Questioning Identity

Everyone has something to identify themselves by, some more than others. Within the field of ceramics, identity exists in many degrees and formats—some use it as a means to associate themselves, while others utilize it as a divisive strategy. Regardless of one’s agenda, inevitably we all fall into some sort of format that, if nothing else, others use to identify us. There are countless ways in which these categories are formed and determined, whether it be one’s conscious intention to partake or not, some find themselves at times questioning what exactly that means. Even those claiming no identity have agreed to be a part of something (i.e. because nothing is in fact something). We continue to see this more frequently not only within the field but as a culture, extending beyond racial identities, geographical origins and gender pronouns. While these new modes of labeling continue to evolve, we find that even within our myopic and reactionary field there continues to be growth and change.

In Kaunas, Lithuania, there is a history of symposia rooted in bone china and within the core group of organizers are individuals are looking for answers to today’s questions of contemporality, material legacy and geographical history—all of this while maintaining their identity in bone china.

The symposium was initiated over three decades ago and since its advent, has seen many changes and iterations of artists, organizers, work being produced and even the space in which participants physically exist. Initiated out of a symbiotic relationship with the local factory producing dinnerware (now a failing institution, unaffiliated with the event), the current symposium is now held at the Vilnius Academy of the Arts in Kaunas. Remigijus Sederevicius, Head of Ceramics at the Academy and a participant himself as far back as the mid-1990s, has been either organizing or managing the event for nearly two decades with the assistance of his wife and Administrative Director Giedra Petkeviciute. To this day, the Academy has failed to elevate him to the title of professor yet his desire to continue the legacy of bone china, with or without the appropriate support and acknowledgement from his institution, has not wavered. His most recent efforts have included the addition of two artists recruited to help determine the direction and agenda for future symposia—Maris Grosbahs, artist/lecturer/organizer of ROJALAB in Latvia and Ieva Bertašiute-Grosbaha, artist/PhD candidate in Vilnius and co-founder of ROJALAB.

From the periphery, the symposium has maintained many traditional aspects offered by other events including facilities in the studio that provides each participant with a work space, free materials and access to various kilns and technology, including a 3D clay printer. Participants are housed in newly renovated flats attached to the Academy—each with its own bathroom, and a common kitchen area—located in the heart of Old Town Kaunas. A few blocks walk to the ceramics department navigates historic buildings, an array of restaurants and groups of tourists congregated amongst cobble-stone roads. Communal meals, nightly presentations and extended dialogue provide insight into each individual and their work/process. Excursions are also a part of the event, seeing both the immediate surroundings as well as points of interest for artists. The culmination of the event is a traveling exhibition housed initially in the National Museum of Lithuania then on to the Academy in Vilnius and Panevežys with selected works becoming a part of the permanent collection.

... within every structure, fabricated or inherited, there is a habituated and formulaic tendency that causes stagnation and stifles individual and collective creativity.

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