Ceramics can seem mundane, gracing our lives as tools for eating, drinking and bathing. Their uses are so habitualized that they arguably have become constraints for artists, perpetuating a ceramic tradition tied to vessel making. BULLETT spoke to artist, Morgan Ritter, a young forerunner to a movement using ceramics as a material and ideology as a medium in itself, bending references to its traditional uses while inventing new forms all together.
Morgan Ritter is a young artist from Portland, OR, using resistant materials such as ceramic, wood, video and brick to create her mind puzzling balanced installations. Her work spans both traditional ceramics, video writing and drawing, but delves into unusual rituals and borders on the absurd. Here, BULLETT asked her a series of questions about her passions and recent thesis work:
BULLETT: What generally interests you in your practice? What are current projects you are working on?
MORGAN RITTER: I am really passionate about inspiring a relentlessly idiosyncratic mode of being in the world. Isn’t it relaxing to imagine your thought materialized through a bouquet of flowers? I think I would be a weird combination of yellow flowers- something spicy, bleeding hearts and pussywillows.
My most recent body of work is called : Expansive Concrete: The Thoughtful Digestion of Unique Objects, Complex Subjects, and Composited Projects. By capitalizing on this energetic potential of material form, my art projects become charged mediums laden with the tension of imaginary energy and autonomous matter. I want to subvert representations of objective linear histories, autonomous forms, and illusions that objects are definitive, succinct representations of culture. Once one acknowledges the spectrality of stone the entire world may become ecstatic. With this in mind, my art projects are tensely charged objects which sit between the psychic and physical qualities of the fragile human condition.
How do you think your work fits into the larger history of vessels and ceramics?
MORGAN RITTER: Hm, ceramic is the perfect stand-in for concrete poetry. Also, using clay feels like embodying a new kind of thought, it is very automatic and aggressive. Last summer I had a lot of anxiety, so to heal myself I made hundreds of big ceramic coins with super illegible messages and mixed up mental images on their faces. I thought of them as my summer currency. To be honest, I’m seriously embarrassed about half of the ceramic things I make.
Regarding vessels, vessels are containers, as are bodies, as are books and fruits. I am not as interested in vessels as much as I am of form in general, form being a sponge of cultural history, movement, and expansive, psychic debris.
In one of my works, a representation of a head exists abstractly as a gigantic ceramic egg, treated with a painterly white cottage-cheesy looking texture; it has a crudely lathed wooden pole vertically extending out of the crown of the head. On top of the wooden pole is a shelf to place thoughts upon. This is where the model feels accessible and possibly lived with. Anyone can put anything on top of the shelf and declare it as a primary thought! A sandwich, a diary, a vessel maybe. To me, the head is a representation of Joni Mitchell, and her thoughts are carefully in transmission by use of a glazed surface of tiny black and white dots. This dotted motif suggests that the thought is appearing (or disappearing), to commemorate her lifetime of lucid, prolific creativity and active thought. Joni Mitchell has smoked cigarettes since she was 12 years old. (I am not an advocate of this.)
How is your work related to fashion or fashion systems?
MORGAN RITTER: To see fashion as a composited therapy system sheds light on the entire notion of aggregation/ possible choices. It’s complicated. This lion knocker explicitly cries because he can’t decide which knocker suits him best, and he sees this thing of representation and presentation of his amorphous, emotional being as violent.
His knockers are an implied fashion system for the him. The form is defiant in that it cannot be stagnant due to the imaginary transformations it undergoes by being observed because of the seven other knockers he has to choose from, some of which being impossible to fit him. Or easily understood.
A lot of my projects advocate the cultural need for more ways of reading visual language, rather than the usual linear understanding, or dualistic understanding. I think that is why I favor sponges rather than vessels. Fashion as a spongey thing, not a simple container for the body, and provides expansive grounding for other types of powerful and complex indicators.
How does you work relate to female anatomy if so?
MORGAN RITTER: I like to imagine making impossible things gesturally or conceptually possible, like when I made and 8 foot column. I know it is a masucline shape (and a historical archetypal one) which goes against the feminine shape, and stands taller than me. But- I made it, therefore it has an inherently female affect. Is this true? Sometimes I feel like I am about to fall over. In the work Composite Column, a sculptural composition is charged with movement challenging stability. This column is configured with stacked objects, some of which being small ceramic women reclining with yellow bottoms, and a ceramic cup of water at the column’s edge. They are all balancing on top of a television which loops a wigglie-line dance move. The snakey dance video precariously suggests the danger of toppling over at the slightest breath too close!
BULLETT: Who are your influences?
MORGAN RITTER: As for my influences, there are so many experimental artists and thinkers that I am moved by, but the brightest few are Ree Morton, Dana Dart-Mclean, Keren Cytter, Yamantaka Eye and Eva Saelens