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  • Carla Keen

Kintsugi: when things don't go as planned and the reparative gesture



// SEED is an open piece - and therefore is full of holes, gaps, spaces...places which are designed to be filled by tangents, unexpected stories, or even just a quiet bit of reflective quiet. However, despite its openness, there are still curated parts which are relied on for the encounter to occur (you can't start to build a cathedral if you don't have a brick in the first place.)


We need to both have an internet access which is stable enough to sustain conversation, you need a good enough microphone so I can hear you, and the ability to use Zoom. You also need the box of seeds I send, and all of its parts, so that we can go through the process of planting together.


As an improviser, you are taught to embrace mistakes/the unexpected, use them as part of the scene. For example, I have a very clear memory of doing a show where I was performing in the basement of a cafe, and a member of staff walked across the stage and used the fire exit which was positioned next to the stage. Rather deftly (I think), I incorporated it into the scene saying 'did you just feel like someone walked over your grave? I swear I saw a ghost...' The audience loved this authentic moment, and appreciated seeing the mechanisms of improv briefly exposed. However, sometimes it can still feel bad when something just doesn't go as planned.


One box arrived recently without its seeds. I felt awful. However, we continued the encounter, and planted something else - as it turns out a plant which had been sadly neglected and needed some TLC. And the piece pivoted to a place where the reparative act become centre stage. Together, we mended the encounter, and continued the very genuine conversation we were having, the mistake exposing a vulnerability on my part which deepened the connection between us.


I am reminded of kintsugi, the Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a lacquer mixed with gold. The idea is when something breaks, rather than hide the break or throw the object away, you visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece. The process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.


// SEED has always been about reparation in a time when the world around us is going through a huge amount of turmoil. This tiny act of finding something else to plant, to committing to continuing the conversation, and discovering how we could genuinely work together to rebuild our very small encounter became what this particular experience was about, and one that I think I will continue to remember.

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