10 February 2007

the repetition of knitting nancy and pinning down words

Kitchen Antics and Appliances (KK&A) met at Tate Britain to continue dialogue and research, including what it felt like to try out knitting nancies, purchased on ebay, (join us in trying it out and let us know how you got on). Those with good memories may remember using these as children and making them from wooden cotton reels, its also often called french knitting or spool Knitting. Françoise Dupré has done some interesting work with french Knitting. Its a communal soporific activity, we sat at a table in the coffee shop surrounded by comings and goings. An American woman was pulled into the activity, remembering how she used to make them with a cork, she also pointed out how she could never make out what the purpose of this activity was, after all making a 20 metre sausage the diameter of your middle figure did strike all of us as being work without purpose. However, carrying out an activity without a goal or need to achieve created a space of openness and space for talking and wandering with our thoughts. Barbara is knitting a red and white nancie making a sort of danger boundary.

We also thrashed out a 20 word strap line concerning our work for Depot Untapped, it was a challenge to try and pin down 20 words with the KA&A three voices! I timed how long it took and I think it was 1.10 mins, not bad for us. How do you work in collaboration, without dumbing down to the lowest denominator to gain agreement, not good keep going get through the pain threshold, dont make too many compromises, all voices are important.

03 February 2007

Preparing for Spread

Barbara, Hilary and I (KA&A) have started an ongoing dialogue which will inform our work for Spread, there is always that sense of excitement and trepidation when starting another process - how will it pan out - will we be able to get it together - how will we communicate - how do we make room for each other - how do we allow the process to ebb and flow but not get stuck or go in directions we don't want to go in. We meet at Arts Depot next week to work out how things will come together, no firm ideas yet just allowing ourselves to dream, but I am interested in working with knitting and knitting nancies, you know those things that make long sausages in wool, that can go on forever.

Starting to think a lot about craft and its relevance for time based work and durational performance, knitting seems to be an ideal form of working with time, memory and communal activities

31 January 2007

what's next

Kitchen Antics are continuing their research into the underbelly of the domestic space, with Spread an exhibtion at The Arts Depot in Barnet, 13th - 29th April 2007. Hope to see you there, you can find details of the work on the links section under Arts Depot

10 January 2007

home sick - endings or perhaps just more?

The residency at MoDA ended in October with Home sick an evening of work by the Kitchen Antics artists. Readings and Interventions, was stimulated by writings on the blog whilst at the museum.

a few extracts from readings and interventions at home sick

a knickknack - a curio - an ornament - an heirloom,
- a collectors piece - bric-a-brac

A woman stands on a stool delving into cupboards for the hidden, small and overlooked.
She has only begun to clear her mothers house after her death from cancer some two monthes ago. she had been trying to put off the inevitable and now has decided today is the day.
Searching into the back of her mothers wardrobe the woman discovers a small porcelain mug engraved with her name - a small bear appears on the other side.
The woman is transported back to red formica tables and pebbledash.
Where were you, what happened at that moment, how old were you, who else was there?

(walking round the table I sit on an empty chair and begin)

If I had to leave home suddenly without a momnet to pack belongings - not knowing if I would return - what object would I take with me?
When a place of refuge is removed, an object can provide some form of refuge, its mobility enables its adaptable, placed in a bag tucked inside clothing, resting, whilst its carried on a journey.
On its arrival in a different time, place and space, its identity may shift, however it remains invested with deeply personal histories.

(walking round the table I sit on an empty chair and begin)

A 52-year-old research biologist, is referred to a psychiatric department where he is found to be suffering from compulsive collecting behaviour, which has spanned 23 years of his life.
The man reported that he collected items that were inexpensive or free, from antique shops, beaches, rubbish bins for example, although the items were useful in the general sense of the word, he would be unlikely to use them. He reported loss of concentration due to worrying about his collecting, and anxiety when trying to resist his desire to collect and hoard.
The psychiatrist described the disorder as signified by a "massive and disruptive" need to accumulate useless objects, a reluctance to get rid of the collections.

Treatment was initiated with paroxetine at 10 mg daily and increased to 20 mg daily after 1 month. Four weeks later, the compulsive collecting behaviour had stopped, and after 2 months, the patient had begun to dispose of his collected items.

(walking round the table I sit on an empty chair and begin)

embodying a bowl

My edges wrap you


your liquids clinging to my sides

my mouth opens to you

I drain



and weep

(walking round the table I sit on an empty chair and begin again)

16 September 2006

Cabinets of Curiosities

We saw a salamander, a chameleon, a pelican, a remora, a lanhado from Africa, a white partridge, a goose on a tree, a flying squirrel, another squirrel like a fish, all kinds of bright coloured birds from India, a number of things changed into stone, amongst others a piece of human flesh on a bone, gourds, olives, a piece of wood, an ape's head, a cheese,all kinds of shells, the hand of a mermaid, the hand of a mummy, a very natural wax hand under glass, all kinds of precious stones, coins, a picture wrought in feathers, a small piece of wood from the cross of Christ...

a description by a German traveller, Georg Christoph Stirn, of The collection of curiosities formed by John Tradescant reflecting the wide range of objects that could be found in 'rooms of wonder'.

06 September 2006

Lets hear about what you collect and why

why do we collect what do we collect let me know please do you collect in secret are you out about your collecting I want to know what you collect and why you collect it/them?

A 52-year-old research biologist, was referred to a psychiatric department by his GP, and was found to be suffering from compulsive collecting behaviour for 23 years.

The man reported that he collected items that were inexpensive or free, from antique shops, beaches and other places and although the items were useful in the general sense of the word, he would be unlikely to use them.

The man reported loss of concentration due to worrying about his collecting, and anxiety when trying to resist his desire to collect and hoard. Treatment was initiated with paroxetine at 10 mg daily and increased to 20 mg daily after 1 month. Four weeks later, the compulsive collecting behaviour had stopped, and after 2 months, the patient had begun to dispose of his collected items.

I found this article in a newspaper, and became fascinated by what this mans house might have looked like during his collecting obsession, I wondered how this man might have disposed of his collection, what did he actually collect, what was the impact of his collecting behaviour and how did it feel when he no longer collected?

".... his maverick appetite opens onto the least seemly range of objects on offer in the workd: dishevelled scraps, things so decidedly secondhand and unserviceable that they are routinely subsumed under the generic label of 'rubbish' - defined, that is, in the unredeemably negative terms of utter worthlessness". (from a discussion on Kurt Schwitters, from the book The Cultures of Colleting).

21 August 2006

home and Goat Island workshop

A steady build up of writing again before my return to the residency in September.

I have just returned from a 6 day workshop at Lancaster University with the Chicago based collaborative performance group, Goat Island. I won't talk about the workshop directly although there is a lot to say about it, but will just mention some experiences regarding being away from home.

Being away from home – home from home

The journey to Lancaster is a straight run up the M26, I take my time arriving after 5hrs. I am staying in a house in Lancaster with a local woman - strange really - not like staying in an anonymous hotel - lieing in her bath, her bed, eating from her table. She said make yourself at home and I did - she said she was grateful I didn’t treat her home like a hotel.

A little bit of my life happened somewhere else for a week, I translocated myself through county boundaries from north to south and ended up with a group of strangers who became a community of shared interest for 6 days. Moments can be profound with people that might not be seen again, its not only history that matters, its about being part of a shared experience, no matter how different, having a witness to your process and vulnerable stumbling, about meaning in those moments that change things just enough to stay with you.....

05 August 2006

pigeon post

Have given myself a bit of a break from blogging, as the residency artists are on holiday until September. Whilst sitting in the garden listening to Woman's Hour my curiosity about homing pigeons was reawakened by a section on a woman from the Scilly Isles who nurses pigeons who are lost or sick. Apparently the Scilly Isles is the first bit of land many pigeons reach especially if the wind blows them off course.

Some flights have been as long as 1689 miles reaching speeds of up to around 30 miles per hour and bursts of speed up to 60 mph. Homing pigeons have been used to carry messages written on thin paper, which are attached to the birds leg in a small tube, this is how the term pigeon post came to be developed.

When a homing pigeon is released from a site some distance from its home loft, it initially circles around the release site several times. It then orients itself in a particular direction and flies in a relatively straight path away from the release site. The original bearing in which the pigeon flies is usually quite close to the actual direction of the home loft. Although the approximate direction is maintained during flight, the homeward journey of the pigeon varies. A pigeon, even when it is released from the same site on numerous occasions, does not fly an identical route each trip. Gould (1982) describes

14 July 2006

moments of community

Someone was asking a colleague and I whether we saw our work as political. I was aware of how little I had thought about my work within this context, preferring to place it within a sociological an environmental context.

I have thought about this further, and reflected on the momentary community during the tea parties with community groups. How can a museum or a lecture theatre be more then a museum and a lecture theatre, a kitchen, a living room, a community centre, a media centre, a place of information sharing, a place of idealistic chaos which creates a community, a place where the viewer is the performer, a place where a lecture theatre can become a stage, a place that invites active involvement.

So what are my motivations for this form of practice? I think these are areas to reflect on and consider - the wish to create a community, be part of the possibility of change, or a transformative moment, wanting to work within a social context, a wish to work in collaboration. All of these at times, and still reflecting.

I cannot ignore the funding structures, and question whether this impacts on ways of working; the social inclusion agenda for example. The artist needs to remember he/she is in the driving seat, after all we set up situations for groups, we hold the funding, we put out the invitations. Its essential to be self-reflective and honest about these agendas and intentions, when we work with groups, but being in a position of some power doesn't mean one needs to use it negatively.

13 July 2006

to stay or to go?

An extract from an article in The Guardian on May 6th 2007, outlined that half a million Polish people have left Poland to find jobs in the UK, since Poland joined the EU. The Guardian states that Poland has the highest unemployment of all 25 EU nations at 18%

However the Mayor of Wroclaw, Rafal Dutkiewicz is atempting to turn this trend around by attracting foriegn firms to the city, in order to reverse the "brain drain". Dutkiewicz wants his people back.'We are launching a poster campaign in clubs, pubs and other places popular with Polish people in London, telling them that Wroclaw needs them back,' says one of the mayor's deputies, Pawel Romaszkan.

Wroclaw is one of the biggest cities in Poland's so-called 'rust belt' and is home to the coal mines and steelworks that fuelled the economy in communist days. The free-market years have brought little joy to an area blighted by pollution and unemployment.

Locals blame decades of environmental neglect for high rates of cancer and respiratory diseases in the region and deride the government for failing the 200,000 miners who lost their jobs during pit closures in the 1990s.

Poles are stoic about the need to travel to find work and, unlike millions of other migrant workers, in Britain they are just a two-hour budget flight from home. They scorn France's demonisation of the 'Polish plumber', who came to embody the country's fears that EU expansion would create cheap labour to erode the security of French jobs. But the flow of migrant labour is inexorable. As Wroclaw calls its people home, Ukrainians are already filling the city's 'grey economy' jobs in building and cleaning.

But Gondek, Romaszkan and the rest of Mayor Dutkiewicz's team face some angry reaction from emigrants to the 'come home' campaign. 'They're being very sarcastic about it and some are furious,' says Ania Heasley, the 39-year-old behind the aniaspoland.com website for Poles in Britain. They're bitter because they've been looking really hard for work abroad for two years and now Poland suddenly wants them back. They wonder where Poland was when they needed a job at home, and why Poland couldn't stop them leaving in the first place.'

As Tomek watches his girlfriend's plane take off, he is already planning his next trip. 'I'll find a nice place for the two of us and we'll make some money. There's no point staying here. Of course, it's hard to leave home and it's tough for the ones you leave behind,' he says, looking out at the runway. 'Family is family - but money is money.'

Antics and Appliances: abandoned flags

Antics and Appliances: abandoned flags

Hi Adele

good to hear from you, your observation highlights the muliplicities of nationalities in your home area and questions about belonging I suppose, especially when you live in an-other place. Our discussion at the museum arose out of a question of whether it was a sign of xenophobia to have an England flag on your house or car. Is this a particularly English preoccupation, something the middle classes feel uncomfortable with, whereas other nationalities do not have this problem. The history of Englands colonising past I suppose!

30 June 2006

abandoned flags

The kitchen Antics team had a discussion about the current use of st georges flags attached to houses and cars during the world cup. The following action developed on the car journey from the museum in Barnet to the county bounday sign of Oxfordshire. I counted 202 flags with my colleague Hilary, strewn along the hard shoulder and edges of the motorway.

After the quarter final match of England and Portugal, I met a man at the local recycling centre, who jokingly asked me "where's the skip for the England flags then, I recited the story of the flags strewn along along the motorway the day before the match.

24 June 2006


"Give those with whom you find yourself
every consideration."
Sen no Rikyu

16 June 2006

the door - the threshold

A blog is such a good way of developing threads of thought and ideas and layering reponses upon responses.

I do not see myself as religious - but being brought up in a jewish household brought some interesting experiences, that as an adult and artist raises philosophical and spiritual questions within my work.

In relation to my earlier posting concerning hospitality I have threads running through the blog concerning the table, the open door, the guest, the stranger, the other, the threshold.

The door - the threshold, the welcome, rejection, whether to enter?

The comic character; the phantom stranger remains nameless and his origins are never revealed - In Wim Wenders, film Wings of Desire, the viewer is introduced to the angel, which hovers over Berlin. An angel that transcends the barriers of east and west, that understands the inner workings of human beings, their thoughts and emotions. They appear like us as they wander, they take on a role of guardian angel, comforting the dieing, touching those determined to kill themselves.

When my grandfather died, my mother described a recurrent dream of a man in a black cloak appearing at the foot of her bed. His head was bowed and she couldn't identify him. She described him as like the Sandeman Port figure on the bottle. She talked in a matter of fact way about these dreams, never appearing fearful of the figure that appeared to her.

The Sand-man was a story Hoffmann, heisa man who comes to children when they won't sleep and throws handfuls of sand in their eyes, puts them in a bag and takes them to the half-moon as food for his little ones who sit in a nest with hooked beaks like owls, and they pick childrens eyes out with them.

Roy Orbison

A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper
Go to sleep. everything is all right.
I close my eyes, then I drift away
Into the magic night. I softly say
A silent prayer like dreamers do.
Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.
In dreams I walk with you. in dreams I talk to you.
In dreams youre mine. all of the time were together
In dreams, in dreams.
But just before the dawn, I awake and find you gone.
I cant help it, I cant help it, if I cry.
I remember that you said goodbye.
Its too bad that all these things, can only happen in my dreams
Only in dreams in beautiful dreams.

09 June 2006

the possibility of hospitality?

"come in".
welcome to my house,
make yourself comfortable,
take your shoes off,
er no in that seat over there
if you wouldn't mind.

"Tea or coffee,
where are you from"?

Put your feet up
rest a while
you must be tired

I have to go out later
but i have time
(looking at watch)

so you didn't tell me
where you are from?
Oh I see,
no i don't know it
I thought
your name
wasn't a familiar
one to me

are you hungry?
no trouble
really do have a bite

how long are you in the area
where are you going?

we have a lot of friends
they are bound
to have a room
just knock I am sure they
can help (pause)

how you feeling now
a bit more rested?

"well do come again,
you are most welcome

you have my number now
just give me a ring
the doors always open

04 June 2006

the double figure of Freud as the door/and the doorkeeper – invoked by Derrida writing on hospitality

At the Passover table the door is left open for the possible return of the prophet Elijah. As a child I remember a distinct sense of fear tinged with excitement at the possibility of a stranger appearing in the room - crossing the threshold from the outside world into this internal living space. Was I waiting for the appearance of Elijah; the ghost or a living person? I wondered why this wandering person would choose to cross the threshold of our home – or was this person doing the rounds?

The home as a sanctuary was being opened out, with the private territory opened to the possibility of the ‘stranger’ - I like the idea of the domestic living space becoming a space of seasonal and ceremonial ritual transformation.

During our tea parties at the museum the place of looking and viewing without touching, will become an-other landscape for the day. In preparing the space for entry, I have been thinking about drawing on elements of Confucianism and Taoism, but in doing this I am trying to look at the disharmony as well as possibility of harmony in the space. The lecture theatre at the museum will be reconstructed into a place of welcome, made up of foods that may evoke a memory, or provoke a thought, as well as tasting good and bringing pleasure. The table, will be central in enabling the space and visitors to become connected?

28 May 2006

the table

I have been interested for sometime in responding to outside environments and the transitory nature of actions in non art spaces. Now I am in a museum setting, a non art space again, an establishment dedicated to a history of the home.

I find myself reflecting on processes influenced by home and the domestic environment - the everyday home environment removed into a space of collection. The ornamental interior of the home and the everyday dialogue is placed behind glass and in the case of natural specimens and textiles, put through a freezing process to kill off pests and fungus. The museum objects are no longer functioning objects.

I find myself collecting chinaware and cutlery, reinvigorating objects with daily use outside their setting, the art is in the act of collecting, the act of placing the objects on a table; the using of the objects. I am trying to reflect on the object definitions, my relationship to them and their use in another setting beyond the home. We as a group act in the role of communicator, curator, facilitator, performer and communicator.

I have been working with the idea of the table as some sort of altar, a sort of structure which serves as a focal point, a place of worship or ceremony, which could be tied in with the sharing of food of communication and dialogue of ritual and rites. The use of water salt bread and wine are all part of the table and link into the notion of the altar space but in a more democratic and ceremonial way. I also see the table as a stage with the players or the ‘performers’ at the table, surrounded by the props and scenery of objects – plates, saucers, spoons and forks.

I can’t ignore the rich history of gender, the domestic, the repetitive nature and labour of the everyday.

25 May 2006

ritual and dialogue

An act of communication - a social strategy - an act of celebration – a ritual action – an act of prayer in relation to others - drinking as welcome and nourishment

Creating an environment, ceating enaged debate, welcome - to take people in, social intereaction, the site based space of the museum, crossing the boundary of looking and seeing and educating into dialogue and communiation and making and creating

blessing for ritual washing hands before eating ‘bread’
ברוך אתה ה׳ אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על נטילת ידים
Translation: Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning washing of hands.

blessing before eating bread
ברוך אתה ה׳ אלהינו מלך העולם המוציא לחם מן הארץ
Translation: Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth.

blessing before drinking wine
ברוך אתה ה׳ אלהינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן
Translation: Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

22 May 2006

museum of crockery

I am imagining a large space - perhaps a lecture theatre, an old house or uncluttered space. As you enter you find the floor is covered in china crockery, set up randomly. In the middle of the space sits a figure at the head of a table. The table is spread as if waiting from guests, the figure sits in stillness, her arms reaching out on either side in the shape of a cross, tea cups hang from her arms, her head is bowed, unseen.

I am building a relationship with china - my props - I am my props - they demonstrate a sense of harmony and relationship to each other, I fit in with them, they fit in with others who fit in around them. They are present in a ceremony of silence.

19 May 2006

the empty museum!

We collect in secret, collect in public, in mass, in genres, in species, specimens, terms, types, genres,we collect objects, information, data, knowledge, documents, books, stories, drawings, photographs, paintings, sculpture, we collect treasure, things that shine, trifles, we collect, houses, land, spaces, decoration, designs, we collect history, lovers, sexual encounters, friends, animals, we collect cheap holidays, expeditions, times gone by, weddings and funerals, we collect cheap and cheerful, highly marketable and priceless, we collect the cuddly, things to sit on , things to wear, to lie on, drive in, look through, navigate and steer, we collect earrings, bracelets necklaces, tie pins, cufflinks, we collect, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, nets that catch them, fishing rods, fish and flys, we collect, bird names, car names, train names, girls names, boys names, telephone numbers, addresses, we collect stars, eclipses, winds , we collect encounters with tornadoes, lightning strikes and hurricanes…...

18 May 2006

Dogville thoughts

I want to talk about Lars Van Triers film Dogville, not about the narrative of the film, although its well worth talking about; but the construction of the film set of the film. Dogville is a town in which the main character Grace finds herself. It is set up as if on a stage or within a black box, lighting is minimal and props almost non existant with most of the actors miming their interactions with implements and objects and the sounds of imaginary doors dubbed over against the mimed action.

We are like god looking down into this setting from above. There are no walls, no houses, no rooms, no gardens, no plants. All these boundaries are laid out in paint or chalk as if looking at an achitects plan for a construction of a town or a monopoly board game. Life goes on behind invisible walls made visible.

I have been thinking about this set up and the possibility of taking constructed environments and placing them in another setting. Imagine if I cooked in my bedroom, slept in my kitchen, entertained in my bathroom, and invited people into my house through a door placed in a room upstairs.

16 May 2006

The residency so far- reflections on working in collaboration

Barbara, Hilary and I have spent five days at the residency. So how has it been so far? Well, its been quite a challenge to gain a rhythm and emmerse myself in the process, as I am not in consistently. However, the other side of the coin is that when i'm not at MoDA I have reflecting and thinking time, so there pros and cons to the set up.

I am trying to balance the need to develop ideas for the tea parties and two events in the diary, versus developing my own work. In future I will negotiate clear blue sky during the initial stages of a project, I think this enables space allow ones process to grow without the weight of organisational outcomes, as it has an impact on reflection and research time. So for the future I would organise events later in the project, but its good to rise to the challenge and I am sure that something will develop from the unknown space of beginnings.

All the artists on the residency have been reflecting on the nature of collaboration in their own different ways. It's made me seriously reflect on this and I have decided to write about my own experiences on the blog and perhaps add something to the ongoing debate in this area of practice.

There seems to be a great deal written on the collaborative process of artists and organisations, but little on artists and artists in collaboration. I have worked on a number of collaborative projects, including community arts projects, workshops, event management and arts projects. Some collaborations have worked better than others, for example the concentration on the outcome of the project without addressing the working relationship has been less successful. This might work to some degree when its a short relationship and project, or when the artist is less experienced and one of the artists is happy to stay in the driving seat whilst others sit back. However, if all have energy and investment and want to work together equally with all voices needing to work together things can get sticky and need to be worked through.

I don't believe there is a right way to collaborate and its difficult for anyone else to tell the artist how to work in collaboration, its something the collaborators have to work out together and feel their way through. So how do you measure what works and what doesn't? Is not like collaboration is made that visible. When I observe other groups and couples who collaborate, I have tended to think; oh they just get on well, they work better as two than as one, and from the outside it just looks like it works. But what makes it work?

It seems that each collaborator respects the other, and allows and enables the other to grow, giving space to take risks, in an open way, in which the artists can dare to disagree, negotiate and a let go of each their authorial voice.

All artists bring something different to the mix, acknowledging differences is essential. Its almost like acknowledging the other and allowing them in, sharing information and perhaps losing ones own sense of ownership. Its also about going to places that are not part of ones individual vocabulary and not knowing what the outcomes of this might be.

In the collaborative process; the relationship is as important as the objectives and outcomes of the work. Therefore building structures in the working relationships can provide the framework to build and grow.

Whilst collaboration tends to be shaped by a community decision making process, co-operative processes can also be useful in offering each artist space and an opportunity to develop their interest areas. In this process activities are shared out and individuals in the group take responsibility for a particular activity in order to problem solve or develop the work. Its important to share outomes and not hold onto information in this process. If areas of project are divided into different parts, this is more of a co-operating structure than collaboration.

In my opinion both structures are valid, and both models could be used during a project. For example during the Kitchen Antics funding application process, I took on more of the responsibility for the application as Barbara was working in Ireland and Hilary was away. We then reflected together on what had been written and developed the application from there in collaboration.

Since being in residency we have tried to reflect together on the development of process; at times this has worked and at times we have struggled, its an ongoing process of building trust with a belief in the goodness of each others contributions. Collaboration involves attempting to maintain shared problem solving, providing mutual support and engaging together in activities which build and maintain a collaborative approach. In my opinion I think the following areas might enable a collaboration to develop.

* An initial agreement to collaborate, so you know you are all working towards the same goal.
* Do things together such as meetings, discussions, e-mail exchanges, share applications in order to involve everyone and build a shared understanding and vision of the project and a sense of community.
* Tap into each others skills, varying and different abilities, knowledge and experiences.
* Make time to meet and reflect on progress, share/exchange information, give feedback, listen to feedback, air concerns and celebrate achievments.
*don't give up when it gets difficult, its a part of the process and if you all want to work together in collaboration you will get there.

I will keep you informed on further reflection on collaboration

08 May 2006

Questionnaire on the notion of home

Thoughts on home

What does home mean to you? The Kitchen Antics and Appliances artists are exploring layers concerning the idea of home, you are invited to answer the following questions and contribute to the development of research and thoughts on home. If you wish your name to be used in the work, please feel free to leave your full name.

What does the home mean to you?

Describe a memory of your childhood home?

If you could build your own home what would it look like?

If walls could speak what do you think they would say?

Describe any memories that a particular household object holds for you?

Describe a secret or special place in your childhood home?

If you had to bring an object from home to a museum what would it be ?

They say home is where the heart is, what does this mean to you?

embodying a spoon

As gentle as a small finger -
I saturate myself
in your liquids
I excavate for
juicy parts in one scoop
just forget you
were born with me
in your mouth
i'm digging
scraping away
forcing my way
into you
I hold the key
to the feast

07 May 2006

behind the walls

On the first day of the residency I met the conservator who showed me some rather bedraggled scrappy looking wallpaper that consisted of many layers, painstakingly seperated to reveal design features from different eras in time.

I recognised a layer from the 60-70's which had a brown bamboo like pattern; the sort you get in forgotten bed & breakfast places. Every layer seemed to speak to me with another voice - of grandeur, parties around a piano, long rustling dresses, ash, maids, the stench of cigarette smoke, formica, plastic cups, boilers, faded curtains....

I was reminded of how I would observe my fathers DIY activities, in which he would be wrestling with a roll of anaglypta; fighting with the paper which was taller than himself in an effort to secure it to the wall with as few bubbles as possible.

The museum wallpaper set me thinking, and led me back to a radio four programme about the significance of shoes embedded in walls, as a sort of good luck charm. I found the following article on the internet.

The Slippers of Papillon Hall.

The now virutally demolished Papillon Hall was built in 1622 by the Papillon family. The large stone house was surrounded by a moat and at each corner of the roof was a flat lead paved area. A story is told that David Papillon (1691-1762) before his marriage kept a Spanish mistress, who was kept 'prisoner' in the east attic and took her exercise on the flat leads of the roof. This nameless woman is said to have died in 1715; there is no record of her death or of her place of burial, but the skeleton of a woman was found within the walls of the east attic during alterations to the hall in 1903.

A folklore tale tells that the nameless woman was murdered by Papillon who accused her of being a witch. At the moment of death, she is said to have uttered a curse of bad fortune on any owner who removed her slippers from the house. Whenever the hall was sold the slippers were handed on the title deeds to the new owner, except in 1866, when they were taken away to Leicester. The new family were said to have been constantly woken at night by unexplained loud noises and so the slippers were brought back and the noises ceased. The house was sold again and the new owner, Thomas Holford, lent the slippers (silver brocade with three inch heels and pointed toes) to an exhibition in Paris, life in the house became so unbearable that the family were forced to move out until the slippers were returned.

The next owner, Mr. C Walker, was so determined to avoid trouble that he had a special case made for the shoes with a padlocked metal grille keeping the slippers securely mounted above the fireplace. However, despite warnings, the shoes were removed during alterations to the house (during which the skeleton was found). Accidents immediately began to occur with one worker being killed by a falling brick and the men then refused to return to work.

The shoes were returned and safe until the second world war, when the hall was used as a billet for the American 82nd Airborne Division. The story continues with two separate incidents in which men who had taken slippers away were killed in action, though the missing slipper was returned each time. When the hall was deserted in 1945 only one slipper remained, but in 1951 when the hall was demolished the missing slipper was found under the floorboards.

The practice of burying shoes in walls was quite common. June Swann explains that the shoe was of significant value as it was like a fingerprint showing the inprint of the wearer. Shoes are also linked with fertility and authority, they can be seen tied on the back of wedding cars and are generally associated with good luck. But most of all they stand in for the person who is no longer there. What I like about this practice is the sense of ritual, and the secretiveness of the practice, and the possibility of others making the discovery. if anyone is interested in this practice take make a visit to Northampton Museum, where they have a wonderful shoe collection and refer to this practice, and present shoes found in fireplaces, a common place to put shoes, in order to enable the bad spirits to leave the home.

I have just read The Yellow Wallpaper - what a strange tale, its concerns a woman seemingly trapped in a large country house in which she is recouperating from a depresssive malady. The womans recounts the sense of lonliness and isolation, whilst her husband works away and her child is looked after by a carer due to her illness.

The woman tells the reader about the yellow wallpaper in her room, and gradually she becomes consumed by the wallpaper, which seems to take on a life of its own before her eyes. Its almost as if she actually becomes the wallpaper, with her subjectivity being eroded by the patterns and torn areas on the walls. I am not clear if the woman is a victim of her husbands need to possess and disempower her, and recreate a "mad woman in the attic" scenario, or if the woman is in control of her destiny, through her own telling of the story and her escape into childhood memeories, another and another world she constructs for herself.

I am not sure how these thoughts are relevant to the residency, but they feel like the process of making sense of the museum world, of disentangling, histories and almost making walls and the overlooked and hidden part of this history. I remember the need to tear at a piece of wallpaper or to pull at a scab, its like you want to know whats behind it, to expose the secrets, to know whats there, to be an archaeologist in ones home, to discover what is lurking behind the wallpaper.


04 May 2006

embodying a fork - with a knife on the side

My collaborator and I
admit to a craving -
we know how to captivate
with my fingers
ploughing a furrow
twisting you
in an embrace
I probe
I puncture
I stab
before we move in
for the slaughter

01 May 2006

embodying knives (3)

we are looking
for a challenge
driven by the next
possible break through
you are invited to
participate in
a moment of
precision surgery
steal yourself
for some intimacy
whilst we join forces
in another postmortem

30 April 2006

embodying a bowl (2)

My edges
wrap you
your liquids
clinging to
my sides
my mouth
opens to
I drain
channel ooze
and weep

28 April 2006

embodying a plate (1)

I lay myself open to you
I wait to be handled
you injest me
you bite
lick me
I am your reflection
I leave you cold

26 April 2006

day two - thoughts on the temperature of rooms

the archive, conservation room and museum space are at a relatively continual temperature of 20°C and 50% relative humidity. Its cool and feels hostile to my advances, as I try to to get to know it. The windows prevent ultraviolet rays penetrating and the lighting seems measured, its sombre, in an effort to stem paper bleeding into dust. I look at old designs for wallpaper and think of shivering brittle bones.

25 April 2006

day one at MoDA

I am now at home writing this blog feeling spaced out after a long day of driving, and the first day at the museum. Whats for Dinner is MoDA's new exhibition on eating habits over the past 50 yrs, so lots of people visited and spent time sitting with us. A group came from The Barnet League of Jewish Women and An Asian womens group from Barnet. One woman told us about her tragic experiences of house clearing for three members of her family. Another woman, became obsessed by cake stands after collecting a few for a birthday celebration; she now has seventy. I plan to visit her and her cake stands.

The space that we created was neither a workshop space or a structured event. More a spontaneous action in which individuals and groups partipated in rituals of tea drinking, speaking, writing and folding napkins.

I was interested to see how people hovered around the door to the studio, unsure whether to step over the threshold, but when they were invited in to sit and have tea or coffee this seemed to help them to inhabit the space. The ritual of making tea and sitting around a table created a holding space for interaction. We hardly ever sit round a table anymore.

Many filled a questionnaire around notions of the meaning of home. They were really interested in this and the long table with our display of collected china. I feel challenged by the sheer volume of work around food and domestic issues and how to find a way in that is from my own voice, I don't want to lose my focus and get pulled in a different direction from where I want to be, but where do I want to be?
I need to give myself time to feel my way into the space and the project.

The conservator showed me an arhive box of a series of at least nine laters of wallpaper taken from a wall going back to the 18th century layer upon layer upon layer........

21 April 2006

psychogeography of domestic spaces

I drove to London yesterday with Hilary to talk with Barbara about preparations for the first day of the residency. It will be an open day, including the first day of What's for Dinner, a new show at the museum exploring the changing eating habits in the UK over the last 50 years. We worked well as a team and the energy around the start of a new project felt very positive.

I liked the way we sat round the kitchen table talking about domestic social spaces in a kitchen space. I was reminded of a film I saw recently called Kitchen Stories, in which a male observor recruited by the "Home Research Institute" is sent to Norway to map out the kitchen routines of single men. I could visualise a researcher sitting in the room with us, perched on his high chair above us mapping out the way we took up and moved around the space. Sometime before I saw this film, we carried out some research in our individual kitchens in which we mapped out our movements over a morning. As a great deal of my work has been in external spaces, the psychogeography of space has been an area of interest to me, a sort of drawing out of space in shadows and footsteps, and the impact of histories and myths on the body and mind. It seems this notion can be transferred to the museum or home setting, with other forms of flow, movement, history, interactions and wanderings of these particular spaces and I am sure the ideas of psychogeography could be taken and used in this setting.

How many times do I go up and down the stairs in a week, how was I feeling this morning when I went up the stairs, what was my task when I went down the stairs, how much do i take my surrounding for granted, do I take in what is around me, or am I always trying to get somewhere else?

19 April 2006

no place like home!

Because I have an address
Because I have a front door
Because I have keys
Because I have a shower
Because I have a kitchen
Because I have a bedroom
Because my clothes hang in the wardrobe
Because I have a 30ft garden
Because I close the door behind you
Because I have a wine rack
Because there is a bed in my bedroom
Because I can invite you when I like
Because you might hack into my computer
Because I decide not to answer
Because I need to decorate
Because I don’t know the voice on the answerphone
Because I pay council tax
Because I don't know who is knocking
Because I wonder if I might have been robbed
Because I need life insurance
Because I insure my contents
Because my computer might get a virus
Because I don’t know my neighbour
Because the children next door make a noise
Because you stopped me on the stairs
Because you didn’t speak to me
Because there is no place like home!

18 April 2006

woman lay dead with tv on for two years

Had a break from blogging for the Easter holiday period and visited my parents in Worcester where they told me about a news report which I looked into when I returned home and came up with the following article. followed. It particularly touched me as I used to live in Wood Green.

Neighbours of a forty year old woman who lay dead in her flat surrounded by unopened Christmas presents with the TV on for over two years before being discovered, expressed their disbelief at the gruesome find on their doorstep.

Joyce Vincent's skeleton was finally recovered from her bedsit in Wood Green town centre after the housing association came to repossess the flat. Post was found stacked high behind the door and her decomposed body was found on the sofa surrounded by Christmas presents.

The television and heating were still on, washing-up lay in a bowl in the kitchen and a fridge was packed with items which had a best before date of November 2003.

Kevin Mann, the caretaker of the building, entered the bedsit above shops with the police. He said: "It was unreal, there was an absolutely horrendous smell and there was this body lying on her back on the sofa with a shopping bag right next to her."She looked like she'd just come back from shopping." "I just assumed that someone lived there but wasn't around much. A lot of people keep to themselves in this block."

Her body was discovered in January this year and she was so decomposed she had to be identified by matching her dental records with a passport photograph of her smiling.

Her brother and sisters attended the inquest this week, which recorded an open verdict, and they said she had been placed in a women's refuge because she was a victim of domestic violence. It is thought she moved from there to the flat, at which stage her family lost touch.

Police told the inquest at Hornsey Coroners Court there were no suspicious circumstances but pathologist Dr Simon Poole said he was unable to establish the cause of death given the "largely skeletal" remains.

16 April 2006

a singer sewing machine

My parents recently downsized from a terraced house; a former pub to a flat. Conscious that they needed to declutter, my mother told me that she had put an advert in the local paper, to sell my fathers old Singer sewing machine. This was the black and gold machine he had worked on at home during his career as a tailor and cutter and used to make all my clothes on it. My mother informed me that she had priced it at £40 and had got no response. I was horrified and told her I would take the machine, thinking I might use it one day, but also to keep it as a family "heirloom". My mother proceeded to tell me that my father had made her wedding dress on the machine. I was amazed at how little value she placed on this history; I am so pleased I managed to rescue The singer sewing machine from an anonymous future existence.

15 April 2006

archive - series 1. coming of age

cooing doves on a telegraph wire
dripping buttered toast
a singer sewing machine
an old wedding dress
black and white
wedding photograph
sleeping closed curtains
duty calls
a transitory movement
and how old will you be
a turn of the head
words that come and go
daily routines
turns in the day
a dripping tap
a swooping sigh
too and fro

14 April 2006

A memory from a window

I must tell you about a shocking experience I had this morning. I was performing my usual life won't commence before a cup of coffee drink action, when I heard the most almighty squawking coming from the garden. I looked out of the window and initially saw what I thought was a kestral feeding a baby, the smaller bird seemed to be prone beneath it with its mouth open. Then as I started to take in the spectacle fully, I realised the bird was actually pinned down by the kestrals tallons. My first reaction was to open the window and frighten the thing away, naively thinking it might let go of the pathetic scrawny pleading thing beneath it. it reacted to my voice by taking flight with the other bird clasped to its tallons, landing in my next door neighbours garden. I stood frozen for a few minutes, deeply shocked by the scene, which I would not have imagined would occur in a domestic setting. The finale to this situation involved the sight of the kestral taking off with the dead bird, in its claws, with limp neck hanging, it was as if it was carrying a shopping bag in its arms. The visual imprint of this event stayed with me for the rest of the day.

13 April 2006

bequest, donated, collected, confiscated, exchanged, on loan, purchased restitution, unknown

I can't believe its just under two weeks till the residency at MoDA begins. Strange really, because we have all been thinking, talking and developing ideas for ages now, you can't really confine your work as its grows and takes on life, these thoughts and wanderings are so crucial to the work. If you look closely at the image you can see the tiny sticky labels and tags used to price the objects in this charity shop window. I have been thinking about labelling in museums and have found that Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has some excellent labels, many of them being hand written, which creates a signature for the object. The objects sit in collections or families of similar to themselves, such as money, charms or shrunken heads. The handwritten labels, seem to make the object more mythical, but also personal, they in themselves become a museum object. Pitt Rivers Museum is really worth a visit.

12 April 2006

a knickknack, a curio, an ornament, an heirloom, a collectors piece, bric-a-brac

If I had to leave home suddenly without any time to prepare; not knowing if I would return, what object would I take with me? When a place of refuge is removed, an object can provide some form of refuge, its mobility enables it to be adaptable, its placed in a bag tucked inside clothing, resting, whilst its carried on a journey. On its arrival in a different time, place and space, its identity may shift, however it remains invested with deeply personal histories.

11 April 2006

warm, reassuring, flux and flow

White Porcelain
Ballet clutching a white handle
Writing warmth on the lips
Gullet filled with liquid
A waterfall travels
A party waiting
For two

10 April 2006

where were you, what happened at that moment, how old were you, who else was there?

You can pick up a vitrine or glass display cabinet for under a hundred pounds in Ikea nowadays. This presents the possibility of building a shrine or display of precious heirlooms, favourite objects, presents or purchases that we endow with value. Whilst sideboards can display china animals, Delph figurines or Wedgewood, objects don't necessarily have to have any obvious monetary value. The utilitarian objects in the display cases at the museum sit as if sleeping, they no longer function as working objects to be sipped from or eaten out of. An arts collective called The Light Surgeons currently have an installation at the Geffrye Museum called Domestic Archeology. This is a great term, which brings up images of delving into cupboards for the hidden, small and overlooked. Only a few days ago, I was searching for something in the back of a cupboard and discovered a cup belonging originally to my partners son, it had his name on it and a small bear on one side. This mug must be at least thirty years old, its amazing how an object can transport you back to childhood, and another period in ones life.

09 April 2006

collections and the charity shop

Got up late today had two crumpets with Marmite and a boiled egg. Looked out from my kitchen window at a Blackbird patrolling the garden, intimidating every other visiting bird who tries to enter its territory.

Whilst listening to The Archers, I was thinking about collections and the museum context. I realised this was what was underlying my recent interest in taking photographs of charity shops windows in Stockbridge, on my recent visit to Edinburgh.

The charity shop window display attempts to mimic any other shop window, it gives the 'viewer' a glimpse of greater things, a taste of what might be to come when you set foot over the threshold.

Usually the best objects are on display on the glass shelves or vitrines and in some cases you have to come back on a special day to purchase your treasure from the window.

The collections in the charity shops are always in transition, the fingerprints on glasses never remaining the same. Objects are part of a random collection that have been 'passed on' or been discarded. There is no order, no accession number but often a tag or label, mostly no hint of their provinance, unless they are placed in the 'special vitrine, centre stage' near the counter.

Mugs from the 1970's sit next to a white porcelain teacup, sitting next to an embroidered panel in a frame saying home is where the heart is.

08 April 2006

red formica tables

I recently got the news that I would be starting a residency at The Museum of Domestic Architecture & Design, MoDA. I am working with artists, Barbara Dean and Hilary Kneale. It been a lot of leg work to get this far, but well worth it. The residency will give me time to make work in a new and different setting both with Hilary and Barbara and independantly. I have been making my work in external sites for quite a while, and now the good weather is coming I am wondering how I will respond to the experience of being inside an institutional setting, will be interesting, mmmm! When I am in the museum archive, time seems to take on a different meaning, memories are triggered from the magazines and books which mingle with pictures in my head about red formica table tops and pebble dash semi-detached houses.