LIMOGES––If you follow hip hop beefs, you’ll know Drake gets a lot of heat from his peers. For those who need a primer, the popular musician has drawn ire from fellow MC’s over rumors he uses ghostwriters. The central question of this debate: is art worth our time if the artist’s hands aren’t on it?
I don’t speak French, so when I first glanced through the Fondation D’Entreprise Bernardaud’s exposition, Sans les Mains (June 15, 2018 – March 30, 2019) curated by Michael Eden, which features exquisitely arranged bold and vibrant offerings against a backdrop of a dark, unassuming industrial warehouse space, I didn’t think about the meaning in that title. Instead, I put on Drake’s 2017 hit ‘Passionfruit,’ and scrolled through the pretty things:
Dylan Beck‘s Cloud Fracula (2015), a billowing cumulous raining yellow mountains onto a lake of pearlescent metal.
Flemming Tvede Hansen’s Filigree Robotics Circle (2016), a sprawling metropolis-like infrastructure of intersecting white lines populated by clumps of gleaming golden thorns.
Jennifer Gray’s Amorpha Garland (2017-2018), a cornucopia of classical busts in miniature, sewn along a band, meant to adorn both bodies and austere pottery. And so on.
I loved it, nodding my head to Drake’s pop beat. But then I did my due diligence and put Sans les Mains into Google Translate: “No Hands.”
I had to stop the music for a minor existential crisis. Wasn’t this ceramics, an art of hands? All these pretty things…how could they be worth my time if the artists hadn’t touched them? If some—such as that Filigree Robotics Circle—were made almost entirely by AI?
It was only a minor existential crisis, though, because I am not a ceramicist. I’m a 30-year-old layman, and the Fondation D’Entreprise Bernardaud has been around over 150 years; I’m a hypocrite who uses AI just to translate simple French phrases, and the exhibition booklet offers lengthy essays in both French and English full of insights like:
Sitting at the potter’s wheel, day in, day out for 25 years is one way to learn a great deal…Contrast this with engaging with computer code.
What makers have done throughout history (is)…adapted and customized tools in order for them to…express human qualities.
If a machine can be programmed to apply the same principle, would it produce great art?
Maybe you, reader, have the big shot fine arts pedigree to start a beef with Sans les Mains. But who am I to challenge the courage of these artists grappling to integrate a technological revolution that threatens obsolescence over the foundational premise of their entire medium? Accomplished MCs have the ethos to call-out Drake, but I can’t rap so I’ll just keep nodding my head.
Exhibited artists include Dylan Beck, Bryan Czibesz, Michael Eden, Emerging objects, Jennifer Gray, Flemming Tvede Hansen, Del Harrow, Olivier van Herpt, Toshiya Masuda, Megumi Naitoh, John Rainey, Shawn Spangler and Chris Wight.
“The selection of artists featured in this exhibition has come from my perspective as a practitioner whose work has explored not only the technology but its impact on art, craft and society.” ––Michael Eden
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