fracturing the concrete rhizome

‘As a model for culture, the rhizome resists the organizational structure of the root-tree system that charts causality along chronological lines and looks for the original source of “things” and looks towards the pinnacle or conclusion of those “things.” A rhizome, on the other hand, is characterized by “ceaselessly established connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles.”’

The notion of the rhizome as a cultural model suggested by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari represents an approach to the postmodern world that incorporates planar and trans-species connections as opposed to the linear or binary arborescent concept of knowledge. This approach favours multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in contrast to a vertical and linear perception that suggests inherent meanings along a historicist pathway that leads from beginning to end and supposes an inevitable conclusion from past precedents.

Whilst this pragmatic approach risks rationalising injustice and inequality it encourages equal participation in and integration into Hong Kong culture for all of its residents and suggests new ways of seeing and imagining the city as represented by the weed pushing its way through the concrete façade.

“The present order is the disorder of the future” Louis Antoine de Saint-Just

Little Sparta, Scotland

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Finlay’s context is almost the antithesis of the urban environment of Hong Kong yet his juxtaposition of Saint-Just’s words carved in stone set against the seemingly timeless Scottish landscape reflect mankind’s innate yet misplaced sense of self importance in light of the natural world’s inevitable indifference to human concerns. Finlay’s attempts to tame nature in the creation of a garden is no more futile than the efforts of urban developers to incessantly pour concrete onto this sub-tropical island. The weeds will return and knowing this we can enjoy the manufactured environment while it lasts.

As a ceramic artist in Hong Kong the transience of city’s infrastructure is a crucial influence on my work. Through reference to the timeframe of the 1950s to the 1970s my ceramic production reflects an imperative to understand and attempt to in some way influence this city of momentous change. The aesthetic tropes of the built environment that incorporate similar patterns and motifs to those used in vintage British tableware of the same era are a source of visual reference that I incorporate in my interpretations of the city through clay. This fascination with a nostalgic reference to the recent past represents a progression from the research that I undertook into the British tableware industry spanning the same two decades whist studying at Glasgow School of Art in 2004-2008.

My practice centres on thrown forms that serve as canvasses for abstracted visual interpretations of the urban environment. These images are created using the process of mono-printing and are purposefully restricted to a limited colour palate of naturally occurring oxide tones such as cobalt blue, manganese brown and copper green. As my artistic practice has evolved to incorporate research into theoretical cultural critiques of city life my ceramic craft has developed in response to this. In particular I am in the process of organizing a project that involves a process of drift through the city as suggested by situationism’s Guy Debord and Asger Jorn as a way to imagine and interact with Hong Kong’s rapidly evolving built environment.

“Let us summarise the principal characteristics of a rhizome: unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even nonsign states. The rhizome is reducible neither to the One nor the multiple…It is composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle [milieu] from which it grows and from which it overspills.”

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari  Rhizome

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