The Wisdom of Ruins by HollyJo (CDCC)

18 January – 31 January 2020 (CDCC, Unit #302)

Curated by Michelle Beck and Dana Snow
Presented with DesignTO, Taboo Health, and the Health and Design Studio at OCAD University

The Wisdom of Ruins is a collection of materials that bear witness to unconventional grief and rituals of mourning, featuring the work of emerging Toronto-based artist HollyJo. T​he Wisdom of Ruins ​weaves together threads of an unsilenced grief through ceramics, photography, sculpture, audio, and found materials.

The medieval Sicilian city of Salemi—both the birthplace of the artist’s mother, and the site of a destructive 1968 earthquake—provides an alternative framework for considering grief. In the mid 1980s, architects Roberto Collova and Alvaro Siza began public interventions to attract residents and tourists to the area. Rather than following the Italian architectural tradition of d​ ov’era e com’era (reconstructing exact replicas of damaged buildings) the duo created structures that allowed for the previous damage of the earthquake to be expressed. Rubble was cleared away and new public spaces were adopted; the intact ruins remaining within them as quiet witnesses to trauma in the historical fabric of a place and a people.

Using the ruins as a grounding element from which to explore her own experience of mourning her infant daughter, HollyJo presents a methodology of leaning into grief through the act of witnessing. The works delicately investigate the porosity of intergenerational grief, using Sicilian tradition juxtaposed with objects that acknowledge mourning as a process of entanglement between community and familial relations. Existing outside of traditional Western funerary practices, ​The Wisdom of Ruins offers a holistic approach from which to begin a process of bereavement and healing. Grieving motherhood, childhood, and inherited trauma, the works help to interpret the private space between repression and radical acknowledgement.

The Wisdom of Ruins is a part of the DesignTO festival, co-presented with Dying​.exhibits;​ an exhibition series on end of life. Dying​.exhibits invites participants to think about their relationship with life and death as a process; encouraging heart-level conversations about difficult, often taboo topics.

During DesignTO there will be several events under the ‘Dying.’ series with an opportunity to visit exhibits across Toronto.

Dying​.exhibits is a collaboration between the Health Design Studio at OCAD U and Taboo Health.