Benjamin Cirgin (b.1979) is a maker and educator who worked as a craftsman building furniture and renovating historic homes before earning his BFA in ceramics and sculpture from Indiana University Bloomington, and his MFA in studio art from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, California. Benjamin’s work has representation in galleries across the country, has received numerous awards and grants in the field of art and craft, and serves as an advising board member for the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts residency program. In 2015 Benjamin co-founded the artist collective One + One + Two; four professional artists aiming to strengthen the San Francisco Bay Area arts community and beyond, providing short term residency opportunities and public programing. Benjamin is currently working as an instructor, artist in residence, and studio technician at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
"It is no secret, and often unquestioned today, that large-scale commodity production has been, and continues to be a driving force in economic systems across the world. Human consumption rises; media and marketing advance in controlling a vast amount of unconscious cultural capital; while the proletariat value of life today rests in the hands of a select few. My work develops by researching the undercurrent of commodified objects. Specifically, the precise moments in which human beings touch the production of these objects and how real lives are affected by partially hidden systems that determine the daily value of labor. These precise moments define the lives of most human beings on the planet and partially explains why one of the first thing we ask a new acquaintance is “What do you do?”. From this simple concept, I position myself (out of necessity and curiosity) as an active participant in the consumption of domestic objects, built environments, and a member of the working class community to present an alternative engagement with the objects and processes that I find simultaneously confusing and mesmerizing.
In my studio practice I create works that form questions through material, concept, and technical experimentation: not relying on a singular method of making, but an expanse of techniques that balance on craftsmanship, aesthetic judgment, and material significance. My work is project based, feeding my conceptual strategies rather than seeking an aesthetic or formal consistency. Ceramic materials play an instrumental role in forming my studio practice. With experienced hands and technical knowledge, these materials can be formed into a multitude of shapes with an endless array of textures and colors. My history as a designer, carpenter, cabinet maker, stone fabricator, art preparator, and life negotiator, merge with the ceramic process creating abstract forms and cast mimics of significant objects, functional pottery, and multi-medium constructed scenes. Through collaboration with multiple artists I work to realize long-term projects and new approaches to art-making, utilizing media such as recorded and generated sound, video, material printing, text appropriation, and many others. Working collaboratively with this group of artists exposes my work and thinking to new and exciting techniques, resulting in unconventional works that rely on artist and spectator participation.
I believe that an artist’s primary purpose is to generate questions rather than taking a position that provides the viewer with answers. With this approach I move through the world vacillating between my skepticism of human intention, and being captivated by the intricate forming processes found in consumer driven systems of objects. Through constant negotiations within the urban setting and the people that inhabit those places with me, I construct unlikely sculptures, create unconventional functional pottery, and merge abstracted forms that disrupt the expected commodity object and the spaces they inhabit. My intent is to pose questions and manipulate ideas that disrupt the human experience of our routine lives."