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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Raise a Voice or a Fist

Beginning this project I saw the potential of handprints and raised fists as personal symbols of power and the process of reaching towards and political protest. These seemed stronger to me than the feminine idiom of reworked whitework embroidery. Much of my experience of traumatic memory has been mute: on the one hand because the abuse I suffered is taboo and on the other because a young child placed in such traumatic circumstances is incapable of finding words to describe their overwhelming experience. It has taken me years in therapy to begin to put words to my experience even in that safe and specialised space of mental health care. Searching for words to populate a banner about my trauma brought me to the declaration that there are no easy words. So I used words to express my frustration/rage at my wordlessness. I then borrowed and subverted the words of Trigger warnings to confront the traumatic power of my experience. My Trigger Warning Tea Cloth serves as an introduction to the body of work and acknowledges that these experiences are so bad that people deserve to be warned before being confronted with their reality. Adding the contact details of relevant agencies shifts the dynamic from one of powerlessness to the one where help can be sought out.


When I decided to use the set of whitework bedlinen, the setting shifted from a protest where a banner might be displayed, or an imaginary tea party, to the intimacy and vulnerability of a small bed. In that context the childish plea, "Please don't hurt me" is particularly poignant and revealing. the banner sits in close proximity to this tiny cushion in the installation. The "adult" cushions are silent, because I can't bring myself to comprehend or give voice to the complicated blend of predispositions, choices and failings which is the background to their behaviour.

I have made a trio of fists, gradually rising up, but they are barely visible. Their power is hesitant at best and points to a strength which is still being explored. They are seen only under harsh light. They have the potential to be more powerful in different circumstances and could be developed further in a different setting, for example with different coloured inks combined with transparency, but for now they hold a tentative space which is quieter than the declaration made with my textile installations. Nevertheless they are important to me since they go beyond vulnerable disclosure, warning and seeking help to a deliberate act of protest.

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