Another great comprehensive museum with intriguing mix of new design esthetics from across the world, photography of the UK through eyes of outsiders, or local artists and their eye. Even exciting curation of contemporary art next to classical collections; extending the ideas and viewpoints within the grouped themes.
From chronological art and history, to subject based curation of artefacts across time and culture; as well as presentation of the nature and its history.
Our third (and technically fourth) was the Pitt Rivers Museum with entrance through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Again, the collections are owned by the Oxford University and displayed for education purposes.
I found a vitrine explaining principles of Darwin’s Evolution Theory through the extensively bred pigeons of different shapes and colours quite fun and interesting. But the overall feel of the impressive building and giant skeletons towering above us, surrounded by aged wood and glass vitrines, was an experience in itself.
A temporary exhibition displaying big digital prints of micro photography of insect life brought great new and different perspective on the subject of the collection, alongside preserved skeletons and taxidermy.
Entering the Pitt Rivers through the Natural History Museum was a different experience.
Still grand and impressive, but with deeper sense of wonder, as the space is filled with antique displays of not natural world, but the phenomena of nature, humans and all their creations.
The taxonomy and presentation couldn’t be different, not just by grouping the artefacts by subjects (such as toys, musical instruments, religious figures, etc), but by less subject writing and more focus on particular artefact and it’s origin, telling it’s story which creates diverse narrative of individual cabinet, and combined, the narrative of the whole human world across time and space.
This really evoke bigger sense of exploration and wonder, with more artefacts hiding in drawers underneath.
It felt like real wunderkammer.
Advertisement for the glass and wood vitrine maker. Over time it became description label, giving us history lesson on it’s origin.
It even housed artefacts that I’m very familiar with from my culture.
I would blow and decorate my own eggs, when I was little, and decorated the house with them on Easter.
Seeing something that I could technically have made, as a cultural ritual, behind a museum’s glass, in an anthropological collection, just made me feel as part of the humanity. Just another way of adapting natural resources around us, in a decorational/ritual way or as a functional object.
It made me wonder what is the most recent object in the collection, as we are still doing the same thing – adapting and changing the material around us, for many peculiar purposes.
It would be interesting how ideas and use changed over the time, how new materials such as plastic changed the visual and practical aspects of objects.
What ideas deceased and what are the new ones, or what improved or what people in past did better?
Peculiar experience visiting casino for the first time, while exiting a site specific work by Czech artist Roman Štětina; part of the Cardiff Contemporary biennale, exploring the theme of ‘communication’.
The incredible experience started immediately, by entering a long corridor winding it’s way in between the shop-floor spaces; a backstage corridor leading to a backroom in the city centre.
At the end of the corridor, a wast darkened room with aggressive and opulent reds and gold, giving casinos’ suggestions of excitement, opportunity, profit and luxury.
However, now the space was dystopian and empty; with only old CRT televisions showing still footage, and photographs in light boxes, mirroring back the space.
Referring to the theme of the festival, Roman is exploring ‘one way communication’ within TV and radio media. “The speaker doesn’t know if they are heard, or who hears them, and the listener is unable to respond”.
I certainly felt lonely and abandoned, only at the receiving end. The same feeling continued when I entered the real casino through the backdoor, only observing the number of people engaged in the casino’s games.
I wonder if certain spaces are influencing and stimulating people to observe ourselves within, to reflect and meditate.
Visiting the Ken Stradling collection and choosing our catalysts for our projects. My eyes were drawn to a small 1963’s book case on 4 legs, filled with orange book-spines. The extraordinary story of this small piece of furniture took me on a journey through the world wars, revolution in book publishing, architecture and all the ambitious ideas of modernism.
The ISOKON manufactured and designed by Ernest Race in the 1963 – ISOKON PENGUIN DONKEY MARK 2, displayed within the Ken Stradling collection was the starting point for me.
The father of the original Penguin Donkey was Egon Riss. As a Bauhaus-educated architect from Vienna, relocated to the UK, he started to experiment with new exploration within plywood bending and its possibilities.
His purpose build piece of furniture was commissioned by then very new, but a very rapidly successful paperback publisher Penguin Books. They revolutionised the easy of consuming our books and made it available to masses; by having best classical and modern works of literature produced in small, portable and cheap paperback format.
The new purpose build holder needed to reflect the easy and new way of reading; the books being close, always available within an arm’s reach from a chair, compare to conventional storage of great library like bookshelves.
The Donkey was manufactured using thin birch plywood, which became unavailable due to the outbreak of the Second World War, and all the plywood was directed for war purposes.
With only 100 pieces manufactured, the production ceased to halt.
ISOKON tried to revive the forgotten and never manufactured in a larger scale design by commissioning Ernest Race to create a modern version of this highly functional piece of furniture. The form changing drastically, loosing its early modernist curves for cold and sharp minimalists angles. The top is flattened to serve another function, as a coffee/side table, but still keeping its middle gap for magazines and newspapers.
This object caught my interest most from the Ken Stradling collection because of its minimal, functional design, purpose built for another object, as well as the white neutral colours giving prominence to the bright colour sleeves and ideas of display and containment.
However, it is the original curvy design and the story surrounding it and its makers and processes that I want to expand on.
In 2003 The Donkey saw another redesign by Shin and Tomoko Azumi, bringing back the curves, but still keeping some of the right angles. I feel it’s a nice fusion of the two designs, bringing extra functionality by the side handles and completely closing the top to function as a small table.
The aspects of Ken Stradling Collection that captured my attention on our first visit.
As You can probably see, I was rather drawn towards orange.
I was already unintentionally seeking some kind of containers; influenced by my project from first year as well as some ideas I was exploring over summer as a homework.
I’m really glad I discovered these themes in a very different form – furniture, and would like to explore furniture and the domestic setting in my practice.
It was actually very easy to find links and different objects relating someways in their colour, material, form or function; exploring and extending the themes in the small time and space within the Collection.
I was able to find examples that interested me in textile, ceramics, sculpture, toys or wood. At the end, I couldn’t escape the nature of Ken Stradling Collection, and a lot of the objects I chose to photograph had some form of playfulness, with tiny feet or wonky feet to moveable toys and animated animals.
While undergoing intense workshop into the basics of throwing and turning in the first term, I started to lean to and try to repeat some similar shapes in particular – trapezoid, a cooling tower shape or a hyperboloid structure.
To aid and direct the objects I am producing during the first term’s project, I’m researching work of Bernd (20.08.1931-22.06.2007) and Hilla Becher (2.09.1934-10.10.2015); as well as looking at other images, and my drawings emerging from them.
Bernd and Hilla Becher are an artist duo documenting German’s disappearing industrial architecture in 1959.
Their work is presenting engineer’s structures, like sculptures – monuments of strength and stability; they are sincere and objective-less: documenting and capturing the present, which can disappear (and which did – disassembly and moving factories and industries to Asia).
Like a technical drawing, showing the great skills in photograph-making, they are trying to capture the image with no distortion, and brimming with information.
That’s why their photographs are sometimes criticised as cold and ‘inartistic’, especially in the time when art photographers wanted their pictures with an effect – high contrast, soft focus, etc.
I created a number of quick sketches from these photographs, looking at the overall shape and pattern structure within.
I want these to direct my work into similar shapes, patterns and concepts.
As the photographs being a sincere documentation of present mastery, my work will be at the end of this first brief a honest snapshot of my development and mastery of the craft.
The ideas of stability and the present also interest me, as well as the historical significance of moving most of the industry from Europe to Asia and how the economic changes impacted today’s population of the West.
These are my first thrown objects this term, in Ash White, turned and most of them lightly burnished or scratched.
They can stack up to create a new structure, but they doesn’t fit well.
I do treat them as first experimentations, practice maquettes and first stages in my development of both practice and concept.
I want to be more consistent in the shape, to translate the stability and industrial power. The stacking up element to create new sculptural pieces from them, securely fitting into each other. And the overall quality of the object: cleaner finish, mostly with the rim; walls consistency and overall balance of the weight.
In the near future I will look at surface decoration: printing, scratching, colour, glazes, pattern, metal features.