Provocation in Porcelain

Victoria Burgher

My research asks if porcelain, as a methodological tool of artistic research, can expose ideological whiteness as a way of outing it to anti-racist ends. By making and thinking with porcelain, I hope to address what Mike Hill has described as “the epistemological stickiness and ontological wiggling immanent in whiteness” (Hill, 1997, p. 3). By whiteness I am referring to what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva terms “embodied racial power” (Bonilla-Silva, 2003, p. 271). Academics in the field of critical whiteness studies have highlighted the potential pitfalls of this work, one being that if any work we are doing with whiteness is not contributing to anti-racist scholarship, then we must stop doing it (Garner, 2007). I am determined, therefore, to continually reflect on whether I can genuinely put whiteness to the test and create a meaningful outcome. What agency does my specific situation as an artist-researcher – my social, geographical and racial privilege, and the authority this bestows – give me in terms of a transformative practice? There is a very real risk that my work, however clear I am about its anti-oppression aims, puts an unnecessary focus on whiteness. This is the situation this paper discusses.