The Museum of Everything

Stefan Häfner - Atelier Goldstein, Germany Stefan Häfner

Stefan Häfner

I arrived at Selfridges today with some trepidation. I find department stores, especially on a Saturday afternoon, overwhelming. Their labyrinth like qualities with bright lights, shiny things, synthetic smells and people jostling in all directions is my idea of a surreal hell. Everything seems distorted and unreal. I was relieved to find that the entrance to the Selfridges Hotel where the work of Judith Scott was on show and the discussion around ‘The Art of the Studio’ was up a separate staircase from the street.

Judith ScottWhen I entered the gallery I was pleasantly surprised by the space. It was like an industrial warehouse with exposed concrete walls and rough flooring. It seemed far removed from the commercial bustle of Oxford Street.

Judith Scott

Judith Scott

 

 

The lighting and the surrounds showed off Scotts work fantastically. These labouriously wrapped sculptures suspended in the space seemed to tightly hold so many stories and emotions. There was tranquillity in the curation of the work that balanced out the seeming endless passion entwined in the making process of the sculptures. I felt honoured to have encountered Scott’s work.

Following the interesting and international contributions to the discussion on ‘The Art of the Studio’ I got the courage up to battle the crowds and enter the show in the ‘Museum of Everything’ show in the basement of Selfridges.

I thought the labyrinth qualities of the show suited the department store yet was a welcome contradiction to the objects being sold in the store. On viewing the show I became completely overwhelmed with emotion as I encountered the work of Harald Stoffers. I could feel the tears welling as I stared at the density of his lines of words weaving and wondering across the pages before me. It held such passion and frustration.

Harald Stoffers

Harald Stoffers

“A thought, a word, a sentence, Stoffers daily art practice speaks on his behalf in letters written to a fictionalisation of his mother” was written next to these works. I could not ‘read’ these letters, they are in German, and I am not sure if I spoke German I could read them, or if they are ‘readable’. But the art of Stoffers is a language that communicates beyond the written word. It is visual, emotional and says so much more than the words written. The fact that these are letters to a mother is loaded in itself. It is almost as they represent the so many words that we would like to say to our mothers but are unable to utter. They say so much.

Harald Stoffers

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Memory

Goodbye“There is such pressure to remain true to the facts, and it seems so important somehow, so vital to preserve events and people as they really were. But he knows how memory can make a shattered dream come true. Sometimes he loses the strength and vigilance to stand up to its forces, and thinks he would do just as well to let it transform the past as it wishes.” (Harvey p127)

I had the joy of reading recently Samantha Harvey’s novel ‘The Wilderness’ (Random House 2009). It is the humourously melancholic story of a man experiencing Alzheimer’s in his later years and the increasing liquidity between what is real, what is remembered and what is fantasy as the disease erodes his ability to deal with the reality of presence. It is tragic but Harvey explores so beautifully the themes of memory and what could be real or even fabricated.

I never think you can trust memory, it is fluid, it changes; things are lost or found. As the ages increase it is no longer possible to retain years of information and experiences.

Jane Boyer wrote and interesting introduction to the Core Gallery Open Exhibition Catalogue reflecting on how many artist selected are grappling with ideas around memory and the distortion of time and space. “…These works speak of fractured and fragmented experiences; the search for meaning between the two selves; private/public; a bombardment from technology and media images; place which is no longer actual but has become a representation, a symbol, an icon; a preference for constructed memory because real memory has become suspect…… Constructed memory becomes as defence against an invasive barrage of technology.” (Boyer 2011)Run

It is increasingly hard to engage with the present when we are communicating with numerous people on line, being subject to thousands of images, sounds, personal stories, expectations and demands for our time. If we cannot be aware of our present how can we possibly have a consciousness of our past? Our minds are powerful things and our ability to create, fabricate and believe is incredible. Why would we not want to create for ourselves a more romantic, interesting, intelligent, fun and care free past?