The Glass Virus
Ine Harrang
Short Musings & Long Reflections

Glass artists / Artists working with glass – Semantics or identity issue?

The topic headline may be viewed as a mere technical definition; -where the glass artist is understood as someone with special skills and preference for the material in question, whereas the artist working with glass is seen as an artist whose work and choice of material normally differs. If so, musing on why’s and if’s become irrelevant but for the linguists. Of interest are why the terms have been cornered, if they might be understood related to identity issues, and how they may show the possibility of a schism amongst the abundant and diverse crowd that constitute the glass world.

It is intriguing how one can pick up the minutiae of bickering from the parties falling within the different spectre of the topic categories. A rather derogatory slant on the viewing of the other seems to be at play. Can it be that one party in question invests too much reverence in regard to the argued material, - the other possibly too little? Talking to young glass artists in making, they come in types of either making half-embarrassed excuses for the material they have chosen, or adoring it with fervour. One takes little pride in the material and the world that surrounds it, - the other cherishing it a wee too much.

No entity, neither in form nor function, can be without a definition of sort. When something - or anything - gets defined, it finds its place. Identity is about that place. The importance of a strong identity will always be connected to the enablement of being the one to shape, and staying in command of, its own definition. As follows, a poorly defined identity will be at the mercy of having its definition made by others.

An ill-defined and fuzzy-edged glass art scene, will invariably and unfailingly end up having to deal with identity issues related to existence, content and direction. The bigger the issues, the clearer the image appears of an entity unsteadily tottering along a nonspecific path to oblivion, while waiting for someone else to define who and what it is. Someone else may here be viewed as including both the broader contemporary art scene and the public to which one is reaching out. And that can’t possibly be a fighting-spirited material worthy.

Is the enormous diversity and broad spectre of expression currently to be seen within the term glass art, a weakness? This diversity is obviously not positive or negative in substance, but is like most things perpetually changeable according to the context it reads and understands itself, and is being red and understood by others.

Do we within the diversity of the moment see the contours of a schism, which until defined, identified and debated, will hamper energy necessary to move forward or cover new ground?

1The importance of all things signature has been an integral part of our cultural fabric since Gilgamesh, in need of naming a sense of self - and thereby self’s boundaries, wrote his name on the mountain. When does self stop being self, and becomes first we, then others? A main area to be addressed within the glass art scene, or glass community if one wants to be charitable, is not what glass art is but rather what glass art can also be.

Identity and definition challenges are of course commonplace across different artistic disciplines. Some of those the glass world do chare. But there are also areas around identity, function and significance only applicable to the specific nature of the existing glass scene. A long-going debate we do have in common with the contemporary art scene at large, is centred on what appear to be the dated and obsolete boxing system still claimed as valid, on how to define and categorize the different artistic forms and expressions.

The glass art scene is albeit a young one. Where most of the material based art forms already for quite a time have heaved and roared against the constraint of their own substance, glass is still in its infancy as to mapping its edges and defining its boundaries. The common glue so far as to identification, coherency and limits has been the material used. Is that enough? And is this necessarily the best served or most accurate way of categorizing the field?

Is it relevant within the contemporary reality to which we belong, letting a specific material being the determinable factor as to where a piece of work/project/artist belongs or will find common ground? Or is this way of identifying an artistic subject matter, just from the nature of the time and the beast, bound to cause an eruption along the line? What alternative options of identifying an entity might there be?

Could one equally correct, make the division whereby the intention of the work defines the place into the larger system of which the work adhere? Are décor and material, concept and the Meta world, in its utilisation, possibilities and core-being, compatible? Or how does one make them?

The critical-reflective angle needed in own work, also includes the context by which one owns work is rendered readable. No context, - no valid critical reflection. The context, or backdrop, we measure our artistic credibility against, will always be the peers of the world we think we merit belonging to or be a part of. To be a desired part of anyone’s context, our material and its minions need to offer a credible world in which anyone wants to be measured.

As mentioned, glass art is not the only art entity with an identity-challenge stalking the shadows. When it comes to what the glass world choose to call that animal, I really don’t care, as long as we may agree it being an animal in need of naming.

Ine Harrang, Amsterdam, 15th of March 2014, in response to subject on the agenda, The Glass Virus Think Tank seminar, February 2014

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