During the course of the twentieth century, a doubt emerged within visual arts, and also within crafts – the relevance of the traditional way of making art was addressed, as were thoughts on what was termed ‘empty shape’. The notion that shape in itself was no longer ‘artistically valid’ is closely linked to notions of materiality as hindrance, and immateriality as freedom – all of which have had a major influence on contemporary visual arts and crafts, and in particular on what Mårten Medbo terms ‘theory-practice’ within the field of crafts. During the past decades, an increasing verification of this particular influence in the field of crafts as a whole has also been experienced.
As a ceramist, Medbo expresses himself through clay, where form has never been empty, and clay never a hindrance. Therefore, Medbo’s research is an attempt to put materiality as hindrance, and immateriality as freedom in context, as well as to reflect upon questions related to their emergence and what impact they have within the field of crafts. Medbo’s point of departure has been his own experience as an artist and ceramist, where inquiring and exploring takes places through practical knowledge. Medbo demonstrates that there is no such thing as immateriality in art and that all artistic expression requires bodily-situated craft skill of some kind in order to be materialized and communicated, as well as to take place in the world – art should always therefore also be seen as what Medbo terms ‘language-practice’. Through this practice Medbo is able to craft the concept of ‘clay-based language-ness’ and ‘language-like-ness’. The intention is to approach, as close as possible to describing, in words, the kind of communication that Medbo wishes to create as a ceramist, as well as what art-making (‘art-crafting’) constitutes when conceptual artists create their art. Yet, regarding crafts as a language-practice, however, conflicts with the theory that is setting the tone in the field of crafts today. How would it be possible to find a way out of this conflict-ridden situation? As part of this endeavour, Medbo presents a two-folded research – on the one hand, a text-based part of the dissertation and on the other hand, a clay-based part of the dissertation – side by side, in order to further investigate what ‘language-practice’ can reveal.