently toss the middle section in the air, so that with the effect of the movement and the pull of gravity, it stretches into a longer and thinner shape with each motion.
What is interesting is that with this movement, the clay inside the slab is moving at a different rate and in different directions than the clay on the surface which is harder and drier; under the strain of all this pressure, the outer layer will stretch and crack in fascinating ways which are highlighted by the contrast between the paint and the raw, light grey clay underneath.
I discovered this process of working during an artist residency I did in Holland. Movement of the clay is so important not only to build strength in the material of the clay I work with, but also for its unfinished, changing aspects. The qualities of pressure, friction, gravity and energy are intuitively sensed and manipulated. The process of flexing the clay midair changes the nature of the clay. This is similar to geological processes, like the contrast between energy and movement of the surface and beneath the surface. I am interested in what is beneath the surface; muography is also concerned with this.
The last step of the performance of “CODE” was that I carefully let go of one end of the slab [and with one gesture], slapped the clay slab onto one of the black slate tablets that were positioned on the floor underneath the video screen.
Q: How did the collaboration with composer Ten Goto for “CODE” happen and how did it help to communicate your message?
I was inspired by the sound of the clay slapping my worktable as I worked with the clay slabs. First, I wanted to represent this with another sound source, like clapping hands. I talked to my colleague about this and she said, “What are you saying? You should use the actual sound of the slabs themselves.“ I saw that she was right and the next step was to find a composer who would be able make my idea come to life. The curator of the exhibit, Dr. Takeshi Fuchida, asked his wife (a violinist) for a recommendation and she introduced the composer that I ended up collaborating with, Ten Goto. I told him about my admiration for the layered melodies of the contemporary composer Steve Reich as a guideline for the kind of music I was imagining.
He and Dr. Fuchida then came to the my studio that had been set up at Tama Art University with recording equipment to capture the sounds of the clay in the air and slapping against the worktable as I prepared slabs and tested out ideas; later he arranged these sounds into a musical composition [which during the performance at the exhibit] mixed beautifully with the sounds I made working with the clay in real time. I am deeply thankful to Dr. Fuchida, because his positive attitude made it possible for us to work together with Ten Goto and opened a new way to create our artifact.
Q: Physics is very concerned with the theme of time. “CODE“ seemed to evoke the idea of time with its use of video, sound and performance, blending the past and the present. How is the theme of time important in your work?
I find the theme of time important in ceramics. It is part of the clay itself. The clay melds the past with the future. The shape of the clay wants to return to its original form. The echoes of the past are contained moments inside the clay. Just like a geologic structure is constantly in motion, constantly changing and also being pulled back to its beginning state. Clay remembers its past life and you feel how it fights the new shape [as it is formed into an artwork]. What it was before wants to return to its original shape – there is a push to the future and pull to the past.
Motion is important to our idea of time and water is one element that is important to motion both in geology and in ceramics. Alongside “CODE” in the Tama Art University Museum exhibit, I exhibited other artworks, which incorporated the very active shapes of the spiral which are related to the idea of the eternal and reappear as themes in my work.
“Infinite“, the work which appeared in subsequent muography art exhibits, explores a similar theme. More recently I expanded on this idea of the spiral shape with “Ripples”, a work that won the New Orientalia Award at the International Academy of Ceramics conference in New Taipei City in 2018. With “Ripples” I explored how the fluid dynamics of water give the piece motion and life even after completion by pouring water into the recessed area. By incorporating the water element inside the piece itself, I was able to harness some of the motion and activity in the exhibition space and add the idea of time expressed by motion. The piece was able to stay in a state of creation, changing its shape each time one of the spectators walked by and was reflected in the surface of the water.
Q: As with muography which utilizes naturally occurring muons to image giant structures in nature, ceramic sculpture is a way to investigate nature with clay, part of the soil of our planet. How do you feel the process of studying nature differs between artists and scientists? What was your experience like interacting with scientists from the muography community?
I got the feeling that the scientists I spoke with wanted me to use the actual data more in my work. I tried to let them know that the process of making art is a little bit different. I feel that art can contribute something a little less concrete – more about the human perspective on these topics. For instance, art can describe feelings and ideas about our place in the universe. I like that muography deals with both the micro and the macro. It deals with both the space of the cosmic and space of the Earth. Thinking about these ideas reminds me of the smallness of my exitance and its impermanence, and yet also reminds me of we are all connected also to some vast, unknowable being.
The beginning of the process [of making my artwork] has become second nature, an almost meditative process that is connected to my subconscious. However, after the process of creation, which must be done with a clear open mind, I can analyze the piece more logically. Then I can go over what worked well and what did not work and the process of naming and assigning meaning begins.
If I had the chance to collaborate in a scientific experiment, I wish I could see the clay on a microscopic level as I am actively working with it. I would like to know exactly how the clay changes and moves at each stage. The motion and pressure give the clay strength and it would be interesting to see that process from another point of view.
Links to more information:
This interview was conducted during Agnes Husz’s recent solo show in the Shinjuku Kakiden gallery. For more information about her work: go to agneshusz.com.
There are some upcoming Muography Art Projects events coming soon: on August 29, 2019 there will be a lecture in the Kandai ME RISE building, Osaka and from August 23, 2019 – September 2, 2019 there will be an muography art exhibit, A Gift From Outer Space II in The Lab, Osaka featuring 32 artists on the theme of muography.
The official catalog of the “Answer From the Universe Vision Towards the Horizons of Science and Art Through Muography” designed by Azusa Momose, edited by curator Takeshi Fuchida and Ayumi Sekikawa and published by the Tama Art University Museum has been published and includes a description and photos of Agnes Husz’s “CODE” along with other participants in this exhibit.
The main photograph of Agnes Husz was taken by Carmen Anita Barath