Ira Bartell

Ira Bartell
Flowerpot, 2005

ira bartell

In a town of Roman antiquity like Cologne, a pottery shard is not simply a piece of ceramic. A shard speaks – to archeologists most completely – but to us all. To a professional, a shard tells of its origins: the period, place, likely use, possibly the former contents. To the rest of us, a shard means that what once was held together as a functioning vessel is now no more than pieces; to paraphrase the Buddha, “Whatever is put together, comes apart.” Perhaps the shard tells of violence. Certainly it speaks of destruction, and most ineluctably, the passage of time – a point Bartell underscores by dating this object. On a emotional, human level, a shard points to broken structures, broken relations, broken plans, broken dreams. Here is a broken thing.

Acknowledging all this – having broken the pot himself – Bartell takes several triumphant steps past depression or nihilism. He has re-assembled the pot – not back into a seamlessly, cleverly, glued camouflage job – but loosely, so that the pieces remain pieces, and the destruction remains present and visible. This airy reconstruction of shards into the shape – the former shape – of a flowerpot, becomes an act of bravery and pluck. Bartell says, “yes, things break, my things too. But you can do with the pieces. Pick them up, put them together. Make something.”

The pot Bartell has wrought is indeed a beautiful thing – much more lovely than the original, unbroken, garden variety. It attracts all who see it, simply because it looks so good. This pot is a three-dimensional mosaic (a nod perhaps towards Cologne’s oldest and most beautiful resident artwork – the million-piece mosaic dining-room floor from an Roman villa in the middle of the old town.) The attraction of this object comes in the first instance from the artistic integrity and the craft in it. Bartell knows the importance of doing things well, and that it is not enough simply to make jokes or create objects of the absurd. The pot is empty; it holds nothing but beauty and bravery, and this is magnetic.

David Schieider, 2005

Ira Bartell
The History of Egypt

Ira bartell 2

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