“Potters, if you will give me a reward, I will sing for you. Come, then, Athene, with hand upraised over the kiln. Let the pots and all the dishes turn out well and be well fired; let them fetch good prices and be sold in plenty in the market, and plenty in the streets. Grant that the potters may get great gain and grant me so to sing to them. But if you turn shameless and make false promises, then I call together the destroyers of kilns, Syntribos and Smaragos and Asbetos and Sabaktes and Omodamos who can work this craft much mischief. Come all of you and sack the kiln-yard and the buildings: let the whole kiln be shaken up to the potter’s loud lament. As a horse’s jaw grinds, so let the kiln grind to powder all the pots inside. “
— Homer’s Epigrams Fragment 14
Of Potters’ Demons is born out of the search for a process that generates sincere works of art and performance by freeing artists, writers and directors from the conditions and pressures of commercialized critical standards. An interdisciplinary process that focuses on creating an uncompromised and unprejudiced experience based on the extreme questioning and exhaustion of some of the most basic and central tropes, genres, conventions and techniques in the visual and performing arts. A process that, hopefully, creates its own alternative critical measure.
As I searched for an image, or a narrative, to give symbolic and representative support for this still rather ambiguously ambitious drive, I stumbled upon the above epigram fragment attributed to Homer.
In this fragment we have the invocation of a curse promised to potters unless their craft truly retains its honest value. If the craft remains true to itself then financial and personal rewards are promised the potters, but not if their methods turn dishonest and deceptive. In which case a set of demons, the five potters’ demons, the ‘Demonae Ceramici’, are invoked to shatter, smash, crush and obliterate the pots and their kilns. This would ensure that the craftsmen remain honest and do not dare to betray their craft. It is this narrative that gives this initiative its critical standard. I am not interested in the success, in the craft that deserves the reward; too many craftsmen already know what formulas, what training, what structures and conventions to follow and execute for the creation of such popularly successful art.
Instead I am interested in the failure, in the failing extreme limits of the craft, where the craft fails to deliver what we desire it to deliver. It is at that edge, in that gap, the gap between the ‘what is known to work’ and ‘what is known to fail’, that we might be able to find something different, something other, with which to create something else beyond the commercialized critical standards.
So rather than simply be craftsmiths we also need to be demons. Ready to break and crush what we love, and eager to play with the pieces, rediscovering what it meant to craft and create in the first place. This here then is my intention; to cultivate experimental gatherings of potters’ demons. Interdisciplinary groups of visual artists, performers, writers, directors, musicians and researchers ready to commit to an uncompromised and unprejudiced process with the aim of re-understanding and re-interpreting artistic and performative craft and convention, across a variety of media, persistently wandering at the extreme edges of failure.
Demonae Ceramici Logo design and artwork by Dale Scerri.