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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Origin stories

A new year, a new studio project--this time my Fine Art Honours, so a whole year: theory and practice centred on the one project. In recent semesters I've been using this blog as a digital journal, but this time I'm planning to do things a little differently. I'm using my instagram for the day by day snapshots @chiara_zeta_art and I'll use the blog to draw together themes and narratives that bridge different timelines of the project.

First: Origin stories...

The project Making, Breaking, Making explores my personal experiences of complex trauma. My work is based on an expanded print-informed practice, which this semester has been so "expanded" that I have barely set foot in the Print studio. Rather, I've been spending lots of time in the Ceramics studio. I expect to loop back to print-informed works on paper and photography in the later parts of the project.

From an autobiographical perspective, the work begins with a childhood incident amongst a sea of traumatic childhood incidents. This one however, has found its way into my narrative memory, whereas most of the trauma I experienced was so distressing and chronic that it lives in a more primitive, subconscious part of my mind. My mother, in a fit of frustration at our childish quarrelling, slammed a pile of plates onto the kitchen floor. That's all I remember. It has become an imperfect, but apt metaphor of so many other incidents in my childhood. Hence, the ceramics studio. My project in its simplest form is to make domestic ceramics, break them and build work from the fragments.

From an art project perspective, I began to explore this memory and the concept of breaking crockery in my second-year studio project, Domestic (2020) during the (long) Melbourne COVID lockdowns. The work is here.

My initial thoughts were quite literal: I looked to the Japanese art of Kintsugi for an example of a practice based around the visible repair of broken pottery, although there were aspects of the philosophy that grated on my sensitivities: particularly the idea of embellishing the broken work with precious metals. Poetic embellishment is not my experience of how childhood trauma plays out. I also considered ways to capture the moment of fracture, when broken shards explode off the floor... more about that later because my photography skills are yet to catch up with this concept.

As I experimented and explored in my reading, writing and making, I became more and more interested in the fragments and fragmentation. The porcelain shards have come to signify the protective psychological mechanisms by which intolerable and overwhelming traumas are unable to develop into an autobiographical narrative and become buried, only to later re-emerge as flashbacks and other symptoms which make up the constellation of chronic-post-traumatic stress disorder.

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