Private View, Totnes

Cases of Curiosity had its very successful opening night in the Gallery at Dartington on Friday, June 27th:

Follow the links to see the artists' work.

The exhibition will be touring to Falmouth at the beginning of September.
Once an object is placed in a museum cabinet, it is elevated to a higher status. It tells us stories, paints portraits, voices opinions. A group of contemporary artists will take objects from their lives and practices and display them in vitrines. The objects, salvaged from workshops, handbags, cloak rooms etc. will be used by the artists to create their own personalised museums in cabinets of curiosities.

Nathan Chenery

Text coming soon

Nathan Walker

Text coming soon

Stephen Cornford

Cabinet found by artist and adapted
Item 1. Zither: Bought from ebay as a portable and desk-based alternative to an open piano. A test-bed for new techniques and preparations, hasn’t been tuned since.Item 2. Printer: found on Castle street, Totnes on his way home from the pub and taken home for parts.Item 3. 6 Solenoids: bought (ebay) to play the part of the lead guitarist's left hand in a mechanical rock band.

Item 4. Teak: all of which comes from the upright piano got off freecycle last year and dismantled the same day, discarding the keys, hammers and much of the front structure.
Item 5. Crossfader: from a friend’s old DJ mixer, Stephen grew up on a pair of Technics, this has a personal resonance for him.
Item 6. 9 switches: bought (ebay again) for circuit bending or to control the band players and not used yet, some are 'push-to-make' other 'push-on-push-off'.
Item 7. Potentiometer: from the built in amplifier of an oscillator half dismantled last year, Stephen was planning at the time to reverse engineer a vintage analog synthesizer, until he realised that this was way beyond his capabilities.
Item 8. 2 jack sockets: from the same DJ mixer mentioned above.
Item 9. Hook-up wire: from one of the technicians at college.
Item 10. 8 Watt amplifier circuit: from the same oscillator mentioned above.
Item 11. Whammy Bar: from one of many guitars bought in the last 18 months, none of which he has ever played by hand, so he has quite a collection of whammy bars and straps.
Item 12. Humbucker Guitar Pickup: bought (ebay) for general purpose feedback and amplification. He has about fifteen of them now.
Item 13. 16 microphone capsules: bought (ebay) before he had any idea about how to build microphones. He still hasn’t made one.
Item 14. Circuit board: from a ghetto blaster given to Stephen by a colleague.
Item 15. DC Motor: bought from Maplin as a piano player.
Item 16: Circular wire brush: bought in a hardware store.
Item 17: Plectrum: found in the street.
Item 18: 6 Crocodile clips: the school that a friend used to teach science in was about to be demolished and all of their laboratory equipment discarded. Stephen was invited to help himself to anything that might be useful. The impact of this single scavenge on his work has been enormous.
Item 19: 0.3W Speaker: from a walkman bought in the local scrap store for another project.
Item 20: Jamo mid-range speaker cone: from an old landlady's broken speakers.
Item 21: Massage node: Part of one of those electric massage kits that used to belong to Stephen’s grandmother, felt was glued onto it to play the strings of a piano.

Lucy Cran and Roz Cran

Cabinet: Large three doored cabinet with drawers from the 1900s. Purchased at Totnes market.

Lucy and Roz Cran worked together on this cabinet as a mother-daughter collaboration. Taking it in turns, beginning with the top shelf of the middle section, they each chose something to place in the cabinet. The next shelf was filled with an item that responded to the last. The cabinet becomes a game, a dialogue between mother and daughter and their arts practices.

Item 1. Cup and saucer with a pea planted in it. Thinking of what is shut away in these cabinets. Roz’s mother’s tea set. Roz uses significant objects in her work. Making them different, useful, changed. Always coming back from art to growing things. Roz uses a space, puts things in it, changing it to provoke responses

Item 2. Twigs covered in acrylic paint. This is a reference to a piece Lucy performed where she played the drums with branches attached to her hands as sticks. The next phase will be to do the same performance with the branches dipped in paint. This is an object created from these performances. Lucy is interested in using paint as a material object.

Item 3. Polaroid photo of Roz standing with her arms outstretched like the tree she stands in front of. The twigs of item two reminded Roz of a video she had made where she was dressed as a tree. The Polaroid shows something that is happening. This animates the space. Without dressing up, Roz can be herself and still be like a tree. Her work is involved with a relationship to the natural world.

Item 4. Polaroid photo of Lucy, holding drum sticks in the same position as the tree. The shape and the wood responds to Item 3. Roz and Lucy’s practices can link through tree, wood, shape. Both have worked with performance and dealt with documentation, and its status as secondary to the work. Here it is interesting to use the documentation, the polaroids, as primary. The Polaroid photographs are like stages as are the cabinet spaces. They are their own performances, suspended in space.

Item 5 Polaroid photo of action performed by Roz displayed next to broken teacup. For this shelf, Roz intended to use things which captured her feelings of worry and stress at the pressure of creating pieces of art. While out looking for a tree, they came upon a lot of rubbish in a carpark, the chaos fitted the mood. The teacup and saucer are smashed, coming to the end of their useful life.

Item 6 A speaker playing Bengt af Klintberg “Calls” 1968. Recording of humans calling animals. The name for these is Cusha calls. Lucy is interested in recorded and performed language. Also in the idea of the sample as a part of a larger imagined thing, in relation to cabinets of curiosity. The cusha calls, communications between humans and nature relate to Roz’s practice. Calling to the natural world. Connecting across the space between us. Calling to the plants in the cabinet. Both wanted to look into cusha calls from their own points of view. For Lucy, they are somewhere between language and tune. Phonic into sonic. Roz is interested in the connection with nature: animals make noises, we make noises, plants respond to vibrations.

Item 7 French marigolds. These are placed into the cabinet for grounding. The cabinet is like a greenhouse. This involves Roz’s re-use of an object (in this case the cabinet space) into something else. The orange colour is echoed by the orange drawings of flowers on the teacups. The cabinet acts as a seed tray. The last square on the board is full of colour.

Drawers: Landscape A4 containing research relating to items and ideas in the cabinet.

Katy Connor

Pre WWI wooden trunk received as a gift by the artist

Hope Chest

Item 1: Video depicting a loop of a journey taken from Plymouth to Santander by ferry. Katy will begin an artist’s residency in Spain in October of this year.

Item 2: Wooden chest. In 2001 Katy received this chest from a colleague who had been keeping it in his garage. For several years, the chest was used to store art materials and notebooks.
In 2007, Katy left Birmingham for Totnes to pursue her Masters degree in Contemporary Arts Practice and Dissemination. The chest was used to transport all the ideas she had for her arts practice: sketchbooks, diaries, art equipment, etc. The contents of the chest were the manifestation of her hopes for the next phase in her artistic endeavours.
Later, it was learned that this trunk was a seaman’s chest, otherwise known as a foot-locker or campaign chest. They were mass-produced for the British military. The chest would have been use to store all the soldier’s private belongings. The trunk was subject to inspection from the Sergeant Major. There was just one drawer within the trunk that he couldn’t check which could contain the soldier’s private love letters, photographs, etc.

Emma Bennett

1950s vitrine cabinet on four legs, bought from Totnes market.

Legwork: A Cabinet

Outside the cabinet:

Item 1: Several bits of branches off different trees taped together. In the pictures Emma found of the old cabinets of curiosities, many have coral in them, which is like a miniature underwater tree. She has been interested in making colourful and artificial interventions into nature – coverings, disguises, additions. Bright nylon tights stretched over a camera lens and then the camera shoved inside a bush;
“This is I suppose a stab at a museum version of that. A lot of bits of shit branch proudly becoming one fancy branch.”

Shelf 1:

Item 2: Wooden ball. Currently, circles and spherical objects recur in Emma’s work. She is interested in the way they behave. Recently she threw a lot of volleyballs down a staircase and has been drilling circular holes in wood, originally to project video through but more recently just for the sake of it. A wooden ball is an alternative way of conceiving of the ‘opposite’ of a piece of wood with a hole in it.
It’s also an odd thing in itself.

Item 3: Jolen crème bleach box. This was originally a stand-in Emma used to prop up the ball but she ended up liking the colour. The slogan ‘lightening excess dark hair’ possibly resonates against all the fake fur used in her work at the moment. She often has lots of these boxes piled up as there are two parts to the bleaching process – the crème and the developer. The developer always runs out before the crème so you have to buy another box to top it up, and then you’re inevitably left with a lot of boxes with a little pot of crème left in them. The way the box is here also reminds her of a golf tee.

Item 4 – 8: Glass eyes of various sizes, colours and styles. For making cuddly toys. Emma made a video of herself constructing some toys – squirrel, otter and owl;
“I liked that the eyes were part of the moment where the bits
of fluff and fur made that shift into being an actual thing. Bits
stuck together and then given eyes – suddenly it’s got a face.”

Item 9: Cartoon plant. A picture of some leaves cut from a magazine. The photograph is interestingly lit. Fixed up with blu-tac and wears a squirrel’s ear on its leaf.

Shelf 2:

Item 10: Branch with two bits coming off it. The long bit is painted yellow and the short bit has a smear of blue. The end of the branch is wearing the outside of a toy’s leg or arm. Possibly an otter’s leg or arm. Attached to the yellow branch is another smaller twig, with purple arms. This attachment came about from the interest mentioned above in taking something natural and giving it a faked personality – like purple arms. Or, this bit of branch has one completely yellow offshoot, as if it’s wearing make-up or has dyed its hair. Or like the branch is somehow denying all responsibility for its own arm. These are little approaches on developing a previous work in which a large fir branch lay under a blanket. Here, the branch is perhaps less passive – the purple-armed piece seems to be standing up in protest, or just wanting to be looked at.

Item 11: Pencil drawing. Found at someone’s house in their Pictionary box from a previous game. It’s always interesting to see the strange and desperate pictures people were forced to make in the very strained circumstances of Pictionary.
“…this one is so perfect and complete, as well as being shit. When I saw it I had such an extreme reaction of laughter it was actually bad. I suppose as well it’s a woodpecker, which is somehow important.”

Item 12: Ball of fluff with wood shavings. The fluff is toy stuffing. When Emma began making toys, she bought a big bag of wadding for six pounds, which seemed expensive for what is essentially fluff. She once de-stuffed an otter and a squirrel to see what size of ball each would make;
“This is about squirrel size. It’s been on the floor while I worked. There’s something about sawdust caught in fluff that reminds me of hamsters in their cages. When you look into a hamster cage, you’ve got a window on its whole life. But they way they get all that shit caught in the stuff you give them to make their bed, that catches you out. Animals can seem lovely, but they will always have their dirty private world.”

Shelf 3:

Item 13: Wooden wedge of cheese. Holy cheese. Emma had been drilling holes in pieces of wood and liked them and wanted to make an object out of them and thought this was the obvious object to make. It’s pleasingly simple, almost like a drawing. It looks like it’s from a cartoon which she really liked.

Item 14 - 16: Toy fox’s tail, fox’s face with one eye and nose, two ears of fox. Cabinets of curiosity often contain relics, bits of animals like wings or feet which come after the animal, which was once a whole thing. Making cuddly toys, it’s the other way around – the parts come before the animal is a thing. When you finish the animal you want to take it up and hug it, take it around with you. When it’s in parts like this it is more delicate and museum like. It suits beings in a cupboard because any minute its eye could fall off. However, even in four parts, without most of it, it seems to have a personality. Like, we find ourselves asking a question like does the fox own the cheese, is that the fox’s cheese, do foxes even like cheese?