Mobile Museum (2014)

Work started during the Sura Medura Artist Residency in Sri Lanka (with UZ Arts)

Jan-Feb 2014

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A Mobile Museum

This work builds on a series of works that precede it, those which explore the design and use of mobile solutions, portable and non technical. The Nomadic Workshop and One Cycle, One Sew as well as Nith Scoping, use wheels to transport, The Nolly Boat is about floating on water, this idea turns to something that can be carried by foot on your back. Simple mechanisms, easy to build and to use, which are about engagement; with the environment and one another.  As structure this object has two forms and is designed to facilitate two functions related to the idea of creating a basic museum. The collecting process and the presentation. It is a prototype or design idea for an object carried on your back, that could function both as a space to collect and interrogate the landscape, and also present a temporary museum display; on a road side curb or with in a community setting.

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Collection no.1: Telwatta, Sri Lanka, 01/2014

The particular museum collection presented in this display is inescapably referencing my reaction to what I learnt and observed of the Tsunami. Trying to create some kind of order and narrative to understand the kind of power, well and beyond our control, that is contained in that incredible ocean. Considering the piecing together and re-building of physical and emotional space, searching and re-structuring that has taken place for the 10 years following this disaster. The presentation of the idea as a museum was about my thoughts towards our relationship to history and to knowledge, how we preserve and also connect the present day with what has taken place before. This museum and collection attempts to operate outside of the institutional walls, as a display space it is open to the elements and to constant re-configuration, no glass and no fixtures. It is not an attempt to preserve but to momentarily capture and reflect. As an idea it is about the potential for different people in different times and places to use the materials gathered from their space and environment to curate and tell their own histories through an exploration of what remains today, opening this up in public spaces for wider conversations.

I was interested in exploring the processes and order we try to give to the natural world as a means to make sense of it, or to find beauty in landscapes that are about a persistent destruction, such as life was for these pieces in the tide. This project reflects on the similarity between my methodology as an artist encountering a new culture and the comparable inquisition of early explorers. Examining and excited by all of the virtually invisible details and fragments of place that are so unfamiliar, vibrant in colour and wrapped in social, environmental and historical layers. Interested in landscapes that often contrast with what today is expected of a tourist to find beautiful.

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Exhibitions

This work was first exhibited at the Colombo Biennale festival, Sri Lanka (2014), in the Garden space of Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations. Following this it was exhibited for the UZ Arts exhibition in the Briggait, Glasgow (2014) on return from the residency in a group show which gave Glasgow an insight into our projects. From here the Mobile Museum took another journey to Graz, Austria where I placed it alongside some of the other projects I have done which fall into the theme of water and mobile structures, in the exhibition Measures of Saving the World, Pt. 4 at <Rotor> Centre for contemporary Arts (2014.) This concludes the first collection for this project, there are ideas in the pipe line for a collection no.2 and revisions of the museum design. The project is designed to evolve.

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(Colombo Biennale festivalSri Lanka (2014), in the Garden space of Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations)

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(UZ Arts exhibition in the Briggait, Glasgow (2014)

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(Measures of Saving the World, Pt. 4 at <Rotor> Centre for contemporary Arts (2014.)

 

Making

A secondary layer to this whole project was the insight and relationships that were formed during the making process. I was really lucky to be put in contact with a Tuc tuc driver who also had a very small workshop from which he ran a metal and wood working business during the off season period. His name was Anil and he was happy not just to make the piece I had invented but to let me be part of the making process. It became apparent later that this was a strange territory as although local women are often engaged in very physical manual work, it was not wood or metal work at this scale and for a westerner to be doing this was even stranger. Together we collected pieces of wood and metal that we strapped precariously to the roof of his tuc tuc. When we went to his friends who had machines to cut pieces, we found they were sitting through a power cut and so the museum was hand cut and hand assembled. We invented the mechanisms and attachments together, adapting pieces from his wonderful pile of scrap metal and off cuts. The process was punctuated by regular trips to his home to have cups of tea and lunch with his wife and children. Although I never imagined it from the onset, the relationships and social experiences that derived from this process became as interesting and special to me as the outcome. I was invited to spend Independence day with his wife’s whole extended family, where we swam in the sea together in Galle and showered then all in the street under and stand pipe before dinner.

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