Michael Flaherty






Electroceramic Installations

This series of work uses electricity to fire certain components of the installations in the gallery space without using a kiln. It is a technique that I invented while searching for a way to make visible the aspects of firing that are normally hidden from view. I make the entire process completely visible to the audience - the components heat from room temperature to yellow-hot, the clay matures, and the glaze sinters and melts before the electricity is turned off and the piece cools back to room temperature. The entire firing can take as little as twenty minutes meaning that it happens on a scale which is accessible to a gallery audience.

Typically, the electroceramic components have specially designed heating elements inserted into extruded or thrown segments, which are then constructed into a final form. An alternative construction technique that I have used extensively is to coil elements around a clay rod and then dip them both in slip. The resultant coil can be used as a component in a larger installation. Most projects have involved several electroceramic components each wired to its own circuit and controlled by its own toggle switch.

My interest in using electricity in such a performative way stems from my earlier work with motorized figurative clay sculptures. Those sculptures were physically activated by having electricity running through them. However, it played another role which I had not anticipated. In a sense, electricity became the subject of those pieces, in that it came to represent all the cultural and social mechanisms forcing the figures to perform their activities. My subsequent electroceramic installations extended this metaphor to a very extreme level. The central idea of all these installations is that the electricity permeates the clay material itself, and in doing so not only activates the figure, but is actually crucial to its very formation.