Originally posted here
The Museum is delighted to host a blog post by artist Elena Thomas – our first ever contributor – on the theme of “usefulness”. There are exciting developments for the Museum behind the scenes, so watch this space. For now enjoy! Our thanks to Elena for this most thought provoking piece of great relevance to the current global crisis of displacement.
What does art do?
What is art for?
Those who know, know.
Those who don’t can sometimes find it hard to understand the usefulness of something seemingly useless.
As I contemplate new work, I am thinking of objects and garments… again… of course.
Of course, as you look around your home, EVERYTHING is useful in some way. Cups bowls chairs blankets phone tools computer… blah blah blah… but you cannot take it. There isn’t room, or time to decide. You don’t know what you will need because you have no idea where you are going TO, just where FROM.
In two weeks time you might discover that you really need that weird little knife from the kitchen drawer, it is just the thing needed. But it is too late. So you manage with something else. So did you really need it? No, but you were reminded of it. The reason we need the thing we took to the tip a week ago is only because we have been reminded of it. Suddenly, too late, we see the value. But we hadn’t used it for ten years. So it wasn’t useful was it?
We cannot anticipate which of the objects of specific use will be useful. So the discussion is moot.
So what do we take with us?
The only thing we know for sure we will absolutely need, come what may, is comfort.
So we take the weird stuff. A smelly old bit of blanket, an old jumper, a toy, a book of poetry, something that smells of grandma, a photo, a letter.
Only the useless can be guaranteed useful.
When I am making, or writing a song, I am taking a thing, an idea, a feeling, a thought, and washing them through my filter. What comes out is hopefully something new. Something seen through my eyes, with my brain, my experiences, my knowledge, my feelings.
The love song has been written a million times. But not by me, in this way, from this angle, about you…
The love song, and the embroidery and the drawing… useless things… you can’t build a house with a song… you can’t bang nails in with an embroidered hankie. You can’t feed a child with a drawing.
But you can comfort… inspire… welcome… encourage… show love… share hope…
Someone else will bring the hammer.