Museums are odd spaces, if you stop to think about it. Objects enclosed in glass boxes, protected from the touch, sound and breath of the general populace. We can see them, carefully presented in a dimmed artificial light, but these objects are now immune to human life – often the very thing that brought them into being in the beginning.
The continued existential question of our kind – who are we? why are we here? – is why such spaces exist. Why objects are presented, stripped bare from their original maker (except maybe recent history) and allowed to coalesce with our own consciousness. Campaigns such as Fashion Revolution day hint that this is a cultural model – a removal of the very hands that created something, to sell us an idea of who we are. An idea we piece together from the fragments we've absorbed before. Is authorship even valuable, when we feverishly impose our own meaning onto something anyway?
Stripped bare of context, the objects in glass boxes become an exercise in aesthetics. A mummified cat, sacred from what I know of Ancient Egypt, becomes reduced to a reminder of basket weave patterns. I might muse about the time/skill that went in or the beliefs of the people who made it, but as a product of this civilisation, museums can become nothing more than "inspiration" – a search for an idea to merge with my collected consciousness, and trigger the creation of something that I can embed with meaning. Potential is everywhere and over-abundance seems inevitable.
Museums are odd spaces, but I enjoy them anyway. I like the sense of stillness and the concrete answers they (try to) present, as a form of refuge from my own questioning mind. They are places where history is fixed; in everything but the stories we go on to tell.
I was digging through some old photos today and found this little one of a jacket I used to own. Beautiful was it, with its black & taupe panelling, elbow patches (yes!), large pockets and tartan lining. One of those rare finds, which you can’t seem to pass up despite the money and it not being your usual thing.
You take it home, dig out one of those antiquated padded hangers reserved for delicate garments and special items from lost relatives. You stare longingly at it, hesitantly shrug it onto your shoulders and strut around your room like you’re Freddie Mercury, wary of taking it into the big bad world. You begin forming a strange attachment, guarding it from possible pain and trauma, using it on only rare occasions… and one day, a friend asks to borrow it. Carefully, she knows how you feel.
Then it happens. A dark night, a chill in the air, a little too much tipple and vamoose! Into the dust of the darkness it disappears, swept into an underworld of lies and deceit.
You hear the news and like a scorned lover, you sigh heavy defeat; imagining scenes of it parading on less idyllic shoulders, hugging the curvature of another body and oblivious to your mourning. Your poor dear friend, mortified at the occurrence, finds a replacement, buys you flowers and very sweetly makes amends. You’re thankful that she cares – and the new jacket is warmer, simpler and still tartan inside. Time passes and your loss stings less, yet some days, you can’t help but think of that special, irreplaceable charm that the original held.
That, with a few artistic embellishments, is the tale of this little jacket. Thankfully, blogging in the past means that photographs of our time together exist, not relegating it to fading memories. One day I will create a replicate, with bells and whistles to make it more mine and infinitely better. For now, I shall have to look upon these pictures with idle hope, exhale a wistful sigh and slowly move on.
Our days at The Loft are numbered. After a six month stint at the Priory Walk space, we’ve little under two weeks left and one final exhibition to go.
It’s a bitter sweet symphony; I’ll miss my days surrounded by talented Loft friends, yet it’s also high time to put my own wheels into action. Of course, not without a detour first: clothes may not have been made in the last six months, but following the multi-disciplinary ethos of the Loft, I did partake in a little collaborative art project back in April, No Boundary Between.
Since the project transpired because of the Loft, it seems only fitting that it’s shown again at We Are The Loft Birmingham – which means some remaking, testing and refining on my part. Still, cross discipline arts practice is becoming dearer to my heart by the day, and the idea behind this project is still interesting, though I’ll explain it another day.
Anyway, since I’ll be deep in the woodlands of making over the next couple of days, I’ll leave you with a few process shots to whet your appetites. Don’t say I don’t share some insights!
So… my good intentions of blogging have fallen by the wayside, though for valid reason lately. It’s partly because I quite enjoy silence on occasion and partly because I finally decided to apply for the MA I discovered last year. A course which encourages a balance between theory and practice (i.e. perfect for me) and I hesitated on thanks to my social survival mammoth overriding the more reliable gut instinct.
Last month I was fortunate enough to get an interview for the aforementioned MA and a week later, offered a place. This part is irrelevant because what I’m actually sharing today is the week-long project I completed for the interview. Something different from most of my previous work and bizarrely, falls in line with where my perspective has shifted – a more encompassing approach, which extends beyond what is generally considered fashion practice.
The task was to produce a response to Archiving the Future, an essay by Pil and Galia Kollectiv. It took me a few times to even vaguely understand all the ideas, followed by a lot of highlighting, scribbling and general regression into school-time revision mode. It probably helped that I genuinely read theory books for fun on occasion. The idea took a few days to formulate: photograph of an object, coupled with a story and presented in the form of an advertisement. I produced three images for the interview, mostly because I thought a series lent itself well to the idea of collecting.
At risk of being super ‘pretentious art school’ sounding, here is a brief explanation of the idea:
Photographs of objects - subtle reference to “The Treachery of Images (Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe)” by Rene Magritte… an actual object would be real, but a photograph of an object shows it did exist, is (or was?) real and tangible, so could have a history. By photographing it, the functionality of the object is removed and the original/historical meaning or context has a layer obscuring it. It creates distance from the origin and allows the collector to become author.
Invented stories - this element is derived from the “invention of a lost meaning” idea within the actual essay. Again, it is used to indicate that the object does have a history, however that history is being invented by the collector rather than based on the truth. It is being rewritten and ties in with the idea that the act of collecting is attributing value rather than the object itself providing that.
Advertisement presentation - finally, this component is deriving from Benjamin’s idea that collecting operates in a different mode to advertising. It is taking it from private to common, by taking objects owned by collector (personal) to being within a platform designed from mass viewing (public). This element also places a subtle question on the position of collecting as outside capitalist ideologies (as suggested in essay), especially if collecting does rely on industrialisation to strip an object of its meaning.
It’s probably easier to follow after reading the Kollectiv essay, but hopefully it makes some sense. Jon & I realised that the objects are ultimately irrelevant, because the idea questions authenticity in value. However, we decided that the objects are describing the collector (me in this instance) which ultimately helped solve the criteria of selection – it became a visceral act, rather than guided by strong intellectual components. Of course, I chose objects which were secondhand or old, allowing the falsified story to seem plausible.
Anyway, I just wanted to share them because I was quite pleased with how they turned out. Funnily, I found the Significant Objects project after I came up with the idea and the similarities are uncanny. The key differences being the final presentation (they listed on ebay, whereas mine are meant as adverts) and the number of writers.
Of course, getting onto the MA itself was wholly unexpected, but I’m approaching everything from the mentality of gradual evolution, kaizen, so who knows what will happen. It will be a challenge which is exciting and nerve-wracking in equal parts. I’m told that’s a good thing though.