Visited this exhibition twice, once on my own and once in the company of some fellow students. The main advertised attraction was her installation DEPOT, which commemorated an event from recent UK history when a large preserved whale was trundled round the country in a very large lorry as a sort of fairground attraction. I had been quite keen to see this as it as advertised as a sort of cabinet of curiosities – but in reality the most curious thing was the fact that anyone bothered to assemble a huge lorry so many floors up.
The cabinets in the back contained some rather delightful glass models of sea anemones, there was a somewhat unlikely narwhal tusk in a case on the wall and a film in what appears to be a trademark Tan style showing a museum collection of preserved aquatic creatures. Overall I found it a bit underwhelming, although I can see that as a modern take on the idea of a cabinet of curiosities it had some traction.
I was rather more interested in the two films showing on the floor below. In one room was Disorient 2009 which according to the catalogue “juxtaposes fantasy and the reality of the trade route between Venice and Asia, with a voiceover comprised solely of evocative quotes from Marco Polo’s 700-year-old book The Travels”. While I didn’t have the time to sit through all of it I found it absolutely fascinating, perhaps because it related so closely to my own ideas in assignment 3 with it’s12th century travelogue contrasting with the images of modern locations on the silk road. It was also twinned with a film which seemed much closer to a cabinet of curiosities – more museum items related to the silk road.
The second film installation Inventory 2012, accompanied by a somewhat eerie soundtrack, was filmed at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London and showed details of his personal collection, which is housed in “one of the most extraordinary public museums in the world”. The sheer quantity of material, packed cheek by jowl in to a relatively small space could not help but generate interesting alignments, and fanciful relationships to keep the imagination running with possible narratives.
I need a closer look at Tan’s work…it seems to have interesting parallels with the work of Mark Dion I blogged in my last post, and both seem to relate to my assignment 5 and to some of the ideas I thinking of taking into my final level (assuming I pass this one). The same holds true for the general philosophy of “cabinets of curiosity” – which is clearly worth some research. I find it more than slightly frustrating that none of this turned up until it was too late to really influence my output on this course, but it does help me contextualise what I’m doing and provide me with some confidence that I’m not completely bonkers.