Mission Gallery (23)

The last location we ventured upon independently, during our Wunderkammer Field, was a small local, South Welsh gallery in Swansea. 
It was interesting to see carefully curated, poetic and colourful contemporary exhibition by Anne Gibbs, in a small, intimate, local venue dedicated to art and contemporary craft; compare to big, nationally (or even internationally) renown museums, galleries and collections we seen on our travels.
It refocused our attention on our (now very informed) practice, and how it could fit within the big world, or even the small local one.


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Collect (22)

Visiting COLLECT, as an art fair for “contemporary objects” was such a different experience, compare to the museum and gallery setting we’ve been exposed to during our Field.
The excitement of new, as well as the people – makers and artists themselves standing next to their work, curators and galleries, collectors and enthusiast – made the viewing different. Sometimes it was more critical, but mostly more open minded and eager to learn more: from the makers themselves, by handling the objects or discussing with other visitors.


Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and The Museum of Archeology and Anthropology (7, 8)

A new city and another university’ collections.


First two museums we visited in Cambridge were traditionally subject based, predominantly on Geology and the second one on Anthropology and Archeology.
It’s not surprising as they are part of Cambridge University, which has total of 9 museums and collections.
As with the University’s purpose, the aim of these museums is to educate the public.

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The Sedgwick Museum was the most traditional in its presentation, with impressive  antique wood and glass cabinets, but rather static display.
The layout was quite clear and direct, coming from the earliest period of 544 million ears ago from right, to the Pleistocene epoch and exhibition of work by Charles Darwin on the left. Each open ‘room’ divided by the large cabinets was dedicated to different environment such as Costal Plains or Tropical Seas, most significant in its epoch.

The individual open ‘rooms’ had more information scattered around, with main introduction board, individual artefact signs and handbooks by the windows.
It was rather passive reading, and looking through glass experience.

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I appreciated the airy installations on the cabinets, bringing some fresh imagination to the collection, using the imagery found within the cabinets.

It was exciting to see the original and hand painted Geology Map, created by William Smith, and read its impressive story, not just admire it’s impressive size.


Just few steps away and we found ourselves in the Anthropological and Archeological Museum.
After seeing fossils and natural/life’s evidence it was interesting to suddenly appear in space filled with human ‘fossils’ represented predominantly by ceramic objects.
It’s like ceramics are human fossils; used by archeologists to get most information on humans, their activity and history, as geologists get their information from fossils on life and environment of past.

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The collection was very similar to the Pitt Rivers’ (as both are anthropological museums), however the curation couldn’t be different.
I enjoyed it in different way, as exploring themes in more depth, such as ‘childhood in the past’ is more educational and informative, than just explore and compare different objects on their own, like in Pitt Rivers.

It was in the exhibition on childhood, where we discovered that museum descriptions doesn’t have to be dull, but can be rather entertaining. It was in a form of educational criticism and sassiness on descriptions of pottery techniques and examples made or decorated, most likely by a child.
Signs are one of the most influential feature of the museum experience, as absolutely everyone reads at least one, but I believe they are not the most griping and exciting to read, in most cases not even really relevant.

Furthermore, on the last floor, there was another unusual sight – of a glass cabinet with cardboard boxes and unnumbered, unmarked relics placed carefully on a foam tissue.

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It was a visible storage while they prepare a new exhibition on that floor. With the boxes probably hiding more objects safely, it felt like a retail environment where the products are left to speak for themselves, ready to attract, be picked up, explore its purpose, how it’s relevant to the buyer/observer, and be bought.

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A simple map with objects placed on their geographical origin reminded me of different coffee, tea or chocolate stating their unique geographical origin, trying to attract customers (of products or ideas) with their unique properties, customs, resources.

The Old Fire Station and Modern Art Oxford (5, 6)

Wondering off track to explore more temporary and modern exhibitions in Oxford.
Finding very different and critical point of view at collections of British museums.


The first place we found was an exciting arts venue focused on bringing high quality arts to the community with exhibition space, theatre, dance studio and workshops for artists.

We went straight for their exhibition space which was as large as a bedroom but housed exhibition named Haptic/Tactic.
In association with Craft Council, the exhibition displayed work of 5 makers and their mentors, trying to challenge the upcoming makers and create a creative network that can stimulate new ideas and ways of working, very fitting for a venue which focuses on community and collaboration.
I was very excited to finally see Annie Turner’s work in person as her aesthetics closely relate to my last year’s exploration into containment and architectural structures.
Handling fundamentally tactile work of Bonnie Kemske was a must do experience, especially powerful after a day full of being forbid to touch any artefacts.

The informality of the space and ethos of the established felt very different to the rigid formality of typical museum and its goal for education, despite both housing art or craft based artefacts.


We finished the day at typical whit cube gallery spaces of Modern Art Oxford. Established in 1966, building an international reputation for leading contemporary art and innovative programmes.
“We aim to make contemporary art accessible and engaging to the widest audience through presentation and participation.”

The current exhibition “Invisible Strategies” presents work by British artist Lubaina Himid, born in Zanzibar and one of the forefront members of the British Black Arts Movement.
Her paintings, newspaper collages, sculptures and ceramic interventions were a powerful reflection on the objects we previously seen on that day, in a museum setting, sourced from array of cultures and civilisations across the globe and time.

She is questioning historical ‘truths’ that museums presents, and revealing hidden contexts of museums acquisitions.
In Mr Salt’s Collection, Himid is referencing “renowned British Egyptologist Henry Salt (1780–1827), and with its numbered objects alludes to British colonial trading routes, overseas excavations, collecting and connoisseurship.”
She is excavating stories from the slave trade, tied in with the British colonialism, and how there was not just trade in ancient artefacts or precious commodities, but in human lives too.

Himid is not just pointing the finger at wrongdoers, but raising questions about ownership, representation, value, curation of information, contribution and context, questions so vital in our Field exploration.

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“Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service, 2007 Himid defines Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service as ‘an intervention, a mapping and an excavation. It is a fragile monument to an invisible engine working for nothing in an amazingly greedy machine. It remembers slave servants, sugary food, mahogany furniture, greedy families, tobacco and cotton fabrics but then mixes them with British wild flowers, elegant architecture and African patterns. […] This work is not a memorial but more an encouraging incentive for everyone committed to restoring the balance, revealing the truths and continuing the dialogues.’ “

Her plate intervention was a great example for us of what we could do as proposal for this project. Using museum artefacts to curate and show different side of a plate; even by altering them.

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“Freedom and Change, 1984 ‘Discourse is a primary tool against the weapons used to marginalise and write out of history our contribution / she who writes herstory rewrites history.’ – Maud Sulter, 1990 Freedom and Change is a bold example of Himid’s ‘rewriting of history’, as proposed by the poet, curator and artist Maud Sulter, via the reference to Picasso – the epitome of masculine painterly energy. These women are personifications of freedom and change: they look to the future by embracing the past, yet overturning oppressive colonial histories. By quoting a painting from Picasso’s ‘return to order’ neoclassical period (1918–25), Himid comments on the rampant political conservatism at the height of the Thatcher era.”