The Cabinets of Curiosity project examines the History of Collecting over the centuries, from Early Modern, to 19th Century to Contemporary. Dr Hannah Young is currently undertaking research that seeks to uncover some of the unexplored histories of the V&A, which in many respects became a large-scale nineteenth-century ‘cabinet of curiosity’. In particular, she is investigating some of the links between British slave-ownership and the development of the museum. Her research focuses on absentee slave-owners who used their wealth, rooted in the exploitation of enslaved people, to invest in collections in the metropole. Objects that were once collected by absentees and their descendants can now be found throughout the museum.
Why Involve an Artist in Residence?
There are multiple histories (our histories) that are hidden in plain sight within our collections. Such a wealth of stories, voices and lives that surfacing these and even knowing where to begin, can be challenging. We want to open up a new dialogue around our collections and so it’s vital that we have these conversations beyond academia.
Artists are often better able to ask questions beyond historical ones. Inviting an artist to interrogate how this history has (and has not) been remembered and how the legacies of this history continue to shape the world we live in today can help change the way we think about the museum collections.
We had an amazing response to our open call, from so many talented artists that selecting the right person for the project was incredibly hard. However, I am now delighted to announce that we have selected Victoria Adukwei Bully.
Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a British-born Ghanaian poet, writer and filmmaker based in London. Her work explores memory and cultural heritage – their loss and (re)creation – from a diasporic vantage point. Engaging with archival texts in addition to oral and indigenous histories, her practice posits memory as a form of creative activism which seeks to revivify bodies of knowledge that face erasure.
An alumna of the Barbican Young Poets programme, Victoria’s work has been commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts, in addition to featuring on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. She was shortlisted for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2016, and is a Complete Works Poetry fellow. Her debut pamphlet, Girl B, edited by Kwame Dawes, forms part of the 2017 New-Generation African Poets series. Victoria is the director of MOTHER TONGUES, a poetry translation and film initiative supported by Arts Council England and visual arts charity Autograph ABP.
We are excited to be working with her and cant wait to share the work with you as it progresses.