THE COMPANION is an ongoing project in which the artist experiments how craft could be positioned in the relational aesthetic, and how far could our kindness and empathy travel. With the unique hand crafted metal miniature, she invites the public to join her practice of recognising and appreciate the connection with the other happening in our daily life. Responding to the disconnection and the lack of a sense of belonging we often experience in the contemporary society. She aims to create a circulation that flows outside the commodity structure with the gesture of gifting. A circulation required intuitive action which manifests our choice, belief and belonging, while fuzzing up the boundary between art and life. In the middle of 2020, the urge to make peace with the feelings of being disconnected and isolated. She sat in front of her workbench and started making. She took a piece of wax with an empty mind and let her intuition take over. When she came back to herself, there was a tiny creature sitting in her hand, staring at her. A sculpture was born, a miniature, a little companion.
The artist carries one miniature per day and gives it to the first person she experiences a connection with. The person can decide to accept it or not after hearing the instruction: carry it with you and give it to the next person you feel connected to, and ask that person to repeat it as you did. And ask the same thing for the next person, and so on. One picture of the miniature with the hand of the participant will be documented. The participants are fully free to decide what to do with the miniature once they have accepted it. Nothing will need to be reported afterwards.
The circulation of the miniatures comes from the gestures of kindness and empathy, which require intuitive actions by both the artist and the participants. Every active “choice” is a manifesto of how we identify ourselves as people. Belonging could be a question of belief, of believing in gratitude and humanity—to recognise oneself by recognising others, and to feel human by feeling another human.
The miniatures are given as a material object and an experience, as a medium to initiate
interactivity. Once the participant accepts it, they also undertake a commitment and responsibility: they will have to reflect and decide themselves which is the gift they wish to receive—the object, or the concept. The freedom to choose is also accompanied by an open question of how an individual perceives the value of an artwork outside of the commodity structure. The value of the work is based on individual choices, not something based on a system or structure. With the freedom of choosing what the gift could be, I am also asking myself and the participants what “owning or having” means. There are thoughts, feelings, and actions involved—no matter what you decide, whether it is to carry the miniature around in their daily life, give it to someone else, or keep them on their bookshelf; in any event, it is an experience.
Piera Ying-Chu Shih (1993) is a Taiwanese artist and goldsmith based in Norway. Piera has received her BFA from Alchimia, Contemporary Jewellery School in Firenze; and holds a MFA in Medium and Material based Art from Oslo National Academy of the Arts. In her works, she examines the degradation of the emotional connection and our sense of belonging, which is often felt in contemporary life. Looking into new meanings and functionalities of craft, aiming to reduce these disconnections.