The bright gold lacquer repair on this Korean celadon bowl is called kintsugi. The bowl dates from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392 CE).

UMMAA Asian Archaeology and Ethnology curator Carla Sinopoli is guest curator of Less Than
, an exhibition opening at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology on August 26, 2016, which explores themes of perfection, imperfection, and failure. The objects on display, which span four continents and more than 2000 years, are from the collections of the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, the Kelsey Museum, and the University of Michigan Museum of Art

"Some of my most exciting discoveries have been of objects that failed in production—stone carvings that cracked and broke before completion, ceramic vessels that warped in the kiln and were never used," writes Sinopoli. "It is through objects like these that we get glimpses of production in process."   

Song Dynasty ceramic failures, or “wasters,” in UMMAA’s Asian collection, provided the inspiration for the exhibition, which is organized around three themes.

Failed ceramics join ancient Egyptian figurines, Athenian and Persian coins, and ancient and modern glass objects in “Failed Perfection,” which examines how archaeologists learn from objects that have failed in production.

The second theme, “Deliberate Imperfection,” examines why artists and craftspeople deliberately introduce asymmetries or other imperfections into their works. Included here are South Asian embroidered phulkari shawls and a 20th-century Navajo weaving.

“Repairing Perfection,” the third theme, features objects with ancient repairs, including UMMAA objects from Arizona, India, Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand.

Sinopoli developed the exhibit with a team of three undergraduate students from the Honors’
College: Amelia Fuller, Maggie Johnson, and Ben Weil.

The University Record published this review of the exhibit.  

On November 3, the Kelsey will host FAILURE:LAB, an evening of storytelling and entertainment in which speakers share their most memorable failures.

Less Than Perfect runs until January 8, 2017.