susie osler Thu, 05/01/2014 - 21:30

I was invited this winter to participate in an interesting group show curated by Petra Halkes at RIA's Project Room.  The show, called Never Forever, gathered together work by 6 artists that, as Halkes states,  '[spoke] with empathy of heroic human efforts to hold on to things, to create unchanging systems, to imagine an order that lasts forever.'

To read about Never Forever click here.

My contribution to Never Forever was a re-imagining of the installation I presented at the 2011 New Art Festival in Ottawa (the reason for starting this blog/photo gallery).

In the original (Re)Seed installation, I made, fired, painted, and installed 1900 ceramic flowers in a park lawn during an art festival.  Visitors to the 2011 installation were invited to take a fired ceramic flower and 're-seed' it (ie. leave it) somewhere as an 'offering' to a place (outside of their personal spheres) that was in need of some beauty or inspiration.  In essence to 'carry forward' the spirit of the gift. Their responsibility was to send back to me a photo of the re-seeded flower in-situ.  Approximately 1600 were taken by visitors who received information about the project and the active role I hoped they would play in moving the objects out into the world - beyond my control, and beyond theirs.  I received only approximately 150 photos back from people who'd re-seeded their flowers.  These delighted me... though what became of the remaining 1400 flowers that were taken? Had they moved out into the world, or had they been held on to - positioned on someone's coffee table, mantel, flower pot or bookshelf?

it was interesting for me to note that although I encouraged people to take a flower 'offering' from me, it was not without the attachment of strings. They (the participants) were consigned with the task of leaving it somewhere, sending me a photo, and letting it go, yet I requested of them a visual document (photos) of the repositioned flowers - providing me with a trace of my creative efforts or a kind of 'validation' of my work.

The re-imagined installation (Re)Seed/(Re)Seen at RIA built on some of the observations and experiences of the original (Re)Seed project.  (Re)Seed/(Re)Seen dug deeper into some of the subtler psychological responses and challenges experienced in the act of making an offering – the challenge of giving freely; personal attachment to objects; our ability/inability to relinquish control; and the threads of energy that are activated (or trapped) as a result of our actions.

In this iteration of the installation the flowers (approximately 200) were unfired and contained flower seeds that could only germinate once the flower had been translocated from the RIA project room to a chosen location outside.  Again, visitors were invited to take a flower from a pile on a small table and told to reposition it in a place outdoors and out of their personal realm, in a place that needed inspiration, hope, life.  Somewhere that the flower could dissolve and hopefully germinate.

By not firing the clay object I broke with the conventional ceramic practice of firing work – one which helps to ensure the object’s longevity (and hence its sale-ability, and presumably desireability). However without firing, the creative potential held within the flower (live seeds) could be preserved.  It was only through the giver’s agency – their moving of the flower from inside to out, and allowing its dissolution - that the next stage of the creative process, a flower’s actual growth, would be enabled.

I did ask that people send a photo back to me of the flower 'planted' out in the world.  Perhaps it is me that cannot fully let the flowers go...

Photos from (Re)Seed/(Re)Seen are here.

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susie osler Wed, 06/29/2011 - 11:15

I began giving away small, handmade ceramic objects almost 15 years ago while still at art school.  For lack of a better title, it has been loosely referred to (in my mind at least) as my ‘gift project’.  Being a maker of high-end ceramics, this gift project has become a way for me to momentarily leave the world of commerce, commodity, and impersonal exchange of money-for-‘thing’, and bestow a gift upon someone, (usually a stranger), or to a place.  In either case, it was almost invariably anonymous, and offered when I felt inspired – either by that person, or that place - to do so. I have left things in various places – Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, parts of the US and Canada.  Over the years I have also given many of these objects to friends to take with them on travels, or back with them to their home in other countries, to offer to others (people or places) when they feel compelled. Friends have left or ‘gifted’ things in Afghanistan, Vietnam, India, Mexico, and many countries in Europe.  It is wonderful to imagine the ‘life’ that these objects may lead when they leave my studio.   It is also wonderful to imagine the delight, curiosity, wonder, and hopefully joy that finding a wee object in an unexpected place may engender.   That the object be witnessed or acknowledged by another (human) is not important though. I feel that a place also holds a spirit or an energy, which will quietly receive the gift as well as any person.  It is the spirit of the offering, the intention with which it is made,  the passing on, and the letting go that is the point.
This is the spirit with which I embarked on (Re)Seed – the participatory installation I created at The New Art Festival in Ottawa June 4/5, 2011.  (Re)Seed is essentially an extension of what has been to this point, more or less, a private activity for me.  Inviting the public to enter into the relationship between maker, giver and receiver has been an interesting process.  The gift exchange occurs on many levels.  I gave the viewer the visual gift of the installation, and then invited individuals to enter into the exchange by giving them a flower (that they pick) from the installation.  The flowers were free.  The ‘catch’ (if there is one), was that they cannot keep the gift.   They are asked to ‘re-seed’ it in a public place, or to someone (preferably a stranger) that needs some inspiration, joy, beauty, or simply a ‘lift’; and take a picture in situ to send to me.  These photos and stories/comments are being posted (ongoing) on the fieldwork website for others to enjoy.
I made 1900 ceramic flowers for this installation.  It was a bit of a daily meditation, over the course of several weeks, for me to work away, bit by bit, at their creation.  Approximately 1600 flowers were ‘picked’ by visitors to the festival.  Photos are now trickling in which is a great delight for me.
I will be posting more about this project in the coming weeks so do check back from time to time.


Artist's Bio
Susie Osler is a ceramic artist living in Eastern Ontario. The gift, or offering, public participation, nature, and delight are central concepts in much of her work.  Her interest in public art – particularly for rural spaces led to the development of fieldwork in 2008 - a public art space dedicated to site-specific work, which is located in one of the fields on her farm. She, together with 3 others (Chris Grosset, Chris Osler, and Erin Robertson) make up the fieldwork Collective.


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