Susan Hiller’s Painting blocks – cut up paintings and bundles to create sculptural forms. She also made a series of canvas books.
I really like the object like quality of these pieces which help me think about the bottari in a different way. That they start as fragmented scraps and rather than being bundled together, they are pieces and sewn into one large piece and then wrapped to become a bundle to hold objects. With Hiller’s blocks the bundle is the object.
I have been thinking about the object within the bottari and whether this holds any significance for me? As observed by Annette Reckert in her essay ‘The Concept of Bottari’ she writes:
“…tied bundles of cloth… are used like ordinary containers for the safe-keeping or transportation of a family’s worldly goods. They are not meant for a family’s valuables or heirlooms, but for the most elementary household goods with which to make a start in another place.”
So what do these objects mean for me and the work itself? I started at the beginning of the last semester wrapping books – relating to their burial in China, banned books, that the notion of risk to save a piece of knowledge was worth being persecuted for. It was an observation of a culture and back then, the link to what I was doing was the book, the book as an object, but also as a carrier and of something else acting as a protector – in this case, a wrapper. But it is not the book that has been taken forward in developing a body of work, it is the wrapper.
There is also a shift from the political to something more personally meaningful for me, my own self, my family, my displacement, my cultural otherness – what object am I wrapping if not the wrapper itself?l
Looking again at the quote above – “… the most elementary household goods with which to make a start in another place.” Here the bottari represents a journey – that the wrapping of basic objects is the first act of the travels. It is relating itself to migration, boundaries and belonging. I don’t recall bottari’s in my Korean household, but I am sure they must have existed, because there was fabric everywhere. As a family we would sleep on brightly coloured bedspreads in the same room, my halmoni (grandmother) with a rock hard cylindrical pillow. There were easily eight of us side by side every night, cousins, brothers, sisters, mothers. There were cupboards full of fabrics which would be piled up and brought out on special occasions. I also remember a whole cupboard full of old baby slings, which were heavily quilted and would be wrapped around the mother’s body about eight times.