In a contemporary tearoom--placement of ceramics : investigating contexts of raku ceramics in space and time

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emiko N. Suzuki (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Erin Tapley

Abstract: My thesis study investigates exclusive spaces for raku in contemporary life and time. Myexhibition focuses a modern tearoom that has modified its traditional Japanese source. Thesealterations are based on my discoveries of how raku is made and displayed in the United States.Almost thirty years, I have studied Sado, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, that isdefined by a formal protocol established by the tea master Sen-no Rikyu in the sixteenth century,which included a raku tea bowl as a centerpiece. While some tearooms may be gold plated andothers made of rough materials, it is primarily the presence of a raku tea bowl that establishes thespace as a tearoom. Traditionally in Japan, a raku tea bowl is hand built and oxidation-fired. It isnever used for mundane purposes because of the value of the bowls most of which come fromthe exclusive workshops of Japan’s Raku family that has been making them for centuries.So, it surprised me greatly to see American raku pieces be reduction fired and result incolorful and shiny vessels. I explored this American raku method in the first semester of myMFA program and then I struggled with the subsequent placement of these raku pieces thatseemed alien in their inclusion in a traditional Sado context.As I began studying exhibiting practices of objects by particular minimalist artists in the1960s such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd, I saw a link between their simple and often monomedia work and that of a raku tea bowl in a traditional tearoom. Eva Hesse’s feminizedobjects also inspired me to consider how the tea ceremony and tearoom (which are both maledominatedphenomena) could be softened through use of specific materials. English ceramicist,Edmund de Waal’s works also allowed me consider the tactility of raku objects and how theymight be exhibited. My special interest in this artist is due to his repetition and placement ofceramic pieces. Because ceramics are deeply associated with eating utensils, they are oftenplaced in cabinets. However, de Waal plays with this pre-established grammar of display for hiswork. The manner in which he displays his ceramics is humble and sometimes even obscured bythe display units, but it also stands aloof from worldly things. I have tried to employ some ofthese ideas in my tearoom.I am viewing my tearoom as a mixed media sculpture. I have decided to construct it withfabric, metal and concrete blocks instead of using typical Japanese architectural materials such aswood, paper and clay. These alterations match my contemporary American lifestyle, but alsoadhere to some traditional Japanese protocols. Ultimately, I am proposing a new venue forviewing raku—one that seems functional but is only for viewing.An underlying philosophy of my installation work and one that is key to Sado is theconcept of ichi-go-ichi-e. This Japanese term is often translated as ‘one time, one meeting in alifetime.’ The way of tea is about the impermanence of any occasion in which entities meet.Tearooms (like raku bowls) may be moved and re-used but the nuances of each ceremony implythat nothing can truly be duplicated. My work both reveres and plays with this traditionalJapanese art form, and in so doing, I am asking viewers to see it in a new perspective. I usemass-produced materials to create my sculptures. My tearoom is housed within a commercial space in the United States, and seeks to be personally comfortable. Adjacent objects outside the tearoom are thoughtfully arranged so as to engage the viewer; they are all derived from materialsthat I found in junkyards. I hope viewers will begin to see an artistic logic in my installation.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
ceramics, femininity, Japanese art, minimalism, Raku, Tea ceremony
Installations (Art)
Raku pottery
Japanese tea ceremony in art

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