This body of work serves as a personal exploration of the construction of an individual identity. Through the gathering, collecting, summarising and extracting of oral history and documents from family archives, cultural layering is focal to my concerns, as an expression of passage and journey, turning points and life cycles.
I have drawn from the sixteenth century ‘age of curiosity’ as a period in which the ‘museum’ originated. The discovery of unknown territories led to the collections of the early modern era. I chose to draw on those periods in history when travel, exploration, collecting, early sea travel and the marvellous were at their height. The product is a weaving together of my ancestor’s incomplete narratives within a broader context of the ‘journey’ as a popular theme in literature and poetry.
The art works take the form of a collection of printed paper ephemera housed in cabinets reminiscent of sixteenth century curiosity cabinets. These cabinets were produced in an epoch which celebrated collecting, hence it seemed an appropriate format in which to portray or display a collection of family stories. I have also drawn on the formal qualities of the nineteenth century tradition of the paper theatres as a model on which to construct my cabinets.
It is on this stage that I play out the narratives of my progenitors, which functions to present and display and resonates with the curiosity cabinet, which performs in a similar manner as an enclosed exhibition space for viewer spectatorship and contemplation. The art objects take the form of two kinds of books, as performances of progressive revelation in paper and print. Each new scene or theatre set forms a different chapter of the story.
The central symbol is the journey of the ship, in its crucial role as a vessel for the transportation of culture. The notion of the ship museum is suggested and explored and can be seen as an important contribution to the development of the museum and in many ways as a mobile museum. As a symbol of a contained but perpetually shifting identity, the ship as a theme and an object has acted as an appropriate symbol through which to speak of a personal identity. This body of work is thus not complete or conclusive, as our identities are in constant flux and we are constantly forging new identities.