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V&A Artists Residency – Opening the Cabinet, Histories of Slavery and Slave-Ownership

We are delighted to announce our new call for artists who are keen to engage with the histories of slavery and slave-ownership that are ‘hidden in plain sight’ within in the museum, as part of the V&A Research Institute (VARI) Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities project. The selected artist will be encouraged to engage with both the V&A’s collections and the information we are unearthing about them to make visible these histories not currently reflected in the museum.


-Noted to keep an eye on for future information.




While watching technique videos I came across Kara Leigh Ceramics. She talks about how clay can become tired, which got me thinking about how clay is considered to have memory. My interests center around collective memory and how the voices of women are being silenced.

Could I look into working with “tired” clay as a means of representing the tired women? The overworked women? Forcing a function of clay to make it do what I want even if it doesn’t look good or actually function properly?


Doris Salcedo on Materiality

“The way that an artwork brings materials together is incredibly powerful. Sculpture is its materiality. I work with materials that are already charged with significance, with a meaning they have acquired in the practice of everyday life. Used materials are profoundly human; they all bespeak the presence of a human being … The handling of materials in each piece is the result of a specific act, related to the event I am working on. It is an act of everyday life that gives shape to the piece. In some cases it is a <u>hopeless act of mourning</u> … The processes go beyond me, beyond my very limited capacity, whether because one single person couldn’t possibly have made the work, or because of the brutality and massiveness of the act… The handmade element of the work marks not merely an absence of industrial values, but also a wholehearted rejection of rationalism. Paradoxically war is the maximum expression both of industrialism and of its destruction … I’m interested in the notion of the artist as a thinker attuned to every change in society but at the same time producing art that is irreducible to psychological or sociological explanations.”

(Quoted in Basualdo, pp.21-3.)



Doris Salcedo on pain and trauma

Salcedo’s work gives form to pain, trauma, and loss, while creating space for individual and collective mourning. These themes stem from her own personal history. Members of her own family were among the many people who have disappeared in politically troubled Colombia. Much of her work deals with the fact that, while the death of a loved one can be mourned, their disappearance leaves an unbearable emptiness.

Untitled, 1998 is one of a large group of Untitled sculptures combining domestic wooden furniture with cement that Salcedo created during the 1990s.

Made by craftsmen, by hand, the sculpture’s wardrobe and chair have a history of relationships with human bodies – those that made them and those for whom they were created.

In relation to the cement, they stand in for bodies; although as their openings are closed they are bodies that can no longer function; they are sealed and silenced in a manner that powerfully evokes death and entombment. As well as uncomfortably fusing two or more pieces of furniture, Salcedo’s Untitled series often incorporates clothing into the layer of concrete filling the openings in the cupboards, drawers and cabinets suggesting even more poignantly the remains of people who are no longer alive.

The Tate Summary

Thinking about how my clay pots are disintegrating into the water I think about this summary of Salcedo’s work using a handcrafted wooden wardrobe, and how the cement fills the voids within the wardrobe to speak of death and silencing. The dissolving pots speak of the same themes, as the water forces the clay to change, women’s voices are forced into invisibility. The pots no longer resemble pots to look at.

Salcedo grounds her art in intense research, which includes prolonged fieldwork and extensive interviews with those who have experienced violence and loss. Seeking out direct accounts, or obtaining physical evidence from victims or their relatives and friends, she becomes what she calls a ‘secondary witness’. To articulate catastrophe visually, she has consistently resorted to techniques of eradication, disfiguration, blockage and especially removal. The last of these offers a particularly effective way to represent trauma – not only because disaster literally annihilates people and things, but also because when attempts are made to recall it, there is often a failing of memory, since trauma has the effect of obliterating its own recollection.

Voice of the invisible, by Madeleine Grynsztejn
1 September 2007
Tate Etc. issue 11: Autumn 2007

Trauma having the effect of obliterating its own recollection is evident in my work, similarly through techniques of eradication and disfigurement with the introduction of water to the unfired pots.


Juree Kim – Artist in Residence // V&A


Hwigyeong – 揮景 series, Juree Kim (2011). soil and water.


Place and Practices, Juree Kim, (2017).

Kim works primarily with clay, performance and film to explore the themes surrounding social and natural environments with a focus upon Korean cultural identity. Kim’s artistic work and research mirrors Brownsword’s concerns due to her observations on the destruction of regions within Eastern Seoul as a result off gentrification and the displacement of local communities and skills.

V&A Artist Residency

When making my pots I’d considered ways in which I could destroy them in order to convey trauma, and had spoken about smashing them, however this felt too directly violent. I’m not looking to undermine or downplay any violence towards women, but smashing the ceramic forms doesn’t highlight subtle & unseen trauma women experienced which lead to the period of silence and shame. Kim Juree’s process of ‘melting’ unfired clay into water to represent the destruction of traditional architecture throughout Eastern Seoul is both effective and interesting to observe. I feel I can understand her frustrations and the urgency of the situation.


While I was at the V&A I took the opportunity to find out as much as I could about Juree Kim’s work and her residency. I found her studio up on the sixth floor and viewed the work she had displayed in the windows. It was interesting seeing the small pieces leftover from past work, of experiments and process.


Moving over to the Korean Ceramics exhibition I finally saw her piece and was surprised at how small it was compared to videos I’d seen online. Despite its size I was still fascinated by the level of detail in the piece, and spent a long while moving around it. It’s a shame it was surrounded by barriers, I felt they were quite ugly and boxed the piece in quite a lot.

If I need to put up barriers for health and safety reasons I’ll definitely be a lot more considered with what kind I choose. I felt the height of the rope being higher than the plinth the work was on was a poor curatorial decision.



Walking around the piece was my favourite aspect of the display, as most of the other items in the exhibition were in glass cases against walls and didn’t offer much of a surrounding view. I enjoyed having different views and more opportunity to really inspect the work as each side offered new crevices to look into.


I do wish I could see the piece actually in water. I’m not sure if the water had been added that morning and had evaporated or been absorbed by the time I arrived in the afternoon. I went in search of a staff member to ask but they were unsure.


On my way out I had another look into Kim’s studio space and found a sign with information about open studios for visitors to drop in – I think I’ll try and visit again in time for one of the last three dates.



Daniel Libeskind


Photography by Bonnie Fortune and Brett Bloom

Located in Berlin’s Jewish Museum, the Garden of Exile represents the experience of European Jewish exiles, driven from their home during World War II. Standing in between the rows of forty-nine concrete container columns is a claustrophobic, disorienting experience, where you are aware that logically, escape is very close but physically, you feel as if you are trapped forever.


Photograph by Bitter Bredt

“If you forget your memory, have a trauma and you repress it, it’s going to come to haunt you. It’s going to do something to you, something bad, something violent at some point. It’s important not to repress the trauma, it’s important to express it and sometimes the building is not something comforting,” he added. “Why should it be comforting? You know, we shouldn’t be comfortable in this world. I mean seeing what’s going around.”


Photograph by Michele Nastasi

“In projects that deal with brutality architecture is not just an affirmation of what we already know,” Libeskind told Dezeen after the talk. “A shift to something unknown, even repressed, initially perhaps might be feeling like something strange or discomforting but in the long run its incorporated as part of our space, as part of understanding of the world.”

“The way to do it is by incorporating memory and not as a footnote but as a turbulent ground on which our world is based,” he added. “And it is turbulent when you look at the news and all that’s happening, all the events in this world, we can’t just pretend that we’re living in another era.”

Libeskind applied this concept to the Ground Zero masterplan (2003), which he designed to mark the spot where the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centres once stood. While an invitation to visit the base of the well created by the terrorist attack was rejected by the other architects in the running for the project, Libeskind said his acceptance led to his decision to memorialise the 9/11 bombings at ground level.


Concept Sketches for Ground Zero Master Plan by Studio Daniel Libeskind

He also cites meeting the fathers of a fireman and of a flight attendant who were killed in the attack as having a key role in the design process.

“They unrolled a piece of paper and they said

‘We have a map of all the body parts that were found.’

You don’t think about it, you don’t want to think about it.”



WTC Overview by Joe Woolhead


When I look at how my own practice relates to the research I’m undertaking that doesn’t directly correspond with the issue of ‘comfort women’ I always try and figure out how the voices of those the work is made about are represented or used, and here in Daniel Libeskind’s plans for Ground Zero it’s clear how they’re used; citing meetings where a map is presented, revealing the locations of bodies fallen from the towers. This kind of design process came from the trauma, deaths and terror of 9/11. How can I reveal the histories I’m exploring, of silenced women and of their trauma, through my work?



To read:

Artwork as Social Model: A Manual of Questions and Propositions by Stephen Willats

Transient Spaces – Deutsche Guggenheim

The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture by Guerin and Hallas

Unfolding the ‘Comfort Women’ Debates: Modernity, Violence, Women’s Voices by Maki Kimura


Menashe Kadishman


Photograph by Alex J Foster.

The architect Daniel Libeskind created empty spaces in several parts of the building [Jewish Museum]. These so-called voids extend vertically through the entire museum and represent the absence of Jews from German society. The Memory Void contains a work by the Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman, who calls his installation “Shalekhet,” or “Fallen Leaves.” He has dedicated the over ten-thousand faces covering the floor to all innocent victims of war and violence. (Source)


Photography by Emilie Kristiansen.

This piece clearly relates to our not-so-distant history of WWII. It is easy to see the connection between the unidentifiable faces and those victims of internment camps. But Kadishman does not want us to limit our interpretation of this piece to the Holocaust. The work is meant to represent all who have died because of violence and war, the souls of yesteryear, today, and the future. (Source)



Photographs by Hannah Busst


What drew me to Menashe Kadishman’s work was the sheer volume of individual pieces made for the installation. All of them are similar, yet not the same. Their simplicity is harrowing but also familiar. Their open mouths make it look like a floor of voices, calling out to be heard, for anyone to hear what happened to them. Interestingly, the museum they’re situated in is for the Jewish victims of WWII, however Kadishman dedicates the piece to all those who have died because of war.

Lisa has often spoken about the importance of a work beginning with one deep aspect of research but being able to represent more within that scope – having both depth and breadth of visual language. Kadishman’s work achieves this brilliantly, and further exploring the simplicity of my practice will hopefully do the same to mine with more than just the ‘comfort women’ issue coming forward.



“I had to service 30 to 40 soldiers every day. One day I was really in pain, and when I didn’t respond to the demands of one officer, that bastard beat me with his fists, kicked me with his boots, took a long knife and held it up against my throat and cut me.  The blood poured out and soaked my whole body, but that bastard officer went on to satisfy his lust.”


V&A – Korean Ceramics


Ahn Seongman – Digital Ceramic. 2015. 3D Printed onggi earthenware.

Ahn combines digital technology with the use of coarse iron-rich clay of the kind traditionally employed in the making of onggi wares. Onggi wares were used throughout Korea for cooking, storing and transporting food. By designing his forms on a computer and printing them with a specially modified 3D printer, Ahn has reinvigorated Korea’s onggi heritage by creating vessels specifically suited to contemporary ways of living.


Lee Seunghee Tao Series. 2016. Porcelain, underglaze iron brown.

Lee reinterprets famous examples of porcelain from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) in the form of ceramic tiles. Starting with a flat porcelain blank, he applies up to seventy thin layers of kaolin slip which are left to dry between each application. Lee shaves down the layered surface to create a low-relief version of the original vessel, which he then decorates accordingly. 


Park SohyoungLa Citta Blu 2016-03. 2016. Porcelain Paper

Park creates complex cityscapes of tiny buildings and other architectural elements that seem to made from cut, pierced and folded sheets of paper. Park uses porcelain impregnated paper, which, after wetting with water, can be manipulated without the risk of distortion. When fired, the paper burns away to leave delicate sheets of coloured porcelain.


Lee Kanghyo – Buncheong Landscape Series. 2016. Stoneware, slip.

Lee is well known for his reinterpretations of historical buncheong wares. These are a type of coarse stoneware produced between 1400-1600 characterised by the use of white slip to create carefree abstract designs. Lee’s depiction of Korea’s seasonal cycle uses a pallet of earthy toned slips. He follows the traditional East-Asian approach to painting whereby artists internalise the characteristics of a landscape and then depict them in the studio.


Cho SinhyunFlow of Lines – Rest. 2015. Pigmented porcelain slip.

Cho produces both utilitarian and pictorial works using pigmented porcelain slip. For the former, he begins by making blocks of leather hard porcelain consisting of thin layers of alternating coloured slip poured into a container. Each layer is allowed to partially dry out before the next layer is poured over it. Once a block is ready, Cho carves it into a vessel form with a sharply defined marbleised patterning. For his pictorial works, he similarly applies layers of porcelain slip to a gypsum board and then scrapes through them to create an image.