Welcome to the Wellcome trust!
Yesterday the 17th September I visited the Wellcome trust to explore the building, library, gallery and Sir Henry Wellcome's collection of artefacts and other medical and historical paraphernalia. Whilst it was because of him this enterprise started, I was impressed with the extent of means made available FOR FREE to the wider audiences, work which carried on after his death. The reason why I titled this post welcome to the Wellcome trust, was not only a play on words, but also because of a genuine feeling of 'what a great start' of the visit. The first section of the building I visited was their current art exhibition by Alice Anderson 'Memory Movement Memory Objects'. The exhibition starts with great impact: all black, with a car right in the centre, however one can hardly figure that it is a car. The first and main focus is on a performer, dressed all in black blending in with the background, who is gently walking around the car with a thread in her hand. The expertly lit shining orange object is being wrapped with copper wire as a form of mumification, of the object and as an archive of the movements of this human being.
The concept of the performative object is definitely central to her work, but adding to it is also a current concern, or rather vision, of how our memory is changing. It is left open to interpretation that the digital age will make objects obsolete, as we will have the Internet to tell us how they look like, making it obsolete to remember them. These concepts are powerfully explored and the result is most beautiful. The performance cleverly combines the memory act being engraved forever into this cling-filmed-look-alike objects, only in copper wire instead of plastic. The embrace of copper as a medium, might be the link between the digital and the physical (it is not said on the exhibition) given that copper is the most widely used wire for telecommunications. The objects selected to be mumified are so because they are recognisable: that is the link to memory. At points, I did find myself smiling at some of the objects, guessing 'what were they in their previous life?'
The black room was stunning, the lighting was exquisite, the copper contrasted with the black background and all the objects did indeed feel like they were 'eternified'. She does explore other concepts, such as modern sculpture and the dualism of assemblage. This is to underline the fact that 'history has a way of converting artworks into relics' (as per caption). As the combination of objects achieved that sense of modern sculpture, the room they were exhibited was white, in contrast with the major part of the exhibition: a modern minimalist hallmark, a contrasting feeling with the predominant black of the rest of the display. For me, the pieces that worked the best were the rectangle panels.
There were circa 8 rectangle panels (I forgot to count them) wrapped the same way as the other objects. But because these were plain and one could place oneself right in the middle of them and feel surrounded by all these data, one could easily compare that each panel was weaved by different people, with different movements. It successfully and beautifully illustrated the concept of the performative object, with an obvious emphasis on the engraved memory of human presence and the handling of objects, even if in this instance an abstract one. It has been a while that I left an exhibition thinking it was thouroughly worth it, and there wasn't one bit I didn't enjoy. This is a practice that has spanned over a variety of forms and is possible to explore with the same MEANINGFULL technique. The result is extensive and spirituous mumified art pieces that are striking to the eye and food for the brain - should we embrace a new way of using our memory? Is it already happening and we can't escape? These objects are memories of human presence, and no matter how crucial and mandatory to our lives the Internet becomes, there is no life to us without us. Objects can serve us so we move, but without us objects can't move. We move.
More on the new ways of using the Internet and how mandatory it can become and other issues raised with it in this TED talk. Lots of other political issues are talked through, but the wider use of technology's philosophy and consequently their development into governamental policies is the main and ultimate focus.