Bouke de Vries, Fragments of Memory, 2021

Bouke de Vries’s sculpture in the UCL Japanese Garden presents a powerful statement on the beauty of overcoming trauma

Bouke de Vries
Fragments of Memory, 2021
Patinated bronze, kobe stone plinth and concrete base

Inspired by UCL’s rich history, and by UCL EPICentre’s research on the resilience of communities and the built environment to natural hazards, Fragments of Memory has been created for UCL’s Japanese Garden by artist Bouke de Vries.

His starting point for Fragments of Memory was the Choshu Five, the first Japanese students who came to UCL in 1863 (one of whom, Ito Hirobumi, later became the first Prime Minister of Meiji-period Japan). This was a volatile time for Japan, with deep socio-economic fault lines fracturing the country. Echoing this turbulence, the tectonic fault lines of the Pacific Rim run through the Japanese archipelago, bringing earthquakes and tsunami. These parallel fractures – societal and geological – are core to UCL EPICentre’s research into the risk from natural hazards to society and the built environment. They are represented in Bouke de Vries’s work.

The vase shape is that of a classic Arita soy bottle made from the clay – the very earth – of Japan. A vase can symbolize fragility: the risks and damage caused by earthquakes on a human, domestic level. This vessel is fractured, and the fragments take the shapes of the main Japanese islands.

The gold edges of the fragments reference the Japanese tradition of repairing broken ceramics using gold lacquer, the Kintsugi technique, which venerates broken pots, celebrating the traumatic damage as an integral part of the object’s history: a healing through beauty.

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