Loss and grief are inevitable and universal experiences that nevertheless each of us encounter unexpectedly sooner or later. The exhibition “Contours of Grief” explores this tension and examines the different emotional states of mourning through various artistic media.
We don’t know how we grieve until we grieve, notices Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Grief is a nonlinear process in which ambivalent emotional states collide. We feel detached and cut off from the world, with pressure on our chest and emptiness in our heart. At the same time, painful memories keep catching up with us, piercing through the indifferent protective layer like hot needles. Anger is followed by despair, loneliness by exhaustion, guilt by resignation. Even though each loss is unique, through sharing our pain we develop understanding for each other and can heal together.
In Western culture, mourning often still has negative connotations and is considered a taboo. People who are grieving are under social pressure to ‘function’ again as quickly as possible. Pauline Boss’ concept of “ambiguous loss” describes a shift in perspective that allows a more comprehensive personal and societal approach to grief. Ambiguous loss remains unclear, elusive, and therefore cannot have closure. In addition to the death of loved ones, Boss names many other experiences of ambiguous loss, physical and psychological. The result of her many years of research is the realization that grief cannot be controlled, but must be expressed and lived. Understanding grief as a process that can never be fully completed allows us to integrate it as a development in our identity and to continue a relationship with the objects and persons we have lost. The time we need to grieve is the transitional period before we adapt to our new reality. In doing so, we can learn to understand grief not as an end, but as a process of transformation. Following this example, the exhibition aims to create a space for the ambivalences of grief.
Exhibition from March 4 to May 18, 2023