On edge: an exploration of cultural identity through ceramic practice

Chen, W-H (2018) On edge: an exploration of cultural identity through ceramic practice. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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Abstract

My project investigates the concept of ‘in-betweenness’ and uses a range of research methods including fieldwork and oral history interviews in Taiwan and practice-led work in ceramics. Living away from my homeland gives me a clearer perspective of the culture in which I grew up, as well as an outsider’s perspective of British culture. The cross-cultural experience provides a platform from which I can address the questions of who I am and how I might express and communicate my experience of in-betweenness as a place where I can survive - where I can draw breath to help me cope with the challenges of living in two cultures. My research aims are: to explore the impact that living in a state of ‘inbetweenness’ can have on perceptions of self; to develop a visual language to communicate this experience; and to explore my own expression of cultural identity in relation to theory in the field. My theoretical framework derives from Gayatari Spivak’s work on colonialism and post-colonialism. Taiwan is a much-colonized culture and so Spivak’s focus on everyday experience prompted me undertake a field trip to Taiwan in 2013 to gather supporting data. I interviewed 22 Taiwanese female ceramicists: 5 indigenous women living in rural eastern Taiwan and 17 women living in urban areas. The field trip revealed a significant difference between the urban and the rural women’s ceramics (context, process and product) which, along with a growing awareness of Taiwanese social rituals, influenced my clay work. I could then create a bridge to a better understanding of cultural identity in my own research and practice. My ceramic practice was developed in three main locations: Bath Spa School of Art and Design and during two artist-residencies in Denmark and Taiwan. I have exhibited my main ceramic works (Sculptural Spoons, 8 Hours, Fingerprints, Bananas, Traditional Chinese Characters ) in different cultural environments and have been able to evaluate my work in response to visitor feedback. This project develops the idea of practice as a form of research, combining field work, creative practice and documentation. It widens awareness and proposes new ways for other artists to explore the experience of being ‘in-between’. My principle research questions are: How is my Taiwanese cultural identity expressed through making? How might ceramic practice be used to develop a visual language to communicate a personal experience of ‘in-betweenness’?

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Note:

Thesis supervised by Prof. Anita Taylor. Some images have been removed from this digital version of the thesis for copyright reasons.

Keywords: in-betweenness, female ceramicists, fieldwork, oral history, Taiwan, UK, Denmark, practice-led research, cross-cultural identity, perception of self, visual language, colonialism, post-colonialism, rural life, social rituals, clay, artist residency, creative practice, art
Divisions: Bath School of Art and Design
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 12:08
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2018 15:26
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