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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Allies

The involvement of allies as participants in this work is one of its key characteristics. My aim was to seek people in my personal networks whose experiences of trauma, abuse, or harassment drive solidarity with my situation and mine with theirs. In consideration of the sensitive nature of the subject material and the limitations of resources to deal with the potential for difficult feeling to arise, participants were assured of anonymity in the final work and were not expected to disclose the narrative of their personal experiences.


Due to logistics and COVID restrictions on visitors at RMIT, I chose to limit my allies to members of the print studio student cohort. I would like to involve a broader group at a later stage of the project. In most cases participants approached me to volunteer after hearing about the project. In a couple of cases I approached a potential participant and explained what I was looking for. It was interesting to hear responses ranging from "is there anybody who hasn't been affected" to "I don't really identify as having experienced any form of gendered violence/harassment/trauma".


Despite the involvement of volunteer participants, I continue to regard the work as my own rather than as a form of community art. This is because I directed the work and made decisions around media, methods and even to some degree placement of the handprints onto the plate. Each "ally" plate was the same size shape and format (30 cm x 45 cm rectangle in portrait orientation) and registered a soft-ground imprint of the participant's non-dominant hand (in a fist) and forearm . After the trials I had done with my own handprint, I was able to suggest ways to maximise the contact between the hand and the plate. For example, a thumb placed on the outside of the fist obscures the imprint of all the other fingers, whereas placing it beside the index finger makes a flatter profile. Likewise the forearm doesn't naturally form a flat surface when a fist is made, but increased pressure, or rolling the forearm slightly makes a stronger impression.

I did vary the amount of time the plates were in the ferric chloride bath. The first few plates were etched for 20 minutes. As I became more confident with the process and more accepting of my decision to embrace foul-bite and other imperfections, I pushed the etch time out to 30 minutes.


By the way, using the non-dominant hand turned out to be an error. I was thinking about the way the image would be mirrored in the printing process, but forgot to take account of the same process in making the hand imprint on the plates. I hope to capitalise on my error when making the next set of plates by asking participants to use their dominant hand. This would allow me to print from two plates with fists oriented in opposite directions.


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