I stumbled upon Bouke de Vries’ Memory Vessel 35
on Are.na and instantly felt an uncanny connection. A classically trained ceramics conservator, de Vries started to survey “issues and contradictions around perfection and worth” after working as a private restorer for years. “The Venus de Milo is venerated despite losing her arms. Why not a Meissen muse?” de Vries interrogated in his autobiography. Later, he took a radical turn in his artistic direction, intentionally exploding imperfect objects then housing them in identical containers, thereby giving the broken pieces new life and reclaiming their value.
As a diaspora kid who has struggled with issues of intergenerational trauma, I often describe myself feeling like an abstraction, an amalgamation of all my ancestors’ unresolved grief. When I’m stuck in the headspace of personal heritage, I stop seeing myself as an individual with full agency and autonomy. De Vries’ approach to call attention to a body’s imperfections — in this case, for a 16th century Chinese wan-li porcelain jar — bore an epiphany. So what if I’m broken, trauma-laden, and in shambles? My body is a safe container for all emotions good and bad, and it will only grow.