Ceramics in the World, and the World in Ceramics

a collaboration between the RISD Museum
and the Center for Complexity

Wednesday, June 16
3-4:30pm EST

RISD faculty members Alero Akporiaye, Jean Blackburn, Anina Major, Christopher Roberts, and Clement Valla, with Elizabeth Williams of the RISD Museum, will explore a selection of ceramic objects from the RISD Museum collection. Join these scholars and makers from a variety of disciplines as they consider the human creative expression carried via ceramics and discuss aesthetic characteristics as well as their significance as bearers and symbols of history, culture, commerce, and meaning.
    Both exploratory and investigative, critical and generative, this multidisciplinary dialogue will benefit scholars and art lovers alike. Unscripted and unrehearsed, this dynamic conversation will explore how to look at these objects more closely and broadly, and engage with them in new ways to find both the beauty and truth in earthen materials shaped by human hands, which, as Keats wrote, continue to “tease us out of thought, As doth eternity.” The discussion aims to inspire a deep consideration of how these objects can provide insight into the practices, mindsets and values that we should carry forward—or leave behind.

This collaboration will be introduced by Elizabeth Williams, the Museum’s David and Peggy Rockefeller Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, and is in preparation for the January 2022 exhibition Trading Earth: Ceramics, Commodities, and Commerce. The production of ceramics by global communities—whether as staples or luxuries—is inextricably linked to issues of consumption and commodification. Williams writes:

These commodities and goods are employed and enjoyed gastronomically, aesthetically, socially, artistically, and culturally by many types of markets and consumers. They are also frequently cultivated, harvested, and produced by enslaved, indentured, or exploitative labor of human beings, damaging or endangering the wellbeing of their person, communities, and environments. Drawing from the museum’s nearly 8,900 ceramic objects, this exhibition centers the intersection of global trade and ceramics through the exploration of a dozen commodities.

Writing the Implosion Joseph Dumit

RISD Faculty 

Alero Akporiaye, PhD
Assistant Professor, History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences

Jean Blackburn, MFA
Professor, Illustration

Anina Major, MFA
Assistant Professor, Ceramics

Christopher Roberts, PhD
Assistant Professor, Theory and History of Art & Design

Clement Valla, MFA
Associate Professor, Experimental and Foundation Studies

RISD Museum Curator

Elizabeth Williams, PhD
David & Peggy Rockefeller Curator, Decorative Arts