Networks of objects

For the video piece I am making, I’ve had to purchase strange and interesting items that I might not normally need. I’ve also had to visit places I’ve never been to before. I was very close to having to suit up and photograph and video bees (I managed to avoid that in the end). I’ve driven to Shrawardine in Shropshire. I’ve been on the receiving end of strange looks as I’ve set up my tripod and camera outside Shrewsbury train station. I’ve travelled the county looking for horses in fields. I’ve got on my hands and knees to get the right shot of the right sort of wet, sloppy, dark mud on top of a hill. I’ve stood in the Armory in Leeds trying to get the best possible shot of ‘lots of guns’.

It'll be a real hardship drinking this

It’ll be a real hardship drinking this

I’ve cooked corned beef and cabbage. I’ve cooked corned beef and eggs. I’ve made a corned beef sandwich. I’ve crushed biscuits. I’ve poured sugar and salt into piles. I’ve hung bunting outside my house. I’ve spread honey on a plate. All of the sake of art.

Corned beef anyone?

Corned beef anyone?

My family have accepted this as all fairly normal behaviour.

It occurred to me, though, that this part of the process in creating footage for the video has helped me connect with the First World War in an interesting way. All these objects, things and places are contemporary. They weren’t hard to obtain. They still exist, yet they have a trace of a century ago. The bees aren’t the same bees that Captain Tanner kept warm with his jacket. The corned beef I purchased from Asda isn’t the same corned beef  they ate in the trenches (although I’m sure the taste is very similar) and Shrawardine has elements of the last century to add to its historic charm, such as cars in the drives, and wires overhead, which mean that it isn’t the same Shrawardine that the Tanner family lived in. But through my quest to find these objects and photograph or video them, I am connecting with the stories I have recorded.

Cooking corned beef with egg - engaging the senses

Cooking corned beef with egg – engaging the senses

The original objects: jacket, gun, cross, biscuit, corned beef, have a network of other objects around them: bees, honey, sugar, salt, cabbage, mud, hills, Plymouth (yes, I even have a photo of Plymouth), a horse, train station, guns, bunting, buttons, bread. I find it interesting that I can connect to the First World War through an object that is not usually associated with that conflict, or one which may only be loosely associated. In their essence, these objects have hardly changed in the last 100 years, they still taste, smell, sound, look, and / or feel the same as they did then. So it  is possible to connect through modern objects to a point in time using our senses. I feel that I am connecting with the First World War with my senses in this way and it is having an effect on me. I’ve learnt a lot through this process.

So it is not only through touching and photographing original objects from a century ago, such as letters, medals, equipment, treasures and documents, that we can feel something of past lives and events. It didn’t occur to me before that that could be achieved through contemporary objects.

Time now for a corned beef sandwich, one which hasn’t been anywhere near a First World War trench.

Yummy

Yummy

 

Exhibition countdown

The exhibition space for this project has now been booked. It will be in a huge gallery / art studio on the lower flower of the Riverside Mall in Shrewsbury called Participate Contemporary Artspace CLC. The exhibition will run from the 9th May until 21st May and will include a video projection, paintings and clay figures. More details to follow as they unfold. I’m hoping to link the exhibition to the Shropshire Regimental Museum so I can encourage people their to visit my exhibition and visitors to the exhibition to visit the Museum. The main aim is to provoke thought and interest in the First World War. I will also link the exhibition to the History Makers project which is about working with children and older generations encouraging thought and dialogue on the First World War through objects.

Here is a photo of the gallery space as it appears now. Hopefully it will look a lot different by the end of April.

The 'before' photo

The ‘before’ photo

Pontesbury things

I haven’t posted anything for a while because I’ve been very busy working on the video piece in response to interviews carried out with the Shropshire Regimental Museum staff and wardens and I haven’t yet got anything to share with regard to the video. It’s still a work-in-progress but I feel as if I am making good progress now after a long time experimenting and planning what I wanted to do.

I have also been making paintings of some of the objects I photographed in Pontesbury for the History Makers project. I will display these in my exhibition and link them to the project. These paintings are smaller than the paintings of the objects at the Museum but as they all had a significant impact on me, I felt the urge to paint them.

Barbed wire pole

Barbed wire pole

Stirrups

Stirrups

Autograph book

Autograph book

Random piece of rock

Random piece of rock

German gas bell

German gas bell

Shell case

Shell case

In different ways, these objects all affected me and continue to do so every time I look at my photographs or these paintings. I enjoyed the chance to meet their owners, talk about them, hear their stories and touch the objects and examine them up close. I may also make these objects in clay for the exhibition. They are all fascinating to me in their own right.

I hope that to some extent with my exhibition that I will able to show off their best features in my paintings and provoke some thought about the importance of these objects that live in people’s homes, a century on, to keeping the memory of the First World War alive for current generations, who may now be great or great-great grandchildren of those directly touched by that war.