BB My ex-boyfriend used to tease me, he’d come in when I was working and say, “Working on your dowry?” At certain times I’ll put myself on an art diet, I’ll say: no more dishes, no more 19th century, no more household objects. The use of them becomes a habit and then a style, which is not ever what I intended, it’s embarrassing. But then I think, why am I so drawn to these things? It’s not that they’re from the feminine domain, although I’m certainly aware of it, but it has more to do with scale. I’m attracted to the enormous, important matters of life that take place on a small, everyday scale. Nabokov, a favorite writer of mine, pays incredible attention to details, like a glass breaking. In our culture everything which is large and grandiose is assumed important, and everything which is small is considered of less importance. I don’t think that way. I’m interested in a gesture or an expression on someone’s face. And that gets paralleled in the object-making world as well.
KS It’s non-threatening stuff.
BB I guess. It’s quite presumptuous but I want the experience of looking at my art work to change someone’s life. And I feel that if you give someone a big experience then they have to translate it back into the normal world. But if you give them a small experience which is somehow confusing or profound, but in the realm of their own world, then it doesn’t have to be translated, it’s already there. Because it’s not that far away from theirs. Does that make sense?
KS Yeah, it has an accessibility to the here and now, except that it’s an altered accessibility.
BB What I present is not the real world, it is fantasy, but the fantasy world spins off the real world. It’s not about War and Death; it is about loss or absence. Recently, I’ve been thinking that I’m attracted to these objects because they are breakable. I’ve always been attracted to objects which because of their fragility have an implicit absence, like glass and porcelain. I’m slowly working on this piece that has to do with things that have been broken and repaired. They’re based on the traditional Asian art form of repairing broken objects with gold. It’s almost like dental work.
KS It’s making the repair evident and obvious, a part of the experience.
BB Rather than hiding something that’s broken, it aggrandizes it, saying that something that has a history, that is not perfect anymore, is more beautiful and more valuable than something which has no history. It’s the opposite of our culture. When I was in Japan and saw these for the first time, they were so beautiful that they made me cry. And then with this accident that I had recently where I—got so broken. This is the perfect metaphor: to think about objects that are repaired with gold. These objects are stand-ins.
KS We take heart in ourselves for being a conglomerate of things that don’t necessarily work out. We are temporal and fragile, but we get a strength from being mended and repaired. That in-between of existence . . . Glass and ceramics are the two materials that are the most telling. Pot shards are found all over at archeological sites, glass ceramics all over the Roman colonized world.
BB I love that a culture could be told by its pots . . .
KS Both of those materials in terms of art are marginalized, and regarded in low esteem as craftsy-waftsy.
BB Not anymore.
KS I think ceramics is pretty marginalized in the art world.
BB I don’t think that I’m making ceramics.
KS Yeah, I know. Porcelain. (laughter)
Brilliant conversation between Kiki Smith and Barbara Bloom over at Bomb Magazine.
Read it in full here.