Nine hundred or more pottery enthusiasts who attended the demonstration of "Compression Strength Testing of Classical Ceramics" witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. More than $1,000,000 dollars worth of historical ceramic treasures were thoroughly tested for compression strength. A machine was built especially for this purpose by Jack Dollhausen, Professor at Washington State University, Pullman. The result of a collaboration between Dollhausen, and Professor Clayton Bailey, of California State University - Hayward, this demonstration revealed the relationship between compression strength and formal esthetics.
In his lengthy introduction to their theory, Dollhausen indicated that the experimental method used was a unique blend of art and science. Equations were produced which theoretically defined compression strength as a formal element of a ceramics composition, and it was explained that a combination of the "processes of art" and the "forms of science" allowed artists new understandings of previously overlooked formal elements. The necessity of such research is obvious since a formal element overlooked in a composition is as devastating to an esthetic tradition as a physical constant overlooked is to a scientific hypothesis.
Thanks to his influence as a NCECA Board Member, and Faculty Member, and to his skills as a Ceramic Artist, Bailey was able to obtain the following classical pieces for destructive testing:
1 -Greek Red-Figure Vase, 5th Century B.C.
2-Raku Teabowl, 17th Century Koetsu, @Japan).
3-Mochica (Peru) Erotic Bottle.
4-Ming Dynasty "Kiang-Hsi" Vase, 17th Century.
The search for these specimens led Bailey to the Asian Museum, San Francisco, the Lowie Museum in Berkeley; and The Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City; requesting the loan of classical pieces for the purpose of compression strength testing. (See illustration #2.)
The demonstration continued with the actual testing of the specimens by the " AESTHETRON ," built especially for this purpose. Constructed of parts easily obtained in any urban area, the machine operates on the principles of molecular resonance and precise timing, eliminating the need for massive equipment to generate compressive forces. Resonance is achieved by tapping and concentrating forces which continually move through the atmosphere. Dollhausen explained that though these forces are not completely understood, their effects were controllable and, "an artist need not know the wavelength of a color to use that color in a composition."
The machine was calibrated by testing an inexpensive "restaurant ware" cup. The testing consisted of sequential acceleration of sixteen ordinary light bulbs arranged as a "linear quanta pump." As quanta are directed toward the specimen, they are focused on it by "photon focusers" within the AESTHETRON . At the precise instant of resonance, several probes test the compression strength of the object. All data produced by the testing is collected by means of "cerebro-copulators" worn by Dollhausen and Bailey, thus eliminating error in the recording and interpretation of experimental information. The "restaurant ware" was seen to calibrate the machine at a value of 12 on a scale of 100.
Testing continued as a uniformed security guard carefully placed the Greek red-figure vase in the machine. Sensing the concern of the audience as the magnificent vase crumbled, Bailey explained that all the fragments would be returned to the museum where they would be inivisibly repaired, providing valuable experience to students of restoration. The security guard collected all fragments and placed them in individually labelled plastic bags for their return.
As testing proceeded, the audience was asked to give their subjective aesthetic judgment of the specimens, so that their judgment could be related to the experimental results. Then, several NCECA members and guests donated their work for testing to see how their ware compared with that of the ancient masters. Included were the works of Melchert, Soldner, Shaw, and Mackenzie.
Some of the tested pottery released their by-products of post-firing while being tested, and the audience sat in stunned silence under a pall of smoke as the results of the testing were revealed. It was explained that this research was initiated to establish standards, not to make value judgements, but preliminary findings indicate that the numerical values of the compression strengths of classical works, when inserted into the original equations, give a number very close to the Golden Proportion (1.618); while both the subjective judgments and the experimental values of the contemporary artist-craftsmen are approximately that of "restaurant ware." Since these results seem to hold true for both oriental and western classical works, it appears that the ancients did indeed consider compression strength as a formal element. Bailey and Dollhausen ended their presentation with an appeal to artists everywhere to guard their aesthetic heritage by careful composition of all the formal elements including compression strength. -Dr. Gladstone
Click on image for the deep theory.