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  • Writer's pictureChiara


Updated: Jun 22, 2023

One of the articles I read for my annotated bibliography connected some ideas and sent me in a somewhat new direction. The authors are museum curators, with personal histories and professional roles in traumatised societies. They speak of the challenges of presenting "difficult knowledge"--knowledge that is difficult to assimilate because of its traumatic content and its challenge to accustomed viewpoints--knowledge which make us reconsider our relationship with the other (2011: 8). They advocate for shared involvement and interaction with viewers who may re-configure and add to the museum display (2011:6).

Lehrer E and Milton CE (2011) ‘Introduction: Witnesses to witnessing’, in Lehrer E, Milton CE and Patterson M (eds), Curating difficult knowledge: Violent pasts in public places, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

These ideas linked in my mind with the impulse to intervene that several viewers had expressed in my trial presentation. Up to this point I had been very wary of allowing my work to be handled, because of its fragility, but also because of the sharp edges on the porcelain shards. During my experiments with covers for my artist's books I learned that breaking the pieces at the greenware stage (dry, but unfired clay) results in a softening of the final edges compared with breaking once the piece has been glazed and fired. This is because the clay vitrifies during the high-firing stage, so edges are able to slump and move a little. So I experimented with a greenware saucer, breaking it before glazing and firing. At this stage I was referring to it as my "humpty-dumpty" saucer because the softening of edges had the additional consequence of making the edges impossible to bond precisely. I did a quick, rough social media survey to explore the connotations of the term "humpty-dumpty" and although precarity, fragility, anxiety and sadness were among the responses, there were also other responses which lead away from my concept. I made two further changes to this idea. Instead of using a saucer, I used small bowls to increase the difficulty and frustration involved in the process of attempting to put the pieces together. There is a risk that this exercise will be seen as playful, whereas my intention is for it to be a task that emphasised the irreconcilable challenge of uniting the fragments. I also decided to use Please handle with care, as my title. It is intended to give permission to the viewer to become a participant. To clarify, I have added the description that this is a 3-dimensional traumatic puzzle to the didactic.

Here are the broken and glazed pieces ready for the kiln

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