Ceremony for Confusion | Elena Lo Presti

Ceremony for Confusion (2019) is an installation that includes thirteen ceramic figurines, hand painted and glazed, with anthropomorphic qualities. The characters have different shapes, colours and measurements, but they all possess eyes, faces and a body shape. The figurines are supported by three poplar wood shelves secured onto two walls in one corner of the exhibition space: those shelves are carved on one side to accommodate six speakers (two per shelf) that “activate” and give a voice to the figurines.

The creation of those figurines was heavily influenced by some objects typical of the Japanese traditional craft scene: okimono. They are miniatures created during the Meiji era (1861 – 1912) with a decorative purpose, originally made out of wood, ivory, ceramic or metal. Nowadays, modern reproductions are used in some Shinto temples as tokens that come together with omikuji (fortune telling papers), distributed in temple for the price of 100 yen (1 pound).

The ceramic figures that I have developed are not “perfectly formed” objects from a mould, like the ones that are being sold in Japan; they reproduce the imperfections of the human nature. In fact, the creation of the artwork started with the collection of thirteen stories written by thirteen young Italian students. During a workshop, I provided them with a notebook, in which I had previously written the beginning of thirteen sentences. They continued writing from them, developing unique narratives, diverse in length and content. However, all of the stories have in common a profound sense of ambiguity and uneasiness. Having appropriated those personal stories (that, for the majority of them, possessed the structure of a confession, or a diary page) I then decided to visually represent them as characters, using ceramic as my medium. The stories - confessions of uncertainty, indecision, betrayal, confusion - are set and secured into the ceramic.

I have placed six speakers inside the three shelves that support the figurines. Those speakers are going to allow the characters to tell the stories they are based on to the viewers, in the form of chaotic whispers. The viewers are invited to get close to the installation in order to be part of the personal confessions the miniatures are sharing, although they will not be able to fully understand everything that is being said.

To de-contextualize the original stories from reality, all the figurines have the same voice. The figurines are not “individuals”: as I, the artist, appropriated those stories, the different miniatures could almost be perceived as different versions of the same person. In this way, the authors of the narratives become something else: fictional characters, detached from reality. The writers entrusted their stories to ceramic figurines, that are visually re-proposing those stories to detach them from their owners, making them acquire some mystical and fictional connotations. The tale-like appearance of the characters is designed to visually represent the mythological and imaginary world that the stories come from.

Ceremony for Confusion is focused on how real-life anecdote and confessions can become fiction. The inspiration for my piece came from my analysis of narrative and of collective storytelling. Starting with a specific focus on Relational Aesthetics, I then developed my research, switching from designing a participatory artwork to a piece that suggested a more subtle engaging role that allows the viewers to still be part of the installation (listening to the whispers) without being the focus of it.