In bones we dwell and for yours we wait inquires about the process of concealing death as a discussion topic and in our material surroundings.
Originating as a response to Knekelballet, a painting by Betsy Westendorp-Osieck that depicts puppets created by Henry Van Tussenbroek in 1932, this piece delves into the Dutch puppet master's use of bones and animal remains in his dolls and puppets. Tussenbroek originally intended these creations for children and they were performed by Dutch puppeteers. Unfortunately, much of Tussenbroek's work has been lost since it was intentionally destroyed after his death in the late 1960s. Nevertheless, various painters and engravers during the postwar era have depicted his work, capturing its eerie nature and reflecting the coexistence with death during that time, thus emphasizing the fragility of human life.
Furthermore, the archaeological department of the Dordrechts Museum houses an extensive collection of animal bones excavated from the surrounding areas of Dordrecht, spanning from the 1400s to the 1600s. The collection predominantly consists of bones from cows, horses, pigs, and deer.
Drawing a parallel to the puppet master's work and our contemporary preoccupation with human vulnerability, "In Bones We Dwell and For Yours We Wait" presents a collection of porcelain pieces that revive the original recipe for bone china—a type of porcelain traditionally crafted using bone as a key ingredient: Historically associated with luxury and high prices due to its aristocratic properties, bone china has been prized since its creation in England in the mid-18th century for its white, thin, and highly flexible nature, with its components often being of significant value. It typically includes 50% cow bone ash in its composition, which adds strength and gives it the recognizable milky white color.
In this project, the bone material from the Dordrechts Museum's archaeological archive has been incorporated into the traditional recipe. The archaeological findings are calcined and utilized as a component to produce the porcelain. The result challenges the qualities of the original recipe, questioning the luxury status of a material built on whiteness and stability, and delivers a new porcelain material with a sandy quality and unexpected behavior.
By transforming forgotten and unused bones into a durable material, this project aims to initiate discussions on the enduring relevance of Tussenbroek's paintings and his exploration of death as a creative impulse. It underscores how, throughout the 20th century, our interaction with the deceased and their remains has remained concealed yet undeniably present, especially in a post-COVID era.
The resulting pieces, including plates and vases, juxtapose the ambiance of the paintings with objects commonly found in the traditional interiors of bourgeois Europe. This reclamation emphasizes the inevitability of our human mortality, even when obscured by societal norms. The objects that surround us serve as witnesses to our inevitable decay.
Bone porcelain (produced from archeological remains of the Dordrechts Museum) and olive wood
Credits and collaborations
Design and Creative Direction: Bruno Baietto
Porcelain development consultancy : Benedetta Pompili
Woodworking assistance: Seung Hwan Ji