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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Transformative repair

I've been experiencing a love-hate relationship with the Japanese art of Kintsugi in this project. I rarely mention the project to someone without them suggesting Kintsugi as a reference. Of course it is relevant, but the closely linked philosophy of Wabi sabi, interpreted as an acceptance of damage/wear and tear troubles me. It particularly troubles me when linked with concepts of post-traumatic-growth, cognitive-behavioural therapies and other rapid or accelerated treatment modalities for post-traumatic stress disorder in general and complex trauma in particular. Some of the trouble may be in the linking of an aesthetic philosophy with traumatic histories for which it was never intended. I would like to research Japanese concepts of trauma, but that will need to be a project for another day--or rather another year. Perhaps also there are subtleties lost in translation, since many of the early (English language) references I found quickly dissolved into lyrical expressions about the poetic nature of the philosophy and/or explained that it could only be approached with a prolonged residence in Japan.


I found a reference by Guy Kuelemans, who emphasises the concept of transformative repair which he defines as repair which does not attempt to disguise the history of breakage, but rather emphasises it. His article also links the materiality of Kintsugi with concepts of Affect Theory. When I made my initial mindmap early in the semester, Affect theory was a small node at the periphery, but the concepts have become more central to my thinking as my project has developed.


Keulemans G (2016) ‘The Geo-cultural Conditions of Kintsugi’, The Journal of Modern Craft, 9(1): 15-34, doi: 10.1080/17496772.2016.1183946. Abstract is here.


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