2017 – 57ª edition
Andorran artist Eve Ariza was born in France in 1973. She studied Fine Arts and predominantly ceramics at the École Supérieure d’Art in Limoges (France). From 1996, she has participated in group exhibitions in France, Spain, Holland, Italy and Iceland alongside collectives such as Flamatoris and Paradiseconsumergroup. Her work is split between sculptural works, often in clay, and activist happenings. Her combat against “BLAH”, the lack of ethics and truthfulness in human communication nowadays, is a continuous artistic thread in all her work. She represents the Principality of Andorra at the 57th edition of La Biennale di Venezia with a monumental installation called “Murmuri”, her most ambitious project to date.
Murmuri reflects on a universal language and takes an in-depth look at a constantly changing material and the origins of shapes and sounds. Reconnecting with the pottery tradition, Eve Ariza develops and multiplies the millenary shape of the bowl, one of the first ever man-made creations which had a specific use. The artist alters the base of the bowl to make it look like a mouth which lets out the valuable murmurs. The utilitarian essence of the object vanishes and its simple shape becomes a true symbol of the connection human beings have with each other.
The use of pottery necessarily goes hand in glove with the weight of tradition and is almost automatically associated with decoration and the domestic setting. In the classical hierarchy of values to be found among the different arts, pottery is often relegated to the status of a mere craft. Yet it also undoubtedly maintains a childlike dimension we can all identify with. Pottery has come to the fore in contemporary art since the end of the 1990s. Picasso and Miró, among others, had already modelled clay to make small sculptures and experimental dinnerware, but not until recently has pottery found its place in international museums and exhibitions.
In a world in which there is a call for walls and barriers to be built to separate peoples, the work embodies a message of union and hope for anyone who wants to listen to it
Contemporary artists are enthusiastic about the malleability of the material and are also beginning to find a conceptual purpose in it. Remember, for example, the Catalan pottery artist, Pere Noguera, who highlighted its poetic dimension through his clay works. What also spring to mind are the feminist creations of Hannah Wilke, who used her sculptures to elevate the feminine form in the 1970s and to combat the prevailing phallocentric view in the art world. A simple fold of pinkish clay enabled the artist to create a powerful and subversive image of the female anatomy.2 More recently, in 2013, the Swiss artists Fischli and Weiss presented a massive work consisting of hundreds of unfired clay figures at the Venice Biennale. Likewise, the world renowned artist, Ai Wei Wei, has brought pottery into the modern age by giving it a new interpretation and imbuing it with a political tinge. The artist’s work shows his struggle against the repression facing the freedom of expression, above all in his native country, China. For him, pottery is both a symbol of the weight of Chinese tradition and a tool which allows him to show how hypocritical the system is.
Murmuri brings us back not only to the original concept of pottery, but also to the sensual, tactile, political and subversive aspects of other works that have preceded it. In a way, Eve Ariza’s work processes influences and concepts and, at the same time, reassesses the history of pottery to make it her own.
Apart from the importance of the material, Ariza’s technique is in itself an action that gives meaning to the work in general. The work consists of approximately 9,000 bowls, shaped one by one, by the artist’s own hand. The creation process was therefore extremely physical, lasting some 6 months, and was doubtlessly monotonous. We can imagine that, to a certain extent, the artist had to accept the tempo the material itself dictated. Ariza set up her workshop, just to create these murmurs, in the small town of Sainte Colombe, France. In an almost totally natural setting, she focused on turning each pile of soft clay into a transmitter. Like an act of quiet rebellion in a world of contemporary art where frenzy reigns, Ariza allowed herself the luxury and felt the overriding need to listen to and experience the rhythm the clay imposed on her.
When the murmurs are placed on a vertical support structure, the magic begins. The work turns into a sensorial experience as if you listen closely enough, each bowl reveals its own natural murmur. Freed from traditional narrative content, the work immediately invites the spectator to a physical dialogue. Its size, which we could almost call architectural in nature, later makes way for the delicateness of each bowl-murmur. The lines modelled in each murmur’s interior by the potter’s wheel undoubtedly reminds us of the resounding waves that are dispersed to infinity. A reminiscence of the ‘centre du suspens vibratoire’ which Stéphane Mallarmé spoke of. It is that first, purely poetical vibration which all human communication sprang from. Ariza places the spectator at the centre of that original vibration, which comprises all the matter of the universe. It is a hardly perceptible vibration that encourages silence, meditation, even though it is right in the very centre of the hustle and bustle surrounding the Venice Biennale.
The function of the contemporary artist is to highlight current problems, open up our consciousness and elevate spirits. Throughout her career, Eve Ariza has attempted to make people reflect on human communication and the difficulties that this is experiencing in our post-consumer society. Through pottery, as well as through activist happenings, she has often criticised the Andorran microcosm and its image solely as a commerce-oriented country. Murmuri is conceived as one more stage in her struggle against ‘blah’, in other words, against excessive consumption of images and sounds that seem to be turning more and more into the sole basis of our societies. In this sense, it is a bitter criticism of that ‘liquid society’ described by the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, in which the individual no longer desires to become part of a community or an established order, but has an insatiable desire to satisfy his own whims.
In the current political and social context, Murmuri also refers to human population movements, present and future, and their influence on social structures and the environment, The diverse hues of the clay she uses hint at the different colours of skin all over the world and thus to the evermore frequent mass migrations of people. The phenomenon of resonance is thus transposed to flows of migrants, to crossing borders and other obstacles like racial discrimination. In a world in which there is a call for walls and barriers to be built to separate peoples, the work embodies a message of union and hope for anyone who wants to listen to it.