Current ideas and explorations around objects – Kate Morgan Clare

Originally posted here

The Museum is particularly pleased to host a blog post by Kate Morgan Clare, who is near completing a six year part time BA degree in Fine Art at Herefordshire College of Art. Her blog weaves in personal reflection with critical thought derived from her studies and she draws on many of the ideas the Museum would like to explore. I find Kate’s choice of image and her spur to working with objects incredibly moving. A person’s ‘hand’ is indeed animate and of all the traces we leave behind us marks our pulse so very eloquently. I very much look forward to more from Kate’s crystalline thought processes – she has a great deal to contribute. Thank you Kate!

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Father’s Letter

Current ideas and explorations around objects. Kate Morgan-Clare October 2014

In my practice with objects I’m attempting to understand how I perceive the world – why I am who I am and what informs my judgements. I believe that many of our perceptions are formed by childhood experiences and that objects play an important role in recalling these experiences. The familiar object from childhood – or a version of it – is a vessel for a multitude of emotions and associations and in this way is never inanimate.

Initially my interest lay with the stories and objects of other people’s lives – clothing, toys and first–hand reminiscences of children of WWII; a friends’ 1950’s party dress; a 1930’s exercise book kept by a French fashion student.

Quite naturally I turned my attention to objects with a personal significance – and that’s when everything changed dramatically! Since finding a letter from my late father I have been set on bid to explore the intense nature of our relationship to ‘evocative objects’. Firstly I needed to understand and define the importance of objects in our lives. Daniel Miller discusses our relationship with objects of all kinds in his book Stuff (Polity Press 2010) Miller argues that we use objects as outward reflections of who we are and who we wish to become. As we grow and change so our need for more and varied objects grows too.

In an essay on the subject of my own evocative object I ask how our important personal objects survive when we are bombarded daily with hundreds of other objects made available to us (with the added pressures of marketing). I looked for evidence of their recognised value in our culture – in the art world where the object is transformed; in museums where it is held and protected and in photography where it is reproduced.

I have come to the conclusion that the evocative object is best cared for in our own curated spaces – our homes – where objects can become part of a personal collection or displayed in ‘pride of place’. Our objects might equally be cared for in secret – kept in drawers or in the loft. Wherever and however we choose to keep our ‘special’ things I believe they have a constant influence on our sense of identity. They remind us how we came to be the people we are and link us powerfully to people, places and events.

I think Sonia’s idea about a museum existing without a physical presence is very important. If we see a museum as a ‘place’ that links us to our pasts or to other places then there is in fact no need for a physical building or indeed for objects at all; only the ability to recall these things and articulate them in some way. The ‘virtual’ world of the internet just reinforces this idea – ‘everything’ is represented by words and images – not by real things at all. This makes the idea of collecting and keeping things very exciting to me as it gives a freedom to meaning and interpretation. It also makes being an artist exciting as there are no limits to how one might transform an object in creative terms.

The idea that objects can be transformed through our relationships with them seems to compliment the concept of transitional objects. Philippa Perry’s article in a recent blog post on The Museum of Object Research discusses how the transitional object allows a child to reveal their internal realities in an external form – the example she gives is the teddy. If the teddy stays with you right through to you leaving home then it sees you transform too. I think that we continue to ‘collect’ such objects with similar emotional value at various stages of our lives. In the book Evocative Objects Sherry Turkle discusses D.W.Winnicott’s theory of the transitional object. “The transitional objects of the nursery..are destined to be abandoned. Yet they will leave traces that will mark the rest of life. Winnicott believes that during all stages of life we continue to search for objects we can experience as both within and outside of ourselves.”(Turkle,2007:314).This idea accommodates the need to collect – and even perhaps hoard!

I’m not a collector myself- instead I feed off other’s ability to collect! Most of my mother’s possessions were given to her, lots of them are old, and whilst some are functional as well as ornamental they all have a sense of mystery around them. We know them but don’t know much about their provenance. My eldest brother has been collecting agricultural implements since he was a young man. Hundreds of tools hang from the walls of his shed and sit in his yard dripping in cobwebs and rusting – they are his and they are ‘alive’ and significant to him. (They also link us to our farming roots which is very important.) I work with an avid collector too – he buys ‘new’ old things every week. Some things are transformed into artworks others are cherished for their reference to a particular time in our industrial past or to popular culture.

Even if we don’t collect ourselves I think we all have a healthy thriving ‘museum’ living nearby which feeds our creative lives.

Recommended reads – with lots of pictures too!
Putnam, J (2009) – Art and Artifact – The Museum as Medium. Revised edn. London: Thames and Hudson.
Naylor, T (2007) – Living Normally – Where Life Comes Before Style. London: Thames and Hudson.