2′ x 23′ x 5′

Cone 6 porcelain, glazes, fishing net, pulley, carved canoe

‘Stranded’ tells the story of millions of refugees in the world; people who are circumstantially forced to uproot their daily lives and embark on a dangerous journey to safer havens. Everyone knows that many don’t make it to new shores, while others have to imagine a life that is very much different from the one they left behind.

‘Stranded’ uses a shipwreck scenario to visualize this humanitarian crisis. The installation shows a multitude of ceramic fragments arranged in and around a boat wreck and entangled in a handmade fishing net. The ceramic fragments are a metaphor for the physically wounded and psychologically damaged refugees. These fragments all originate from wheel-turned pottery which is cut up into smaller pieces before firing; functional ware forced to lose its integrity, an empathic gesture to people who were once whole and are left broken. Each shard is uniquely decorated to express the individuality of each person. Sculpted coral-like adhesions are indicative for the duration of the journey and the hope for new beginnings. The hand-painted blue and white glaze refers to the decoration of old shipwreck ceramics, in particular the 15th century ceramics that were found in the Vietnamese Sea off the coast of Hoi An, Vietnam, which were the inspiration for this project. Vietnamese fishermen capture shards in their nets to this day and sell them at local markets. There is value in the discarded, and therefore the ’Stranded’ pieces are made to look appealing.

The wrecked boat is a half of a 200 year old Indonesian canoe, carved out of a tree trunk, and features a fish head and a long bow. In this installation it functions as a double edged sword. At first glance it is a vessel that did not reach its final destination as so many boat refugees drowned or went missing. Secondly, Indonesia was one of the countries that reluctantly received Vietnamese boat people in the 1970’s, and today is considered a transit state for many refugees who land there without ever receiving human rights. With no other countries willing to take them, the boat literally and figuratively strands there, with thousands of people stuck in limbo. 

‘Stranded’ is an exercise in empathy. It confronts you with the remnants of lives that were once lived in a certain way, in a certain place. It invites you to look at the individual and to imagine its lost potential and it challenges you to find a way to integrate the remainder of the old and create new and meaningful possibilities.