May 2018: Starting Point Summary / Catalogue Pages and Inspiration

This document (the first page from my catalogue) summarizes my starting points for my project, including theoretical and thematic areas explored. The rest of the catalogue, also seen here, features a series of key quotes.

Basically, this project began as an exploration into Simulation and Simulacra, i.e. the study of replicas and that copies of objects, or even people, can be deemed superior or, in this case, more 'magical' than the original. I also studied Mythology and Cabinets of Curiosities and the meanings behind them, concluding that the subject/starting point of my project - a replica of the Gypsy Caravan from Cosgrove Hall's 'The Wind in the Willows' (which is, in itself, a replica of a 'real' Gypsy caravan) - is worthy as its own Cabinet - or 'Caravan' - of Curiosities. This lead me to looking at the psychology behind memory, and how various artists depict and harness it, connecting with nostalgia and whose nostalgia I am ultimately uncovering. Concluding that it is purely my own I wanted to create a project that would resonate with an audience, rather than simply share my own personal recollections of childhood, and so I delved deeply into the psychology behind collecting, aiming to double up the project into a museum that can hold miniature versions of my 'Wind in the Willows' merchandise collection. If anything, this project would be a sample of what could exist in reality, but the stories behind the collection are told through an animated/live action performance to a Gilbert and Sullivan song with new lyrics. Therefore, my memories are 'acted out' (like they are in the mind's eye) and so the caravan has now become both a theatre and museum, resulting in it being a repository for my own thoughts and memories.

Existing now as a replica of a replica, holding 'to scale' (to the animated puppet) artifacts that are based on the TV programme it was originally made for, and also containing the puppet version of myself (another simulation) this Caravan Theatre (as I like to call it) has taken on a whole new lease of life. With a Performative Curation, displayed through projected animation and various imagery, it is a mobile and 'live' Caravan of Curiosities.

The resolved theme is one of a curation of memory and (my own) nostalgia, presented as a performance and connecting to an actual miniature museum. I feel I have achieved what I set out to do, in that I would like audiences to respond in ways that may evoke memories of their own. I hope the project can be universally understood within the context of any audience member's past, and not just my own. The feeling portrayed is, I hope, one of optimism and contentedness, with a few laughs along with way.

My contemporary and historical influences include:

  • Robert Lepage (most notably for his one-man show, 887, featuring his memories projected through a live performance)

  • Barry Purves (for projection techniques and subject matter in a variety of his films)

  • Cosgrove Hall Productions (for 'The Wind in the Willows' and the rural idyll

  • Jean Baudrillard (for his studies into Simulation and Simulacra)

  • Fred Davis (for his studies into what it means to be nostalgic)

  • Cabinets of Curiosities - true meanings and beginnings, offering me reassurance into validity of my project

  • Victorian puppet theatre (my visit to the Museum of Childhood has inspired me to develop my project further in this area)

  • Gilbert and Sullivan (for music and lyrics that evoke a simpler, more carefree time, depicting characters who share their egos to great comic effect)

Cabinets of Curiosities

Dating as far back as the 16th century, these were originally cabinets - or 'closets' - that would be displayed in museums and showcase items that the artist, or curator, would deem interesting, beautiful or of significant importance. Each object would be different in size, shape, colour etc. and each would have their own underpinning meanings and reasons for being included. moreover, together they would represent an overall refreshing, rare insight into the wonders of the world that were considered beyond what the human eye could perceive or understand.

My caravan replica would become such a closet, holding not only objects - some of which are rare - with a very specific topic, but also personal memories that, together, make up the story of events which led to my being "a teacher at an arts uni". The memories would, in my mind, be locked safely away after the performance, with my most prized 'collection' of atifacts. It's a personal venture, but one that I hope might inspire or engage spectators.

I have looked at a series of catalogues and brochures from late Victorian/early Edwardian periods. I like the 'beauty' and colour schemes of the following examples, which are in keeping with the Edwardian photo album I have planned.

The 'fold-out' examples are intriguing and relevant to my idea of the 'mini' catalogue depicting the projected presentation as a piece of fold-out imagery. I like how these types can stand up, meaning, in essence, my one would be a scaled-down version of the project - yet another replica in miniature.

I have looked at a variety of exhibitions for inspiration for the 'museum' aspect of my project, including the Museum of Childhood and 'Snowman' exhibition at Arts university Bournemouth, as well as a 'Wind in the Willows' exhibition (all covered earlier in my blog. From these I have developed ideas in how collections can be presented in a way that isn't cluttered but spacious.

I was particularly drawn (naturally) to the recent Cosgrove Hall exhibition in Sale, Manchester. Some 'Wind in the Willows' puppets are seen above. What strikes me is the vast use of white in the exhibition, which really brings the artifacts into the forefront. This 'emptiness' of the surrounding walls and ceiling is exactly the feel I'd like from the museum aspect of the caravan/theatre. It would enable the collection to shine and invite the viewer to interpret everything in their own particular way, subconsciously 'filling in' the gaps.

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