The Tears of Things

As we looked at her straw bag, filled with balls of wool and an unfinished piece of knitting, and at her blotting pad, her scissors, her thimble, emotion rose up and drowned us. Everyone knows the power of things: life is solidified in them, more immediately present than in any one of its instants.

Simone de Beauvoir, A Very Easy Death


Everyday objects and personal possessions can end up in unexpected places. The broken object psychologically and geographically can trigger feelings of trauma whether collectively or our own. An object that has lost its original integrity, function and original purpose becomes nomadic tracing the journeys we make from one place to another. The continuity of our identity becomes firmly rooted in the objects we have in our lives- even if they are broken. Objects often outlive people confirming the materiality of things is more permanent than the materiality of the body. We draw comfort in the immortality of objects.


We invited artists, writers, academics, undergraduates, museums and member of the community to contribute by writing a short narrative and submitting a photograph of a ‘thing’ that holds a memory, story or attachment in their lives. The responses have ranged from the deeply personal relationship with an object belonging to someone lost to writing triggered by a broken object from a museum collection. Working with Penlee Gallery and Museum in Penzance gave us an opportunity to explore the forgotten object within the context of a museum collection exploring what was hidden in  archival boxes, broken and lost. This inspired a collection of short writing in relation to the museum collection.

An object is something through which a subject projects itself in order to procure a sense of substance and a sense of dwelling and enduring externally, beyond the body. Objects of the Dead. Mourning and Memory in Everyday Life. Margaret Gibson.

We recognize ourselves in objects building memories through our relationship with them and from the experience of seeing them endure in peoples lives. Our experiences of loss is reflected back at us by holding the broken fragile fragments of a broken object.

Mending became a part of the exhibition. On the opening night artists Polly Maxwell and Lulu Richards Cottell set up a darning station to mend a collection of holes in blankets. We also showed documentation of a ceramic antique being glued and repaired by a local artist Nickie Carlyon.

The collection titled ‘Tears of things’ reflects the melancholic association and love we have of fragments and remains.

The exhibition Tears of Things will remain in the Engine Room at The Exchange Gallery in Penzance until March 10th 2017

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