Tom Barnett’s ‘firing projects’ dispel conventional assumptions that firing is a means to an end or that a kiln is a tool for ceramic production. Instead the process of firing is presented as both physical and cerebral spectacle; a ritual transformation in which kiln becomes both sculpture and theatre. ‘Firing’ here is performance for audience contemplation.
Audiences are also encouraged to engage through participation. People are invited to create artwork to be fired within the kiln, and on occasion to be involved in constructing the kiln-sculpture itself. The kiln-site then becomes a place not only for the circulation of heat around clay objects but also of thoughts and dialogue around ideas and issues.
Collaborative practice has laid emphasis on the melting pot of subtexts that these projects allude to. Barnett has worked with photographers and sound artists on a number of recent firing projects. Sound has become crucial to the perceptive overload of the firing experience. A sound artist or DJ will aim to reflect the rhythms, energy and emotion of the firing cycle, adding to the spectacle of the event.
Much of Barnett’s work has examined metaphorical connections between the kiln, the body and architectural form; each being a container or site for the existence of a form of life in which heat plays a crucial role. Many of his previous firing projects have involved firing clay representations of specific buildings as kilns. Sometimes this has served to celebrate the birth or rebirth of an architectural space. On other occasions these events have offered an opportunity to question the history and contexts of a building’s existence.
Recent projects have incorporated into this field of enquiry a questioning of the energy consumption at the heart of the firing process and the resonances this has within the current social and political climate. In this light the entropic endnote inherent in firing has acquired increased poignancy.
Tom Barnett 2008
For more information about Tom Barnett click here to visit his website.