On Being Lost

I have realised that being lost is not always such a bad thing. A Mexican artist told me recently that when her children were small, for a family day-out, she would deliberately drive down unknown city streets in order to just become lost – and by doing so find something new to enjoy or somewhere new to discover.

I have already mentioned about being lost in the miles of corridors of the Museum – but often as I have stood wondering which way I should go I realise that I am standing next to something tiny and extraordinary or am in a gallery so vast that I can’t work out how I could have possibly missed it before.

Corridor - Click to enlarge

Equally so, being lost in the catalogue systems of the museum has brought its rewards. The Prints & Drawings Room offers a rare and wonderful opportunity for members of the public to request to see and handle prints, drawings, photographs etc. from the stores of the Museum. The newly commissioned Langlands & Bell clock seems to stand still as one views a single drawing for minutes or hours (as opposed to the few moments often taken to view a work in a gallery).

 Clock, Langlands and Bell, 2004 - Click to enlarge

However, unlike many of the visitors, I arrived without wanting to request any specific item. I knew that I would be interested to see ones that were made to be handled or had a particular sense of touch, others that radically altered according to one’s physical proximity to them as well as items that might demonstrate peculiar combinations of methods and materials or those that suggested some interplay between two and three dimensions would also be of interest. So I started to trawl through the catalogues often overwhelmed by the process yet wanting to see as much as possible in order to understand what was essential to my current work and what might be beneficial in terms of moving it forward.

On-line, printed, typed, microfiche, partially handwritten – as I stumbled through the various systems marking different points in the Museum’s history I have often requested to see an item that has no photographic documentation but only a brief written description. A box arrives and inside, tucked away on the back cover of an album, a girl has been practising her signature; in a folder holding loose drawings an architect has taken a rubbing from the brocade seat of a Jacobean chair; partially hidden at the bottom of another box lies a tiny pair of scissors once used for miniature cut paper work.

Click on thumbnails for larger versions.

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