On the 21st September, myself and two other students went to London to visit some museums as part of research for this project. The first museum we went to, was The Museum Of Everything, in Primrose Hill. I have previously been to the museum in 2009, but the new exhibition focuses a theme of the circus, fairground and childhood. The museum also features items from Sir Peter Blake's hoarded collection, Arthur Windley's miniature circus/fairground and Walter Potter's Museum of Curiosities.
The coach jouney to London and our books
Museum of Everything entrance
The museum is based in a dairy, hidden behind a library. The front entrance is a simple double wooden gate like door, decked with fairy lights and an over-door sign. The hallway displayed a donations box which looked like a ticket booth with an attendant inside, and a gust book. I loved the set up design for this; the book was sat on a plinth nested in a nook in the wall which was adorned with a stripy red and white flag, boarded with tube fairy lights.
Unfortunately, we couldn't take photos, which knocked out the enjoyment a bit for me, as the atmosphere and styling of the museum is exactly what I love and photos would have been a fabulous record of things to inspire me. There was a set pathway, aided by walls which were adorned with photos, art pieces, postcards, signs, costumes and much more. Every room was dimly lit, almost glowing soft lights. The walls were very rugged looking with white painted bricks. The rooms were like chambers, small and intimate. There was a very small chamber that showcased a class cabinet full of old dolls, which always fascinate me. I managed to take a couple of sneaky photos, as I love scary doll faces and the postures and clothing that they carry. Another small room was covered in shells and artefacts made from shells, giving a British seaside, jolly holiday feel, which worked nicely into the next room, which was full of puppets. Punch and Judy puppets predominately filled the room, with theatre boxes, as well as a beautifully creepy collection of black, metal shadow puppets. The puppets were all very old, which just adds to the freakiness and ugliness of them.
From that, a doorway led us into the main hall, which has extremely high walls. On the walls sat huge circus banners and signs as well as weird and interesting work by Forrest Bess, Mose Tolliver, Kunizo Matsumoto, Madge Gill and Sam Doyle, among others.
Stairs led us upstairs to a balcony style room which had false grass carpet, art work by John and Anna and Joby Carter and their collection of vintage fairground rides. A small collection though. A carousel horse sits proudly in the middle whilst a bumper car and traditional funfair game stall fill the rest of the space. It actually felt like I had walked into a very quiet fairground.
A few steps to the back led down into a white open space full of Water Potter's stuffed animal. As I was looking amongst them, I felt like I had seen them before. The, coming across a glass cabinet featuring toads dressed up as humans and working out in athletic movements. It's coin operated, placing a coin in will kick-start the toads into moving! On seeing this, memories hit me; I had seen this previously, at around 9/10 years old in Cornwall. A poster on the wall confirmed this: Potter's collection had exhibited at the Jamaica Inn in Cornwall. I'd always ponder on some of the stuffed animals I had seen from that exhibition, the two-headed sheep and three legged piglet always bounced into my memories, but seeing all again in this dairy museum surrounded by fairground rides and banners, old dolls, puppets, fairy lights and dark rooms just brought on a whole new fascination and a real feeling of being almost disturbed yet enthralled.
Our next stop was an exhibition in St Pancras Church crypt, entitled Flashier and Trashier, curated by Sue Krietzman, whose also one of the main artists who exhibits in this immense collection of kitsch paintings. and assemblage art made from recycled bits of anything and everything.
The exterior of the church and crypt area is scary and really made me feel on edge, if a bit excited! The entrance was two big red doors, with concrete steps leading down into the crypt, which took us to a little reception area occupied by the curator and two featured artists, who welcomed us and invited us in. An figure stood in a nooked archway to the side of the stairs, softly lit in a golden glow, an angel made from a blow up doll, wings and oodles of telephone spiral chords with cigarette packets, miniature bottles, pound notes hanging off the ends, and holding a Red Bull can and a handbag. A quick look to the side of me saw an open arch in the wall, like a window, and down a small tunnel through it, sat the torso and head of a mannequin, being lit up by a flashing lit. And this was just the beginning!! To start, we were confronted by a stretching wide tunnel, softly lit. The walls were adorned with hangings; paintings, mannequins, stuffed hand stitched creatures and much more. More tunnels led off this main one, which led into rooms. It was almost like a labyrinth of very small chambers and tunnels and is probably the most amazing exhibition space I have ever been in. Each nook or hollow in the wall was occupied by some hybrid of artefact and art. I walked around one corned to see a tunnel passage way, very softly lit. A couple of dolls in very small, vintage prams sat, looking discarded in this passage, like a child was playing with them but just got up and left them. Very eerie. Along this passage was an archway built into the wall, with a huge ledge upon which sat an array of dolls and doll heads. My favourite was a Frida Kahlo shrine, which featured the her face and a very colourful Mexican'esque decor.
Another arched chamber along this passage featured tombs laying against the wall with an army of skull masks on sticks, cemented in shoes. An alarming yet comical sight to see! Another room had "An Only Child " written above the doorway, with a table inside on which this 'thing' laid upon. A black body, with matted faux fur, and facial parts grotesquely glued on, and a foot which was replaced by an alligator head. It's probably the ugliest thing I have ever seen.
Towards the back was a rectangular shaped room, which had two green doors leading to space behind, set in one corner, they reminded me of outhouse doors, whether they were toilets behind, or just cupboards, I do not know. There were steps leading up to stained glass windows, and a boy mannequin holding an umbrella. A bench sat in the middle with figures scattered around. These figures had heads, arms and legs. Their bodies were suitcases, filled with collections. One had door handles on shelves in the case, another had Barbie doll limbs. A slightly different approach to showcasing a collection I thought!
On the other end of this room, was a large yellow box on legs. On top were rows and rows of birds made from wine bottle corks. Some sat bellow the box too. On the yellow box were glued on toys and knickknacks. Holes were cut out, and inside, you could see thousands of small toy doll faces glued onto the inner walls, lit up by toy disco light balls. The effect was amazing and so surreal.
After we finished looking around (it was hard to drag ourselves away, the atmosphere in there was just amazing) we had a chat with the curator, Sue, and the other two artists. They were very pleasant to talk to, and seemed very interested in us and our course and aspirations. When I explained our project brief, Sue was very interested and exclaimed the exhibition was "the museum of me, my mind, even the crypts!". We left our email addresses in their guestbook so we could be added to her mailing list to be alerted of new exhibitions. This was by far one of the most intriguing, exciting and creepy exhibitions I have ever visited. The crypts were an amazing venue for an art exhibition. I really dislike white cube spaces in galleries, they're so boring and too clean. The crypts were a total opposite to this, and the Museum Of Everything's dairy. I think these types of venues are so much more interested. They have history, and a very creepy feel about them, it's so unique and really compliments art, especially the more vibrant, surreal and different.
Our last exhibition was the Chapman Brother's children art commission at Whitechapel Art Gallery. A typically modern gallery, white, sterile and clean. However, the work was well worth going to see. The first room featured colourful, brash, ugly, vulgar pictures, accompanied with short texts from stories. The series are taken from their forthcoming children’s book “Bedtime Tales for Sleepless Nights‘’. The second room saw lots of small framed images scattered across the four walls. The pattern of the scattering was actually very nice, and worked well against the white walls. The pictures were plain black and white and seemed to be famous Chapman Brother prints, like their finger swastika. Over these well known images, large, colouring book cartoons were drawn or printed over the top, images taken from their series “Gigantic Fun’’ Large, flat drawings of innocent, happy children, set against rude, obscene, sexual, murderous and Nazi symbols and images, these are definitely not drawings for children to see. I always find the contrast of childhood and adulthood on the same page fascinating., especially when the ideas are highly exaggerated, like the Chapman Brother's do se well. Happy smiley children should never be in the same image as a penis, or a swastika, or hanging bodies. It just doesn't go together. But the contrast is so alarming and outrageous, that it becomes interesting. I also really loved the contrast of the actual image style. The original images are detailed, sketchy, although not excessively so, there's a definite depth and tone to them. The children illustrations are exact to those from a child's colouring book; large, flat, bold and simple.
Some street art we found