my interest in the work of william martin started with his ‘confused with pot’ series of images wich challenged individuals to be photographed with a a ceramic object; ensuing in a conversation about the development in the perceptions of something so intimate which we even hold and kiss several times over each day, like a bowl or a cup.

martin’s work almost creates a new artistic genre of ‘performance craft’ and he continues this process with his participation in a group show ‘curious body’; here he created a photo-theatre for the expression of masculinity with ceramic objects. the result becomes a biography recorded as an image which documents the engagement with gender identity. i asked william about his work…

your approach of incorporating people in your work and disseminating images may be easier than getting work featured on physical
shows… did it play a role in your choice of work for this show?

It seems twee to mention The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in this Post-Internet age, but the work seems to live more and more online. The proliferation of the image seems to solidify, rather than dissipate. People think they understand what they are seeing, a consensus of sorts is reached, there is less confusion, less anxiety about how they will engage with the object. I’m more and more tempted to simply produce photographs with handmade props, rather than objects in their own right. But I’ve found a way to have my cake and eat it.
With the Curious Body installation, images are made, but the anxiety of objects is maintained. That is why physical shows are so important, I want there to be a visceral experience. By making a physical space for masculinity to be projected and constructed, I am able to make my digital community IRL. I have met some really interesting people through Instagram, Scruff and Whatsapp. This work will be a way of acknowledging those relationships and disseminating the results though that community. If I tried to make a work about masculinity by myself then I would only be able to talk about my experience as a man. By bringing in other artists I am able
to expand the field of study, benefiting both the work and me as an individual trying to understand his place in the world.

your previous work has a lot to do with the academics of progression and process,
does this new performance pottery perhaps carry a more cultural connection?

I am still interested in Enlightenment ideals of progress as embodied by the Industrial Revolution. But I’m now applying that interest to the male body, and questioning the political and aesthetic role of Neo Classicism in the construction of contemporary masculinity. Ever since being introduced to the Romantic poets in undergrad, I resented the way my most intimate feelings had already been voiced for me. That the words and images I used were inherited without me knowing. I think this feeling has stuck with me, of distrusting my inheritance, wanting to trace it back so I can assess it, see if I still want it. I see ceramics as fundamentally performative. It performs tasks for people, this is what they mean when they ask ‘is it functional?’. But ceramics makes you perform too. That’s what I’m looking at with the chains. They way people handle them gently, comment on their weight, change their posture when they wear them. ­

just picking up on the wording ‘neoclassical’ ‘romantic’ ‘military’ ­ is there a personal
nostalgia in here somewhere, is it a reflection of your perception of masculinity?

I make no bones about this installation being a total product, not only my perception of masculinity, but also my fantasy of it. We are defined as much by what we reject as what we accept, and my experiences of growing up in a public boys school in Post­Apartheid Cape Town with a naval sportsman father has irrevocably shaped my ideas of what it means to be a man. It’s difficult because what I’m trying to address in this installation is a shadow; It’s an idea of being a man that may not even exist. I’m fighting with a ghost. That’s the thing with a hole, you fill it with all this dross and then have to look at it and start unpacking it again, seeing what’s
worth keeping.

photos chris parkes