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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Narrative, containment and publication

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Setting aside my anxiety about my rice paper prints in the hope that the problem can be resolved, I want to think about how they can be presented. My plan is to install the seven large "ally" prints as a single work hung conventionally on a wall in the studio. Even though I could fit more work into that space by creating a grid, I'm inclined not to hang the majority of my prints.

  • I want the work made up of my participants' handprints to be read as one, distinct from the collection of prints made by me alone. Hanging the other prints on the same wall would distract from this.

  • I still feel tentative and vulnerable about the process of reaching towards political responses to my traumatic experiences. Conventional hanging tends to negate these feelings.

  • Presenting the prints in a stack, book or folio makes more of their collective identity. For example the cumulative effect of the prints on fine translucent papers, the subtle variations and stronger contrasts between prints...

  • I want to invite the viewer to pause and consider the works in a more intimate way. Providing a lapse of time for the affective impact of the work to be felt is important to me.

My initial thought was to bind the prints into a book. A book holds a story or documentation of experience. In my mind, however a book implies a narrative arc, a sense of beginning, middle and end. My experience of trauma are not like that. By definition the flashbacks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are experienced on a disordered timeline. So much so that one of the strategies I had to learn early on to cope with overwhelming intrusive memories was to state out loud my current location and the date and time as a way of anchoring myself in the reality of the present. The process of healing and my growing awareness of the political implications of my experiences have brought a clearer sense of time, but not the linear time that is implied by the turning of pages one by one.

One of my lecturers suggested a portfolio. This would maintain the interactive intimacy of a book without such a rigid structure. I looked at making a clamshell box like this, or a simpler portfolio/folder like this. I'm drawn to this idea. Constructing rituals of containment formed another important aspect of dealing with my trauma (as described here and here (also image credit) for example).

At first I experienced wall-to-wall flashbacks. Various mechanisms were suggested to separate times when I could choose to work on dealing with traumatic memories and times when the memories could be locked away--not in denial, but in order to reclaim aspects of normal life. This took years to become a reality. I realise that I am reflecting more on the experience of trauma than on the political dimensions here, but the two are inseparable for me. To complement the bolder prints I have made with my allies, my more private prints are made with a deep awareness of my trauma. The idea of embodying containment in the presentation of the work appeals.

Reaching for a political response and making art based on my traumatic experiences has become a public process. Presenting the work as a stack or without the bounds of a book or portfolio structure need not deny the importance that containment has had in dealing with my trauma. At this stage I am willing to be more overt about my experiences of trauma, their political implications and my consequent political responses. One of the strengths of printmaking in my practice is the implied documentation and publication that comes with the multiple nature of print works. Perhaps this is also a way of coming to terms with the wrinkles and waves in my prints. A stack of prints which pile unevenly one on the other becomes an object that speaks of the cumulative effect of acts of declaration; of breaking the silence. And the wavy edges could partially reveal underlying prints as a record of repeated statements about experiences and their implications.

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