‘Ceràmica Cumella: Shaping Ideas’
Curated by Mis-Architecture (Christopher Pierce and Chris Matthews) with AA Exhibitions
Architectural Association Gallery, London, 29 September to 8 December 2012
Fundación Metrópoli, Madrid, February to May 2013
From a curator’s perspective there are some things that ‘Ceràmica Cumella: Shaping Ideas’ has not done. That’s a strange place to start – I know. But we’re thinking of this as its fifth ‘event’. There’s the unfolding A1 exhibition guide, which if you read you’ll see what we wanted the show to do, learn a few things about its origination, and also get an idea about our unit’s relationship with ceramics. If you’ve been to the show, you’ll know that for the past couple of months fifteen, hundred-plus kilo, 3.5 metre-high steel ‘towers’ have stood like soldiers in the AA Gallery, laden with eight, roughly 2m2, timber crates worth of static ceramic fragments lifted straight out of Toni Cumella’s truly wondrous workshop. Those have been watched over internally by about eighty of Frederic Amat’s ceramic eyeballs and flanked externally along the adjacent staircase by hundreds of his ceramic blood teardrops. You might have been at the effervescent Benedetta Tagliabue’s evening lecture in early November where she recounted the start of Toni’s ‘architectural’ life with her and Enric Miralles and/or Toni’s and Frederic Amat’s conversation on the exhibition’s final day at the AA in early December when they discussed solo and more recent collaborative affairs. Having arrived at that point this text is only going to briefly look back to look forward – to the show’s existence as a travelling exhibition that will now head to the Fundación Metrópoli in Madrid and then, with a little bit of luck, to Paris and to New York. Asia’s still too scary for a Catalan artisan – have you seen how they manufacture most ceramics in China? It’s like cooking a Domino’s pizza.
After seventy-five or so days, neither Chris nor I think enough people still have any idea who this warm and charismatic, slightly scruffy, sixty-something Catalan ceramicist is – who I think looks a little bit like Al Pacino in 88 Minutes. In the show, he’s outflanked by the great and good of contemporary architecture, whose personas, which are hard enough to beat off one-on-one, collectively engulf you like a tsunami. In laymen’s terms, Toni’s about 5’-11”, maybe 175 pounds and likes to play basketball. In our terms, he’s an uncommon talent possessing alchemical power. Could you see that? Ultimately he might be the moulder and manufacturer of a form of mud, but we haven’t yet unpacked that phenomenal, transformative process enough for any viewer to really appreciate what happens in the course of a collaboration and how he imagines/invents/creates so many of the forms, textures, colours and finishes that we typically attribute to someone else. If you craned your neck and adopted bad posture, you’d have seen in the eight imitation iPads running linearly along the gallery’s northern wall a set of drawings and photographs that try to tell this tale. But these weren’t sufficiently pronounced or put together meaningfully enough for any visitor, let alone an untrained one, to have patience to piece that story together. Chris and I have been around these things for five years. I still wouldn’t say we have much of an idea, but we have seen the process at work and I think that we’ll need to be a lot less opaque in Madrid.