I thought it would be a good time to update you about the exhibition. As an artist it can be a difficult time as you spend so long with the works, they seem to fill your mind constantly. Hopefully their creation and meaning will make perfect sense. However, there is always a risk involved, as there is no guarantee that all of that meaning will translate to your audience. I have learnt that this is actually a very special time. The works are no longer part of me, they hang in isolation from me and, as such invite comment and discussion, take on new meanings and, sometimes, become the story of someone else. It is a very necessary part of the process - how can I be an artist if I am the only person who understands my meanings?
I will admit that I like to provoke a little discussion with my work. However, I try to be subtle. In this case the creation of artworks that showcase traditional crafts such as paper cut and print, displayed is a wood panelled room, surrounded by historical artefacts, displaying an unavoidable reference to technology, in the shape of QR codes placed right in the middle of the work. Too subtle? ... You all did me proud.
There have been some very healthy debates that seem to encompass the whole room. People who are walking around will add their opinions to discussions surrounding the loss of crafts in education, the education system as a whole, the downfall of the young at the hands of technology and how sad it is that children cannot just have space to learn traditional skills instead of being force fed endless academic subjects!
I have a personal rule that I will not argue a particular side, taking an opposing view to whatever direction the conversation is going in allows me to hear new point of view and learn more about the discussion. However, once the QR codes are demonstrated the technology allows a whole new level of interaction with the exhibition allowing people to digest far more of the facts than a written label could convey on its own. There is much to learn, with references to all of the on line tutorials and even a couple of the community engagement films to be streamed. Although, my personal favourite is the moment when, people relatively new to technology, scan the artworks and witness the magic of them telling their own story. Good or bad you can't deny its very useful.
I want to let you all know a little bit about the exhibition and a couple of things you can do to experience the displays in full. You may notice, in the above image, that there are QR codes in the artworks. Once scanned they allow you to hear a recording of the story that inspired the work. There are also QR codes throughout the exhibition which link to tutorials and films, that I hope will make the exhibition more enjoyable for you. If you want to use these codes just bring your smart phone with a QR scanner downloaded from the App Store or Google Play (they are free to download).
If you don't do technology that it fine, all of the displays are set us to allow you to still see the exhibition in full. However, if you have children there is a free game which involves your children finding the Museum's hidden artefacts in the artworks. You can either download the game below or ask at reception for your copy.
Finally here is a film that I made to share the project with you and let you know some of the background. I hope to see you over the next couple of weeks.
I spent Friday in the excellent company of Robin Goodfellow who is one of the Museum's Trustees. Robin has been a huge source of information and help throughout the project and I always feel very privileged, not only be allowed access to the museum's artefacts, but also to be able to have such an expert on hand.
We have been moving things around in preparation for the exhibition and during one of the visits to the Museum's store room I was struck by an arrangement halfway up the wall, which I wanted to share with you.
At this point we were joined by another of the Museum's tireless Trustees, Phil Wookey. Both Phil and Robin are academics who worked for local Universities before retirement which has been very useful for discussing the chemical reactions involved in making iron gall ink but they are just as happy discussing fixings or display cases. However, whilst lifting a very heavy display case down the stairs we were treated to a wry comment from Phil, which had me smiling for days;
'As an academic you move a lot of furniture'.
I wanted to share the process of my work with you so I thought a short film might make it more interesting - enjoy!
There comes a point (hopefully) that all of the research and thought comes together and the artworks you need to make become clear. I have already told you that, for their own safety, many of Axbridge Museums documents are held in Taunton. Unfortunately, this means that there are issues with them being seen by the public. This accessibility problem is something I felt it was necessary to resolve quite early on in this project - but the question is how?
During my recent visit to the Somerset Heritage Centre to look at some of the documents I also saw for myself some of the issues with deterioration to the documents which furthers the problems of accessibility - if you can't see the words - how do you know what they are saying? Combine this with the fact they are all in latin, well, then you are starting to see my problem.
So it seems to me that whilst the original words need to be present in the artwork, they shouldn't be very easy to see, unless there is a different way of accessing them - don't worry I am aware that this probably isn't making much sense at the moment - just bear with me.
Pictured at the beginning of this post is a detailed image of a screen print I have created using the wording from the original story of Dustan & King Edward, purposefully difficult to see but I will show you how the story becomes clearer in my next posts.
I have been focusing on a small, slightly unglamorous document held by Axbridge Museum. Dated c1400 the small pamphlet is a chronicle of Axbridge, written in latin which contains an account of King Edmund's escape from death whilst hunting in Cheddar and his subsequent reconciliation with Dunstan, the story itself is dated c1042.
I spent some time examining the document, but couldn't identify the pages that contain the story so I did the next best thing and looked for any words I recognised. I am hoping you will see a latin version of 'Axbridge' on the third line of the image below.
So the question is how do I take these lovely stories and make them more accessible to the public? I will let you know more in my next post.
I spent a fascinating day yesterday visiting the Somerset Heritage Centre to view the Royal Charters that they hold for Axbridge Museum. The staff where extremely helpful and didn't mind unpacking the charters for me (I was terrified I would damage something).
It may be wise to remain impartial when it comes to Kings and Queens as I think that favouritism would be unwise, but I think it is fair to say that Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603) knew how to produce a very impressive charter.
The Charter was a lot bigger that the others and was heavily decorated with drawing of fruit, trees, and animals. You can also make out the portrait of the Elizabeth that is positioned within the E of her name (shown above). I cannot tell you how much skill the artists displayed in the creation of this manuscript. I understand from the Heritage Centre Staff that pencil drawings were permitted prior to inking over the work, but there are no mistakes and the calligraphy is breathtaking.
I have also included a close up of the royal coat of arms featuring the the words 'Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense'. These words are still featured on the royal coat of arms and are the motto of the order of the garter - I have done some research and can tell you this is written in old french and means 'shamed be (the person) who thinks evil of it' although there seem to be several slight variations on the translation but they all mean the same.
If you want to see a modern version look on the front of your passport!
I am scratching my head a little over the corrosion that oak gall ink causes to paper. I have already mentioned the metaphor between the document being a container of memories and the subsequent damage being similar to forgetting. However, what I am really struggling with is - how I can damage paper in a few weeks to speed up corrosion that took hundreds of years - it might be a long day!
As you may have noticed by now I use quite a lot of technology to stream audio and video in my work which can be can be extremely frustrating and very time consuming.
However, I am at that age when I cannot help but get really excited when 'a plan comes together' (quotes from the A team seem a little bizarre but its been that sort of a day!).
So here is my technology breakthrough of the day - QR CODES. I will explain more of what I am up to later but here is the code, if you scan it I really hope something happens, if it doesn't maybe wait a couple of hours before you tell me because it might just ruin my day.
NB: I downloaded a Q R reader from the app store, I chose i-nigma because it was free and suits most platforms, but there are loads available and they download in seconds.
During this project I have been struck by the paradox of collecting facts/memories for hundreds of years then locking them away to preserve them. However, as the museum owns a large number of extremely old documents the only way to keep them safe is to keep them off site at the Somerset Archives Offices - it's a a quandary for any museum.
Memory and its preservation has long since been a source of fascination in my work. To me, there seems huge links between the preservation of historical documents and our own process of remembering and forgetting. . I have explored this further with the kind help of Winscombe Art Group who agreed to take part in a workshop about memory.
I led the group through a number of warming up exercises then I asked them to draw something from their childhood. I did warn the group that this can be quite a frustrating task as the hand does not want to cooperate fully with the minds eye but they were all extremely helpful and committed to the task 100%.
When I hold workshops like this I like to ask the artists to discuss their work with me, as I feel the process helps them to unlock their memories further and the group kindly agreed to let me record their memories to share with you. We also allowed perspective to be bent a little and colour to only be used if it was remembered, not guessed.
The film that follows is only the memories of one of the group members. However, I have chosen this recording as you can hear frustration several times in the speakers voice when she tries to place her memories on the page. Interestingly if the memories had been recorded at the time of their creation it would, of course, have been much easier to capture a likeness, as in the case of the Axbridge Manuscripts. So the images have diminished over time and, as the number of people who share them reduces, access to them also diminishes - brain or paper, its a container of amazing things!
20/8/17 workshop in the Museum
23 Sept - 8th October Somerset Arts Weeks - The Museum will host an exhibition of this project
Andrea Oke is a Somerset based artist who is fascinated by human behaviour and its links to memory. For more information please to to my website