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Julian Stair exhibition at Mima

October 18, 2012

Julian Stair's 'Columbarium' On Tuesday I had occasion to visit Mima Institute of Modern Art in Centre Square, Middlesbrough, TS1 2AZ, where I discovered a thought-provoking exhibition by world-acclaimed ceramicist Julian Stair. The photograph on the left of his ‘Columbarium’ is published with permission from Mima. (The first time I’ve had to sign up for a photography pass).This installation consists of 130 cinerary jars in black, grey, ochre, white and terracota. An interpretation panel on a nearby wall asks the question ‘What is their story?’

These words, written by Laura Degnan and James Harris of Writers Block North East (www.writersblockne.com) reminded me of the ending in the second draft of my smashwords story The Second Wave. Readers of previous posts about this novella will know that I cut a character called Tani from the final version. In the second draft she had a significant role to play after the monks had made their ascension:

At twilight, Tani made her way to the monastery. The acrid smell of burnt flesh and wood invaded her nostrils as she approached. She paused to adjust the load of jars she was carrying and to draw strength from the ancestors to do what she had to do.  She made straight for the shrine, clambering over charcoaled tree trunks to Amaterasu’s statue. It was a heap of black ash next to the white remains of Chen and Akemi Roshi.

Tani put down her load of ‘kitsiburo’ and selected the most beautiful jar to collect the ashes. Mindful of the correct order, she proceeded to use a pair of bamboo chopsticks to extract pieces of leg, arm, hip, and backbone, followed by the teeth and skull.

Over the next few days she repeated the process for each monk …

At this stage in the production of the story Tani was pregnant with Chen’s child. The third draft starts with that child (Miki) taking a funeral jar from the ancestor corner and narrating Chen’s story to her own children. The final version entitled ‘Zipangu, Year of the Dog 1274: The Second Wave’ is currently free to download from http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/241485

I read in the exhibition leaflet that Sarcophagi were designed to remain above ground. I had always thought of them as being housed below ground and had to reexamine what I thought I knew about funerary rituals.

The Quietus exhibition, which runs until 11th November 2012, consists of a collection of both horizontal and vertical funerary containers  which Laura and James refer to as ‘shells for abscences.’ For me the life size jars resonate with amphorae found in archaeological sites. I have often remarked that they would be good for storing bodies instead of food, wine and oil.

Julian Stair's Quietus exhibitionMima gallery and shop are open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays from 10a.m. to 4.30p.m.

Thursdays 10a.m. to 7p.m.

Sundays 12noon to 4p.m.

Closed Mondays & Bank Holidays.

There is a pay & display car park directly behind the building.

For details of events and exhibitions visitmima.com

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