A Review: The Ceramics Congress Korea 2020

Did you all get spammed on Facebook with these “The Ceramics Congress Korea 2020” ads like I did? Maybe you saw them and weren’t sure what a “Ceramics Congress” was. Maybe the algorithms buried the persistent promotions from your feed. But as I sat at the computer, feeling the void of the nonexistent National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts 2020 conference, I clicked and signed up for the online three day, twenty-four/seven ceramic marathon. Surprised to see that Sergei Isupov was going to conduct a rare talk and demonstration I looked through the rest of the schedule – what a delight to see Alessandro Gallo, Dirk Staschke, Roberto Lugo, Carole Epp, Brendan Tang, Vipoo Srivilasa, En Iwamura and more ceramic artists from around the world delivered straight to your personal viewing rectangle. The Ceramics Congress platform presents hour-long demonstrations and lectures prepared by the artists ahead of time, followed by an hour live Question and Answer session with the artists and a moderator fielding questions from the online hoard of global attendees who were incredibly positive and enthusiastic. 

I signed up specifically to hear the lectures, but I did enjoy “wandering around” the many facets of the online event space. The Congress was hosted by the company “Hopin,” which is an online event platform where users can create engaging virtual events that connect people around the globe. Most unique in the conference was the networking feature – functioning like a clean and happy ceramic-people version of the infamous Chat Roulette. For those of you not familiar with Chat Roulette, it is an online chat website that pairs random people from around the world for online video chats. It quickly devolved to accommodating the lowest common denominator, but also included beautiful moments. Ben Folds used Chat Roulette in his concerts, circa 2010, creating improvisational songs for the people who showed up on his screen as it hovered above his piano in front of his audience. In The Ceramics Congress networking tab, you are safe from the baser elements Chat Roulette has fallen prey to. Instead you are randomly to any other person logged in to the congress who wouldn’t mind talking to strangers online about ceramic-related topics. It was a lovely way to be inclusive and introduced an element of pleasant chaos to an otherwise streamlined experience.

For a restricted time period there was a Virtual Makers Market where forty-three artists (notably Arthur Halvorsen and Punch, aka Chanakarn Semachai) sold their work via a live feed. Much like the NCECA Expo Hall, The Ceramics Congress featured booths where you could “hang out” and learn about various opportunities in the field, including residencies like Subhashok the Arts Centre in Thailand, and Studio Potter journal. Visitors could see demonstrations in the booths and receive discounts on goods and services offered by exhibitors.