The What and the How (after Berkeley’s Tree)

The What and the How (Berkeley’s tree) refers to a concrete meaningful turning point in the history of thought, speared amongst others by George Berkeley in the XVIII century. The piece refers to a riddle initiated by him and still evolving that refers to the possibility of unperceived existence: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?“. The piece started being modelled in multiple sessions by a real fallen tree in the woods, initially trying to reconstruct the broken pieces into an upright tree. This raw clay standing tree was taken afterwards to the studio and left to fall as it dried up, the broken pieces being used to reconstruct the original fallen tree. 

The choice of material for the piece plays with one of the main properties of porcelain, which is its resonance. The sound of the broken porcelain is therefore trapped in the history of the object and stretches the scope of the original riddle: are we able to reconstruct a perceptual phenomena trapped in the history of an object? And if so, how do we do it?

The What and the How (after Berkeley’s Tree), 2014
Porcelain body flax paper clay
Variable dimensions, about 20 x 130 x 35 cm

Photographs by ©Bernard G. Mills