This practice-based research investigates connections between historical ceramic objects, critical theory and contemporary ceramic art practice, through the study of Aramaic incantation bowls from 5th – 7th century CE Iraq. It centres around a close reconsideration of the magic bowl texts, and the production and installation of ceramic art work comprising a spatial triptych of rooms, re-imagining the decorative fabric of the Babylonian domestic interiors in which the bowls were usually unearthed. Through interdisciplinary critical and creative approaches, the research establishes connections between the fields of contemporary ceramic art practice, archaeology, ancient history and critical theory. In this way the research introduces new types of narratives to contemporary ceramics, as well as new ways in which they might be explored. It also advocates a more prominent position for the Aramaic bowls within ceramic historical traditions.
Aramaic incantation bowls are clay vessels covered with magical spell texts, and are an intrinsic part of the magic praxis of the period. Made from ordinary buff coloured clay and usually found buried upside down in the floors and courtyards of ordinary Babylonian homes, they aim to protect the home and its occupants from demons, invoking a plethora of supernatural beings from across cultures to assist in this endeavour.
Research practice centres on the production of a large-scale installation, In the House of Ephra and Bahmanduch, comprising a spatial triptych of three rooms. Each is a manifestation of the physical, emotional or psychological unease of the makers and users of these bowls, evidenced in the Aramaic bowl texts, and a contemporary embodying of the psycho-space of the Babylonian homes in which the bowls were unearthed. The viewer is invited to experience these three spaces. Each cloisters one of three works: Sub Rosa, a large circular ceiling installation of bone china ceiling roses, Lilith by the Red Sea Carpet, a rectangular floor piece made of unfired Ming porcelain, and Flock (currently in development), a wall piece in which the walls of a small room are entirely covered in pieces of porcelain wallpaper.
Lilith by the Red Sea Carpet-timelapse
Sue Goldschmidt is a practice-based doctoral researcher in Ceramics at CREAM, University of Westminster. Australian born and London based, Sue holds a BA Hons degree in Language and Literature from the University of Manchester, and a BA hons degree in Ceramics from University of Westminster. Sue makes ceramic art installations that enfold the viewer and evoke embodied response. Drawn to the latent narratives associated with clay’s longevity of usage, concerns include the ability of objects and spaces to embody emotion, and alignments and misalignments of contemporary and ancient narratives. Sue taught Ceramics at The Institute, Hampstead Garden Suburb, between 2006 – 2013, and has exhibited extensively throughout the UK, including at the Menier Gallery, CAA, Cupola Contemporary Art, DKNY London, North Cloisters UCL, 20/21 Visual Art Centre, Ludlow Assembly Rooms, Christie’s London, and the Liverpool Biennial Fringe. Her work appears in a number of publications, including Shaping Ceramics – From Lucie Rie to Edmund de Waal, Tradition & Innovation: Five Decades of Harrow Ceramics, Ceramic Review and Ceramics Art and Perception. A founding member of the CREAM PhD Caucus, Sue participates regularly in its exhibitions, which have included In Process, Between Here and Then and Hyphen, and has established a ‘research/exhibition’ practice in which exhibition space is utilised to test out ideas. Sue’s doctoral research has also encompassed a seven-week residency at EKWC in the Netherlands, and museum collection research in London, Chicago, Philadelphia and Jerusalem. Sue is also influenced by ecological concerns and aesthetics, and in 2018 was awarded a public art commission to realise the living plant work, Hedgerow.