Steven Claydon

Like a Potted Vessel


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Steven Claydon born 1969
Hessian, wood, powder-coated steel, aluminium, plastic, copper, Roman vessel and rubber
Object: 2040 x 1050 x 1050 mm
Purchased 2010

Not on display


Like a Potted Vessel 2009 is a composite sculpture that brings together a series of different objects. A plastic    barrel, used for transporting olives from the Mediterranean to northern Europe,    has been coloured to simulate earthenware and supports a small Roman vessel. Both    these objects would once have had a utilitarian value, however in this    arrangement they are presented as cultural artefacts, situated within a rectangular steel structure which acts as a frame or display    case. A low, hessian-covered hexagonal plinth supports the work. Claydon has juxtaposed a mass-produced,    inexpensive object that reflects contemporary society with a    handmade object representative of an earlier time or cultural heritage. The work aims to examine the relationship between craft and    art, functional object and art object, and explores shifts in perception about the    value of an object according to rarity, time and technological innovation. The artist has    observed that much of his practice is concerned with ‘how the nature of a thing    operates culturally, in terms of historical venerability within a contemporary art    gallery; how an object might become an artefact, and how an art object can    operate in this way through the stewardship of an institution’ (Claydon in International Project Space 2008, p.11).

      In his work, Claydon draws attention to the fact that culture can be manipulated by those    who exert control over it. The arrangement of what at first may appear to be an arbitrary collection of objects, all of which come from different    cultural spheres and periods in history, acts as a comment on the    mechanisms behind the construction of a national cultural history. Claydon    often highlights the artwork’s institutional framing conditions and the fact that    art acquires a historical value when it enters the museum. In doing so, he questions the    idealist concept of art, the classificatory systems imposed upon it and the    construction of a cultural history to contain it – all of which were reinforced by    the institution of the museum as it developed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth    centuries.

   Instead of forcing knowledge into a continuous chronological development,    presenting a set image of the past, Claydon aims to establish an    engagement with history which is relevant to his own context. He has    commented:

   I want to make clear that there are always multiple fugitive    trajectories that ignite from an object, and to try and make any    reading is laudable but flawed. It’s an impossible situation, so I think    that by trying to make connections that might be extremely cursory,    but which at the same time are extremely well researched and loaded,    and which have some historical precedence, does more or less the    same thing. It’s about creating equivalence. I want to create an    equivalence where perhaps there is none, or in order to ask a    question whether it matters if I’m creating or posing a connection,    and how that affects anything in the world; the connection might    appear to exist anyway, regardless of things considered in the public    arena, or in the gallery. It really starts to affect every aspect of    culture.
(Claydon in International Project Space 2008, p.18.)

   Further reading
   Catherine Wood, ‘Steve Claydon’, Frieze, no.93, September 2005, pp.152–3.
Steven Claydon: The Ancient Set, exhibition catalogue, International Project    Space, Birmingham 2008.

   Carmen Juliá
   June 2010

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