I have previously explored bioplastic as a material within my work and because of the biodegradability of it as a material it became an interesting material for the exploration of unidentified human remains. Gelatine is a biopolymer that is typically a waste product from the food industry. When mixed with glycerine it produces a fairly robust clear, sheet material. Gelatine is bodily, it is made from pig collagen sourced from skin, bone and connective tissue. Gelatine as a product also directly references forensics because pigs are used in the UK to train cadaver dogs because they are the closest animal proxy to the human body.
Gelatine Bioplastic is transparent, ephemeral and malleable, and easily made in a home kitchen. Because of its transparency it has a ghostly appearance, a physical embodiment of what is missing, barely there. Bioplastic is biodegradable, slowly breaking down just as our bodies would and becoming part of the immediate surroundings, and like us it is made predominantly of water that slowly evaporates as it dries. Evaporation is also ghostly; moisture is held in the air as it evaporates but remains unseen. These references to the unseen also directly evidence the unseen in society – the lonely, the homeless or outsiders as many unidentified people inevitably are.
With some experimentation I have developed a way of making clothes and shoes from gelatine bioplastic. Clothing and shoes represent the people who once owned them. We choose what to wear each day, to both fit in or stand out, these are conscious decisions that define us and determine how we are perceived to others. These items are also used to help with the identification of an individual. As previously mentioned, belongings and items of clothing are listed within the entries on the missing persons database. Clothes are often kept after the death of a loved one, ‘as a point of material contact with the body of a once living person. They thus provide a means by which memories of that living body can be generated.’ (Hallam and Hockey, 2001) Clothes and shoes are vessels or containers, a reliquary that remind us who they belonged to and ‘is so ‘potent’ because it exists as material that is both familiar and other: it is a materialized extension of the embodied person and the material mark of their death.’ (Hallam and Hockey, 2001)
Shoes particularly explore transience or movement from one place to another, from one city to another, from life to afterlife, from existence to no longer existing. The saying ‘If the shoe fits’ refers to something being the truth about someone and of course Cinderella was identified because of a shoe!
My research explores fabric and
clothing found in mass graves which
has evolved into interdisciplinary
sculptural installation artwork. Memory,
individuality and identity is indelibly left
behind within materials and belongings
including our bones. In this paper I
will discuss how my research develops
into artwork exploring identity and
individuality. I will show examples of
my work to date as well as exploring the
themes that I propose to continue to
research within a PhD next year.
Textiles and clothing are often part of the
primary tools used to identify human
remains after atrocity. In Rwanda people
had made their own clothing making it
very personal and individual. In Bosnia,
particularly Srebrenica, people had
not been able to leave the enclave, and
resorted to making and repairing their
clothing. In Iraq, many people began to
sew their identity documents into secret
pockets within their clothing. These
identity documents were later vital for
the identification of the dead. The fabric
used as blindfolds and ligatures, in Bosnia
Herzegovina were consistent across many
mass grave sites this evidence was part
of the proof that events at Srebrenica
amounted to genocide.
Fabric is an important part of identifying
these individuals and it is this research
that has formed the basis of my artistic
practice for the last 3 to 4 years. I have
explored evidence of fabric found within
Mass Graves predominantly within
Bosnia but also other countries including
Kosovo and Iraq. Borders too are an
important element for my exploration, the
borders between countries as a touchpoint
for conflict, but clothing and skin, life
and death, homeland and refugee are also
borders. This work has evolved through
my undergraduate degree in Textiles for
which I was awarded first class honours,
and into my current MFA (Master of Fine
Art) at Oxford Brookes University.
I am excited to have had work selected for the upcoming ‘Chromantics’ Exhibition.
A selection of artworks from some of OVADA’s Associate Artists pair together for a dramatic collection of colour and creativity. This playful arrangement of striking paintings and sculpture set out to challenge the audience on what modern art can be. Curator and artist, Tommy Watkins, invites you to explore this unique off-site exhibition and meet the people who are shaping the Oxfordshire art scene.
Opening reception and artist talk:Saturday 6 April 2019, 5-8pm.
Exhibition runs from 3 – 28 April 2019 Gallery Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 8pm and Sunday, 11am – 4pm.
July 11th is Srebrenica Memorial Day, the anniversary of the fall of Srebrenica and this year on the 23rd anniversary I was invited to attend two memorial events. One at Oxford Town Hall with Oxford’s Lord Mayor and I was also invited by Remembering Srebrenica to attend the London Memorial service at The Guildhall as a community champion.
During the Oxford service I was asked to light a candle to remember those killed in the genocide and I was also invited to speak about my 8372 cards project.
I currently have a piece of work installed downstairs in the entrance of The Town Hall. It is a direct response to the genocide at Srebrenica and is titled ‘8372 cards’. I wanted to visualize the enormity of what happened at Srebrenica in 1995 and to try to consider the identity and individuality of each of those killed.
Over the last couple of weeks I have invited volunteers to events across Oxford. These volunteers have individually hand number all 8372 business cards with an automatic number stamp.
For me business cards represent identity, status and the ability to make contact with someone, however many individuals have yet to be found at Srebrenica and their families remain desperate to know where they lie. The act of numbering was a powerful experience for everyone who took part and each felt deeply moved by it.
All 8372 cards have been displayed here at the town hall in their entirety but today I ask you to take a card to remember each of those individuals who died, and to remind ourselves of the consequences of hate.
In London at The Guildhall I installed my piece ‘Lie Down‘ within the reception area. I met and spoke to many fascinating people and had the opportunity to explain my work. During the service I was one of the candle bearers.
For this project I will print 8372 business cards, that will be individually numbered/editioned 1/8372, 2/8372 etc on one side. The other side of the card will have a brief paragraph explaining the history of what happened at Srebrenica in 1995 as well as an explanation of the piece of work.
These business cards remind us of each of those people killed without actually naming them. Business cards represent identity, status and the ability to make contact, many of those who died still remain missing.
The process of numbering will be an important act. I intend to host a two day event within the project space at Magdalen Road Studios and invite artists and members of the public to participate in the numbering of each of the 8372 cards. Each of these volunteers will conceptually represent the perpetrators, condemning each of the individual victims. This process will engage each volunteer to consider more deeply the events and actions of 23 years ago.
Srebrenica Memorial week runs from the 8th to the 15th July. I am hoping to exhibit all of the cards in their entirety at the Town Hall in Oxford from 8th to 11th July. Then from the 11th July I will begin to hand out these cards within public spaces metaphorically exhuming each of the individuals and acknowledging their existence. This will be an act of remembrance that will help to raise awareness and remind us all of the consequences of hate.
I will continue to document the process here as well as on my social media channels.