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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

MFA, March 21-27 2021

Making artwork, Continuing reading on Agency, Julieanna's help critiquing essay writing.


(i) Pinched clay pots -

This week I wanted to go back to making artwork that was simple and easy to do as the circular drawings from last week were a little complicated! I love making pinched pots - the process is very tactile as you pinch out a ball of clay within the palm of your hand. These have a rustic quality to them as I chose to leave the pinch marks on the outside and allow each pot to find its own form so they are a little wonky. One I burnished the outside of but preferred the unfired natural clay look so left the others unburnished and sun dried. I may add 3 of them to the water drawing for crit next week, not sure yet.

Burnished pinched clay pots may be one of the oldest forms of pottery made by humans. The burnishing offers an impermeableness to water even without glazing. To be part of the cycle of an artmaking antiquity is special; I imagine Neanderthal communities around a campfire making small bowls in the palm of their hands with clay collected nearby and then putting them in the fire to harden ready for eating off the next day!

(ii) Stitching the grid -

I'm keen to continue exploring the stitching patterns on tissue paper as I'd like to see what pattern emerges as the grid is altered. This is a 14x23 grid, which has a diiferent pattern to the 13x23 grid. I made a mistake with the length of some stitches which affected the pattern naturally!

I like the idea of prime numbers and so have decided to do grids 11x23 - 23x23 to see what happens. Also I'd like to play with colour so am organising to buy shades of blue viscose thread from Textile Design and see what happens.


Hau'ofa, Epeli. “Our Sea of Islands.” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 6, no. 1, 1994, pp. 148–161. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Mar. 2021.

Epeli's essay on Oceania is open and expansive, pragmatic and poetic, and filled with a wisdom unique to Epeli's Pacifica heritage where "ocean peoples have lived for over 2000 years" (Hau’ofa 7). His devotion for his people is palpable, as are his concerns about the international lending organisations and donors who "have taken the Pacific further and further into dependency on powerful nations" (Hau’ofa 2).

Using myths, legends and cosmologies of the peoples of Oceania, Epeli offers a new perspective, a paradigm shift, of Pacifica. In place of a coloniser's view of small, remote islands with their tiny land surfaces confined in a vast ocean, "far from the centres of power", Epeli describes "a sea of islands" surrounded by an ocean "as far as they could traverse and exploit it, the underworld with its fire-controlling and earth-shaking denizens, and the heavens above with their hierarchies of powerful gods and named stars and constellations that people could count on to guide their ways across the seas" (Hau’ofa 7).

This Oceania is vast, its people expansive and intrepid, "crossing an ocean that had been boundless for ages before Captain Cook's apotheosis" and is still being crossed by islanders migrating around the world today (Hau’ofa 6). Epeli laments the process of colonisation that stripped away the autonomy of his people, economically, geographically and culturally, and confined them physically and psychologically.

In this essay Epeli implores the peoples of Oceania to embrace the expansiveness embedded in their ancient truths - "Oceania is us; we are the sea, we are the ocean" - and to "overturn all hegemonic views that aim ultimately to confine us take away our freedom" (Hau’ofa 16). His essay is an essay of agency, true to the words of Nina Simone, that "it is an artist's duty to reflect the times". Armed with a love for his people, Epeli managed to not only reflect and affect the issues of his time nearly 30 years ago, but to offer a way forward today given the recent impact of Covid-19 on the economies of the Pacific Islands. Epeli's message is even more urgent today as they seek a path forward that no longer relies on international tourism and the political quagmire of international debt.

Steyerl, Hito, and Franco Berardi. Hito Steyerl: The Wretched of the Screen. , 2012. Print.

Back cover : "In Hito Steyerl's writing we begin to see how, even if the hopes and desires for coherent collective political projects have been displaced onto images and screens, it is precisely here that we must look frankly at the technology that seals them in. The Wretched of the Screen collects a number of Steyerl 's landmark essays from recent years in which she has steadily developed her very own politics of the image. Twisting the politics of representation around the representation of politics, these essays uncover a rich trove of information in the formal shifts and aberrant distortions of accelerated capitalism, of the art system as a vast mine of labor extraction and passionate commitment, of occupation and internship, of structural and literal violence, enchantment and fun, of hysterical, uncontrollable flight through the wreckage of postcolonial and modernist discourses and their unanticipated openings."


I was concerned my writing style lacked originality so asked Julieanna for some honest feedback and critique. This was very helpful and she offered some really useful comments to help move forward.

These are Julieanna's comments -

  • my style is analytical, matter-of-fact and well presented; it is a successful stye of writing

  • to accelerate improvement in writing its not just about reading an assignment but adding my opinion, perspective and interpretation - need to synthesise my position about an artwork or reading by processing is through my values as an artist, mother etc

  • don't abandon describing and analysing but make it more visceral - why does it matter to me? how is it invested in my practice?

  • how to charge a piece of writing - what's important and what's not

  • look to other writers who use a factual, analytical modality and write a homage to them in their style - mines is Geoff Park


Unfortunately I missed the year 2 crits as I had been on the sharp end of my bees!


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