Terrain: Spaces of Ownership and Dispossession

Terrain: Spaces of Ownership and Dispossession

Date: 2003
Dimensions: 2.5m H x 500mm W x 500mm D
Media: Ceramic and video


The piece was part of the “Biennale of Ceramics in Contemporary Art” in Italy.




The invitation to work in the medium of ceramics resurrected a dormant passion in me. In addition to this, working in a small coastal Italian town, rich in ceramic history, a tradition traceable back to the Roman civilization. Each of us were assigned to a ceramic studio and given the technical infrastructure to produce a work where the principle material was ceramic.




At the time the Western World was completely shocked by the advent of 911. I certainly could not escape the haunting occurrence of the imploding World Trade Center Towers. From a visual perspective, it was as if my cinematographic memory had been touched and transformed.




I kept thinking what it was that had actually taken place and how it was that I could utilize such poignant material without becoming didactic and too literal. My thoughts began with the idea of a Western civilization that had now forever been mutated. I asked the ceramics studio to construct for me a fixed unit of measure out of clay. I could use these units of measure to reconfigure the idea of structure based on reason and logic. I built a series of cubes which I meticulously balanced together until, in their accumulation, a series of related cubes formed a tower. To my recollection the town was just over 2m x 500mm x 500mm.




Once I had constructed the tower I attached invisible lines, attached to targeted units within the tower structure. To my recollection there were five or six of these attachments. I cleared the room in the ceramics studio, set up two video cameras at a fixed focal length with acute auditory capacity.




We began filming and then at a pre-assigned moment, we all pulled on the various strings and the entire pillar collapsed.




What had happened was that I now had to reconvene a new tower out of the rubble that now lay on the floor. I meticulously began sifting thru the rubble separating the broken from the unbroken. The unbroken became a maze of little shards and little pieces that had to be put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Where possible each piece was found and glued back together. The entire tower was meticulously reconstructed and then held within a metallic brace.




The piece was exhibited as a wounded tower, meticulously repaired. The other tower was a virtual tower projected on to a screen using the edited video version of the collapsing tower. So the tower stood, collapsed and rebuilt itself.




The lesson implicit within the piece was, for me, that a work needs to have within it unpredictability and chance, these magical elements that have the ability to enchant a work in an unimaginable way. More importantly, for me, it was an understanding that we will break things but that we can also fix them.




Andries Botha, February 2012