I Did Not Know How Far I Would Carry The Broken Pieces of Our Trust: Museum of Australian Photography (MAPh)

Janelle Low

21 Sep - 12 Nov 2023

MAPh exhibits Janelle Low, Wai Tang Commissioning Award recipient for 2023

‘I Did Not Know How Far I Would Carry The Broken Pieces Of Our Trust’ explores the loss of friendship. Perhaps not the usual focus of a ‘breakup’, Janelle Low has sought to embody the loss, rupturing, and severing of bonds when friendships break down.

Low primarily works with the photographic image and this new body of work extends her exploration of familial ties, cultural loss, and the nature of memory, and presents an opportunity for Low to return to presenting ceramic objects alongside the photographic image.

‘I Did Not Know How Far I Would Carry The Broken Pieces Of Our Trust’ is rooted in process. For this series, Low invited people to share their own stories about friendships they had lost. The process of making these works was cathartic and enabled her to mourn the loss of a close friendship.

The resulting body of work comprises a series of intriguingly ambiguous abstracted black-and-white photographs that depict objects that hold significance to Low’s personal experience of the breakdown of trust. These are shown alongside ceramic sculptural forms. These are unique objects – cast in a mould, hand-carved, and then fired for the first time – bisqued – before being glazed or tossed red-hot into organic matter. These delicate and yet prickly objects are hollow shells, empty vessels; the remains of a friendship past.

“The loss and heartbreak we experience when romantic relationships end has been depicted, performed and written about endlessly. There is a shared understanding of how deeply these relationships can affect us, and (whether helpful or not) established ways we can go about moving on from them.”Janelle Low

But what about the loss we experience when platonic relationships break down? So often these close friendships, built on trust and intimacy, affect us just as significantly as any romantic partnership. What happens when they end? With my former best friend there was no repair, not of the relationship at least. It was severed. And with time, it dissolved. Not neatly, and not harmlessly. But time did its work, leaving me with fragments of our trust, embedded deeply into my flesh.

I wanted to title this show “rupture and repair” but did not like the equal weight that phrase gave to the “repair”. I am much more interested in the rupture and what it leaves behind. What we carry with us. And how it affects us as we go forward.

Low continues:

“In the process of developing the work I wanted to speak to others about their experiences. The response was overwhelming – so many people had stories they wanted to share. People who had pre-planned and initiated leaving, people who were suddenly ghosted and left completely in the dark. I found a lot of heavy emotions, often unaddressed and rarely ever spoken about.

I have taken the resonance of these emotions with my own and embedded them into this body of work, which has been a process of working through grief.

Thank you to everyone who shared so vulnerably and generously with me along the way.”

-Janelle Low, 2023

Production credit: artist Karima Baadilla assisted Low with the creation of these ceramics.