Conferência ‘NARRABESQUES’


Jivan Astfalk
4 Novembro 2009, 17h
Birmingham Institute of Art and Design
Birmingham, UK

Lecture Theatre, Emma Phipps Building, Gosta Green

Drawing on historical and autobiographical material, fiction and fairy tales, Jivan Astfalck makes wearable objects, jewellery and installations that tell hybrid, fantastical stories. These works are intended to be enigmatic, yet suggestive of the wounds of history and of the trauma and healing processes that are part of our relationships with others. She develops work that can be related to mnemonic devices created to evoke the complexities and webs of relationships, which exist between the various levels of interpretative investments that would otherwise be un-containable. Romantic, yet suggestive of more serious issues like the myth of childhood, the pains of growing up, and the grander myths of gender and belonging, these works are sites of memory and fiction, history and thought, visible traces providing connections with the invisible and imagined in a complex web of relationships.
Refreshment will be provided afterwards.

For Ada

The cloth
Ada was a nurse who looked after soldiers who had returned from the battlefields of World War I, wounded by Germans. Ada asked the men to sign a tablecloth that she had beautifully embellished with lace crocheting. She then embroidered those signatures with cotton, staying true to the idiosyncrasies of their handwritings. The colours are in keeping with the national flags of their home countries - Britain, France and Italy.
I, a German living in Britain, found this cloth in a run-down antiques shop deep in Norfolk almost (but not quite) a 100 years later. Attached to the cloth was a handwritten note by Ada’s son, which explains the origin of the cloth. I tried to find traces of Ada and that hospital, but had no success. Unless someone who might see this in an exhibition somewhere can tell me more, the cloth is all we have - a memento to history, to Ada and to those wounded soldiers. The cloth is enigmatic, yet suggestive of the wounds of history and of the trauma and healing processes that are part of our relationships with others.

The medal
I find myself preoccupied in my work with evocative and narrative found pieces that have a strong reference to historical trauma in relation to private and subjective mental experience. My aim is to re-configure these pieces to achieve an imagery of the unconscious. I address symbolisation by using metaphoricity to cross-map emotional investments conducive to new creative articulation and representation. If you like, by making creative work in response to those found objects I aim to extract meaning from the ‘horror vacui’ imposed on us by historical trauma as, in my view Ada did as well. The medal I made for her uses original and re-configured parts of an original vintage medal by the British Medical Society for service. The fingerprint on the back of the medal is symbolic for the hand - the hand that makes, in a heroic act, beautiful things in the midst of horror and despair.
Jivan Astfalck
Yanyan Wang
BIAD Research
Birmingham Institute of Art and Design
Birmingham City University
Corporation Street
Gosta Green
Birmingham B4 7DX
( 0121 331 7823
6  0121 331 7824



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