Expanding on the Japanese tradition of ceramic repair, artist Rachel Sussman mends cracks with gold in an unexpected place — New York City — as part of her Sidewalk Kintsukuroi series. Using the 500-year-old technique of kintsukuroi, Sussman fills photographs of cracked walls, sidewalks and streets found in Soho and Williamsburg.
The BBC writes the technique, also known as kintsugi, is a powerful metaphor for life where nothing is ever truly broken emphasizing rather than hiding imperfections.
Kintsugi beautifies the breakage and treats it as an important part of the object’s history, and the broken pot not as something to discard, but as something more precious than it was before.
Kintsugi is said to have begun in the 15th century when a Japanese military commander broke a beloved Chinese tea bowl and, disappointed with the shoddy repair job it was treated to, urged Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more pleasing repair method.
This sense of history in preserving these scars helped inspire Sussman’s sidewalk series, of which the newest edition is in Alchemy: Transformations in Gold, an exhibition at the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa. The exhibition, which considers the cultural and historical connotations of gold, includes photographs of her alternations as well as a permanent installation in which Sussman repaired a fissure in the museum’s marble floor.
Sussman tells Hyperallergic, her work highlights the unexpected beauty in imperfections.
“Cracks represent something in need of attention, and the surfaces we walk, bike, and drive over are usually overlooked until they’re in truly critical condition. By gilding them, it’s a way to see what’s around us with fresh eyes and to celebrate perseverance.”
Each patching, whether on a physical surface or photograph, takes weeks of grueling work.
Do you love or loathe these works of contemporary art based on a Japanese ceramic repair technique? Let us know in the comments.