Bisila Noha is a Spanish London-based ceramics artist. With her work she aims to challenge Western views on art and craft; to question what we understand as productive and worthy in capitalist societies; and to reflect upon the idea of home and oneness pulling from personal experiences in different pottery communities.
On not making during a pandemic…
Some weeks ago on a podcast, I listened to the Blindboy and writer Emma Dabiri talking about race and resistance. On the topic of performative activism and social media, the Blindboy described Twitter as a platform restricting our capacity to elaborate nuanced thoughts. Limited by the amount of characters we can use, our speech simplifies and so does, eventually, the way we think. And as our attention spam shortens and shortens, we, as users, adapt our discourse, which consequently shrinks our ability to critical thinking. Everyone’s arguments, news and speeches are short and sweet these days.
Moreover, it seems we no longer have time to click twice and leave the almighty never-ending feed of emptiness to visit websites. Everything is on social media. And so, we, artists, keep adapting. We must. So why bother developing the thoughts behind some new work when no-one will probably read it? Keep it short. Get the likes. Keep scrolling.
What if I, for one, have things to say that I want the world to read?
Or maybe I just need to write them for myself, which might nevertheless contribute to both my personal and artistic growth.
The way I see it, not everything we do needs to be for the masses and the grams.
So last year, I had a story to tell. The more I wrote about it, the more it and I expanded as a project, as a human being, as an artist.
I am lucky that I love writing and I come from a background in Translation and therefore, it is a skill that I have been nurturing throughout the years. Writing might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but any other discipline that isn’t one’s main chosen medium can add to the story behind a piece of art.
Of course, for all this one needs time, which society – especially in fast-paced cities like London – tends to deprive us of. We are made believe that there are many more important things out there than cultivating our thoughts and expanding our discourse and vision. Because the system wants our brains and our discourses to be ‘short and sweet’, so that we forget that we actually think and feel in a very complex and nuanced way.
The pandemic started as a slap in the face for me and then turned into a Heaven’s sent.
I started losing all my income, with all pottery courses, exhibitions and other projects being cancelled all at once. With nothing else to lose, I held onto what I had: my work, my story. I was given the gift of time, possibly for the first time in about seven years, and I committed to make the most of it.
I made a total of zero pieces during the first lockdown. I didn’t go to the studio, since making ceramics is very expensive and I had limited resources. So I poured all my everything onto it somehow else and the results were amazing.
The most important project I have made to-date, Baney Clay: An Unearthed Identity, was launched in April, online.
What seemed like a downer at first, then turned into the best show I have had so far. It being online, helped the work reach a wider audience, I was invited to give a talk online and made a lot of new connections. More importantly, as a project filled with personal reflections upon myself, my background and our culture, I started writing and writing about it from many different angles. I got in touch with magazines to get the work published and as a result I was invited by more magazines to keep writing about it. I was finally heading to a place where I had been wanting to be for a while, writing at last to make my work more complete. All thanks to the pandemic and all this new time.
At the beginning of the second lockdown I started working full time on a very intense job, which made it even more difficult to go to the studio.
I had the money, I lacked the time. And then, what was meant to be a week in Dorset turned into three months. So I spent the third lockdown in the countryside. I was miles away from the studio.
A year after the pandemic started, back in London, back to making, I have come to it not only with renewed energies and a re-born love, but also with a clear idea of the direction I want to move into; of who I want to be as an artist.
So if there is something I have learnt in the last year is that to make sometimes it is important to not make. To get out of the studio and to use all that time to look at my practice from a different angle, from the perspective of a different discipline. I have found this to be a powerful way to expand my work, the ideas, and to better communicate the stories behind it to the world.
So I recommend this to all makers out there. And above all, I recommend them not to succumb to the ways of social media. To not be ruled by character limitations and the attention spam of people we don’t even know.
For what matters is what we have inside.
What we really want to express.
Art is love.
Share it as much as you can.
However you can.