Is a passport an object?

Jenni Dutton Passport

For the past few years I have been systematically culling a lot of my possessions.

I am making a virtue of it to my friends, who often lament their accumulated stuff. There is a defiance about the way I relish the process.
They are impressed and I am now known for my fierceness in facing up to the task. I feel smug that I won’t have to do it when I am older.

Now I am wondering, how much older? I am already 66.

My mother died a couple of years ago, but I had cleared her house way before that, to make way for tenants who helped to fund her stay in the care home.

I have a very few of her possessions, only the small stuff, some valuable but mostly not. I come from an army family, we were never encouraged to hoard possessions. My home is small, it has my accumulated stuff and some of my daughters and most importantly contains my studio space.

Recently I needed a passport, I hadn’t renewed this important document, for 15 years. I kept putting it off. For those 15 years I was looking out for my mum and my daughter, my focus was on them. I didn’t feel the need to travel.

Getting back to the Museum for Object Research, is a passport an object?
I have kept all the old ones.

As a way of exploring self and identity I am making paintings of the 6 passport photos.

The portraits then have selected objects painted in the foreground. The objects are related to the time span of the passports. They are items of significance, but just ordinary things.

However I am aware that the objects I have kept and what I choose to add to my work represents my life. I become self conscious, imagining observers will judge me and it makes me feel vulnerable. The objects accompanying the image cause me to reflect and remember, which makes me nostalgic, regretful and sometimes sad.

I wonder how I can manipulate the choices I have made to enhance my offered persona, to present an alternative narrative, to appear a little more edgy……. I could cheat, just a little.

So far I have made 5 paintings and half way through the 6th. I refine the objects, adding something that I notice fits the narrative and seems to be jostling for attention. The reason some of these objects have survived is quite random. I mourn some objects that I no longer have. I toy with the idea of replacing them, but I know that would not work. Authenticity is key.

By the time I had made these five paintings ….. I had two rings, two hand written objects.
Two objects associated with travel.
Two associated with my daughter.

Two items for my father. Two with ex husband. Two with ex partner.
Three angels! (I had tried to ignore the wooden angel, but was proud when I bought it 55 yrs

Nothing yet linked to my mother.
So then, should decisions about what to include became about fairness, breadth and balance. I must include her, I have a choice of objects.
Do they fit the time span? Does that matter?

As I write this, the objects I have chosen so far for the five paintings have begun to assert themselves, to have a relationship and speak to each other. I think I need to give them some attention and allow them to become more dominant.

AND maybe the most important is the painting that I have not made yet. It covers the 15 years when I had no passport. I plan to represent this just through objects..

These small paintings are a prelude for what I hope will either be larger pieces, or a series of another 6 paintings offering an alternative image of me, or an assemblage, or…..

Jenni Dutton MfOR September 2017

Objects of Desire

Kate Murdoch – August 2017


Kate Murdoch – Keeping It Going

Kate Murdoch - Nana's Colours

‘The subject of our mortality is one that has always fascinated me -the fragility of life versus the permanence of objects, in particular …’

A Facebook memory popped up on my timeline over the weekend and made me want to touch base with my ‘Keeping It Going’ blog again. The memory showed a photo of a piece of work that was inspired by objects which belonged to my late Nana. The memory also included a blog post from the same period and it was fascinating to recap and go back two years in time, particularly in terms of world news – politics, specifically. So much has happened!

‘Nana’s Colours’ Part of an ongoing series of assemblage work in tribute to a dear grandmother.


But, as well as what’s been going on globally, the blog post also reminded me about how much of my creative work continues to focus around the life of my late grandmother (Nana) and the many objects associated with the home in which she lived for some 70 years.

It also made me think about my recent involvement in an Arts Council funded project, The Museum for Object Research, created and led by artist Sonia Boue. The proposal I submitted for the Museum sums up the way in which the ‘Nana’s Colours’ body of work began and continues to evolve; how the mass of objects that make up my own personal collection provides the vast majority of raw material for creating work. The proposal I submitted to The Museum for Object Research is very relevant to the overall theme of my work with objects and for this reason, I have included it here:

I propose to build on an existing body of work, ‘Nana’s Colours’ which was inspired by the small collection of things that I gathered from my Nana’s home when she was finally forced to leave it. In the five years since my Nana’s death, I have combined the various items I rescued from her home with others from my extensive lifetime collection to create small assemblage works.

The source material is diverse – china, glassware, fabrics, soaps, powders, paper, plastics and so on – but the objects selected are all steeped in social history and speak volumes about my Nana’s identity, age and social standing and of course, my relationship with her.

The small celebratory assemblages are an ongoing testimony to the relatively simple existence my Nana lived in a small Cambridgeshire village. She lived until the grand age of 102 and the work demonstrates how much life has changed over the past century, particularly in relation to the things we own nowadays – the things we have in our homes and make use of.

Examining my late Nana’s objects in this respect is extremely poignant, homing in on deep-rooted childhood memories around family and relationships – love and loss. The objects still exist – my Nana sadly, no longer does. The subject of our mortality is one that has always fascinated me – the fragility of life versus the permanence of objects, in particular. The objects live on, our emotional attachments projected onto them, and become enriched with the assorted narratives and stories surrounding them.

The Museum for Object Research touches on a recurring theme in my work around the question of value and worth. What is an object ‘worth?’ How do we put a price on certain items? As it stands alone, a used powder puff has no monetary value. If however, it’s one that my Nana used, then it becomes imbued with a highly personal history and narrative. Its emotional value is enormous – it’s worth an awful lot to me. People pay thousands of pounds for John Lennon’s glasses, or even Elvis’s hairdryer. Shouldn’t objects that belonged to ‘ordinary’ people be celebrated too?


The end of summer 2017 is set to be an eventful and symbolic time; my twin sons leaving for respective universities will undoubtedly have a big impact on the amount of spare time I’m going to have. It will be a time of massive change and readjustment for all of us as a family and only time will tell how much of my sons’ leaving will affect my creative output. I’ll be back at some point in the future to report back, I’m sure …

In the meantime, you can read more about The Museum for Object Research – the premise behind the project, the participating artists and so on – by following this link:

This post was originally published on Kate’s a-n blog Keeping It Going

Family Snaps – Linda Hubbard Interview

Artist Interviews - Family Snaps! - Linda Hubbard

The Museum would like to thank Linda Hubbard for giving us this interview about her  Family Snaps project. Questions compiled by Sonia Boué.

Linda Hubbard - Family Snaps!

Linda Hubbard - Family Snaps

Linda Hubbard - Family Snaps!

I don’t like talking about my work.
I don’t think art should be explained
The joy is finding out things for yourself.

I have left out answers on some questions, I want to leave them open,
I don’t want to spoil it for others

1. You’ve created a whole narrative world in Family Snaps. What got you started on it?

1.A  I was reading about storytelling and was just thinking as you do, this sentence was the trigger ‘There are only seven stories in fiction and that all others are based on them.’

2. Did you have the whole narrative planned or did that evolve as you worked on the pieces?

2.A  Both, the idea, the suitcase, were clear in my head, plus the below statement, lots of thinking about building, contents, over long periods, and the contents then just evolve.

There is only ever one story to tell.

This is the story of the house and the people who live there.

Whether the house be a home, church or state.
Yours, Mine,Theirs. The plots are always
The same.

Winners and losers.
Loved and unloved. Have’s and have-nots.
The powerful the weak.

3. There’s also a playfulness with objects which I love – there are paintings of objects, objects, and the paintings are also presented as objects themselves (each one beautifully framed/wrapped and unwrapped).

This back and forth between objects and their representations fascinated me and is a subject in itself. Can you say some more about this process?

3. A I don’t want to answer this, don’t want to spoil it for others.

4. You’ve created an intriguing and unsettling series with Family Snaps. I like the way you’ve built it and created links between sections. Each object could stand alone, and the sections can be read separately or joined together. I spent a lot of time going back and forth trying to work it out. My first attraction to the piece was based purely on the objects and the way they’re laid out. I loved it as a visual piece. Are you happy for Family Snaps to be viewed as a collection of objects or is it important to you that the viewer digs deep?

Also your project is pretty dark but it is also humorous.  How would you sum up the general Intention behind this work, and do you think objects are helpful in mediating difficult subjects?

4.A What you see is who you are!

Family Snaps is ‘White Propaganda’ its purpose, persuasion, that attempts to
Influence the emotions, attitude, opinions and actions for the good of humanity.
I’m free, privileged, educated, I have a voice and able to speak up loud and clear with impunity. I have things I want to say and believe need saying, and I should say.

Hopefully the narrative is clear, powerful enough, has the smell of truth
for people to see it as a piece of propaganda and that it agitates them enough to think!

It does not bother me if people want to see Family Snaps as a collection of objects.

Yes, I do think objects are helpful in mediating difficult subjects.

5. I’m probably drawn to the Family Snaps because it’s about patterns which can be read on many levels. You’re opening text suggests the patterns of human life are predictable and repeated – did this influence how you structured the project? I’m especially interested in the grid presentation on the website in relation to this.

5.A  My first attempt at Family Snaps [some years ago] was much smaller, 9 works altogether.
I created a stop, motion, animation. The case opening, someone unwrapping the objects displaying the contents, shutting the lid. There was also background music. When I changed my website platform I could not carry the animation over from a technical perspective. The grid presentation is a choice from the constraints of website templates it’s like a film storyboard also I am very conscious that most websites are viewed on mobile devices. So when I was building the project, clarity, flow of the narrative was important being able to view it on a mobile device and has had an influence on structure and presentation.

6. The presentation also made me think of Christian Boltanski’s piece, Inventory of Objects Belonging to a Young Man of Oxford, which was also shown in grid form. It probably also came to mind because it’s a mysterious narrative told through objects photographed in a particular way which is immensely pleasing. What do you consider to be of influence to your work and can you trace those influences to Family Snaps?

6. A What influences me, everything and everybody. Big things, tiny things, people, who they are, how they have lived their lives, what they have contributed.
Who I am, what I see, my life experiences influences everything do.

7. Do you think of yourself as an object artist?

7.A  Never really thought about it, suppose I am. The cause or message are everything in propaganda, I think objects can give clarity and I think it’s easier for some to people understand through objects. When I was at primary school if the teacher would ask what 2 + 2 is, I  wouldn’t have a clue, but I would  always understand and solve the maths if presented with bricks to solve the problem.

8. I love how you’ve wrapped and packed these paintings and objects – so visually pleasing and also suggestive of so many other layers to the narrative. What gave you the idea for this as a thematic device?

8.A Ritual, truth. Don’t want to say anymore, I like to keep it open not wanting to spoil it for others

9. Politics, war and religion obviously feature in this work. In the Keepsakes section reliquaries come to mind. Is this something you thought about?

9.A  Yes that and other things.

10. Finally, how long did it take you to complete Family Snaps, and do you have plans to exhibit this work IRL?

10.A  Difficult to say how long it took me as I have had two stabs at family snaps with gap of a few years. I decided last year after E U Referendum,Trump’s election to have another crack at Family Snaps, so have  been working on it since then. It’s not actually finished, all my projects are open and I add to them, make changes, when the ideas flow. At some point I will probably film the process/experience of opening the suitcase, taking out the objects, presenting the images. There  will be a sound track,  Mantovani And His Orchestra – Charmaine here is the link

I have written to the Mantovani Estate to see if they will let me use it for free  with acknowledgement.

I am hoping to exhibit Family Snaps next year. Presenting Family Snaps is difficult, ideally I would like an individual experience for everyone, opening the suitcase unwrapping the objects, experiencing the narrative, then packing everything back up for the next person, is not feasible to do that.

Presenting the film and displaying the contents will hopefully be as near as I can get to a personal experience.

Linda Hubbard – 2017

Beginnings: object love #MfOR

img_8455This is how I began the MoFR with a call out to object artists back in September 2014.

“Don’t all museums have a building, curators, attendants and plenty of visitors for company? Well no. Some museums live in our cupboards and imaginations, awaiting their moment of arrival. So it was with my idea for a Museum for Object Research.”

MfOR quickly ignited the imaginations of a core group of object artists who became active readers and contributors to the blog in those early days. Their enthusiasm and wide-ranging interests made my job of curating and administering the space a total joy, until other projects took over and we experienced a lull in energy and admissions. The beauty of the project was that all the content remained online and still reflects the calibre of guest  artist, some of whom are keen to explore further iterations of our format.

Forming a partnership with Elena Thomas  (our very first guest contributor) has led to formalising the idea of returning to the core of the project and developing a fully fledged expression of its purpose in the physical world. From digital to actual.

We’re looking forward to putting our heads together to develop this space and take it on to the next level. As we all know there is a huge amount of work to be done in realising a dream or in this case a vision. No small part is designing a format which will work in the real world and also contribute to our knowledge and thinking about the ways we work with objects in our various practices.

Since discovering the power of the object within my own multiform creative practice I have become interested in understanding more, but my ambition goes further. I want to see the Museum succeed in its role as tool for research, and bring forth outcomes of real worth to object artists in arriving at a more formal understanding of why and how objects come to be at the core of what we do.

We will be seeking Arts Council England funding for our work.

Watch as we transfer materials from our original site and build new content in this exciting new space.