Introduction

Lost & Found: An Introduction

‘Public discussions on the policy of culture are so hard to compare to the intimate things that we really value. Like those things that we want enough to wake up and see placed next to our beds. But these days I need to think of activism in relation to intimacy… Such a dilemma is complex, because I think it points to a fundamental fiction in our industry: namely, that the desire to describe a radically sentimental subject and the need to address institutional hegemony are somehow fundamentally incommensurate.’

Doug Ashford, Writings and Conversations, 2013

I was invited to undertake a month long residency at the Casa dell’ Ospitalita di Venezia, known as S. Alvise, a house for homeless men in Cannaregio.

I brought a box full of small objects to Venice, to leave behind or ‘lose’, ranging from the worthless to ‘antiquities’ – from old matchboxes, pencils and plastic spoons, to Roman rings bought in antique shops. Some were small constructions in paper, fabric or wax. A selection of 10 of these found and made things were cast in bronze, through a collaboration with Carmarthen School of Art, the originals destroyed and replaced by a precious and permanent versions.

Working at Sant Alvise – listening to the house, voices and the garden – I felt welcome but uncertain. With no Italian I learnt to speak though other people, through actions and objects. As I worked in my studio, guests (the homeless residents) and staff visited one by one to talk about their lives, things they had made, their interests and practical arrangements. I recorded the sounds of the house and filmed shadow patterns. I made 25 long, horizontal drawings inspired by the panoramic views from the garden, each a daily diary of events. The tables in my studio became the location for large-scale drawings and a growing number of small objects.

At the end of the residency I gave away or 30 objects to residents, visitors and staff. Originally I had intended to ‘lose’ them on a walk around the city, but instead used them as gifts to mark my connection to the place and people.

Bella Kerr

Image: Bella Kerr’s studio at Casa dell’ Ospitalita di Venezia, S. Alvise, 2016