Story of Objects update – film collage & callout

The Story of Objects represents a return to practice, not in making objects, but in discussing them. SOO has evolved both from my work as a visual arts producer and my thinking as an artist, accompanied by a deep interest in how we engage with art.

I am intrigued by how visitors encounter art in non-gallery locations so have mostly worked in the public realm. How we talk to people about art both inside and outside galleries is imperative to our understanding of it. Yet ask someone to talk about something they keep and love they will talk endlessly, and very coherently, about it.

I became fascinated in how the term ‘curate’ is so loosely used these days – we curate essays, poems, websites, plants. And many TV programmes tell us how to display our objects in our homes – how to ‘curate’ things. So I started asking people about their objects in their homes, why are they grouped like that? Where did they get them from? What did these things mean to them? Most importantly, why do they keep it?

I found myself deeply absorbed in material culture – Daniel Miller’s books allowed me to step into another discipline, as did conversations with contemporary archaeologists. The idea for the Story of Objects began to take shape. I’ve talked to lots of people, from several disciplines:

  • Contemporary archaeologists
  • Museum specialist
  • Curators
  • Artists
  • Health providers
  • Members of the public
  • Producers – for arts and radio
  • Digital providers and app developers
  • Academics

Most recently I have hosted a number of trans-faculty conversations at De Montfort University, and thank them for their support and input.

Two years later I am still developing my thinking. I’ve collated a number of 30-second films together, which you can see below and on my YouTube Channel. It’s great to see them collated like this and I am now motivated to put out another call for films.

I’m also working towards producing a scattered-site exhibition, commissioning artists who will be invited to stories of the objects that they keep and gain inspiration from. As always, don’t expect to see these artworks in a gallery space, they will be somewhere deemed appropriate for the work and the concept.

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Jonathan Jones talks about reassuring rubbish – I think the objects we own tell wonderful stories about people & places

Jonathan Jones has written a piece about an exhibition in New York about collections and collectors. It looks fascinating. The headline for his text is “New York art show The Keeper celebrates our poetic obsession with objects, but how many of us simply surround ourselves with familiar, reassuring rubbish?”

I beg to differ. It all depends on the context. If the context is a high profile art exhibition of objects that have been curated with quirkiness and value in mind, then maybe he is right. But if the context is a genuine investigation into how we relate to some of the objects we choose to keep, and the stories they tell of our personal history, our family’s and lives, then the objects we keep are far more than reassuring rubbish. They map our genealogy.

My research into the Story of Objects is revealing some fascinating insights into what these talismanic objects can hold for people.  They speak of our past and they also possess a future, which interestingly, few refer to unless asked. Yet people often leave objects in their wills to their loved ones, but do they tell their story to the recipients? Often, without the associated narrative, those precious things become yet another orphaned object, to be dropped off at the local charity shop as soon as the funeral is over.

In doing workshops with young and old, rarely does anyone struggle to think of a special object they own. Never have they refused to tell me why it is important to them and when they do tell me it is often the first time they have articulated that story, to anyone, ever.

I’m looking deeper into this phenomena and one of the things I’m exploring is how to capture the elements of those stories visually – not as art, not as catalogue, but as a visual record of their narrative. I’m piloting the thinga.me app and below is my first try at storyboarding with it. It is quite limited, but efficient. I’m inclined to more pared-down with my visuals, as my own graphic identity suggests. But it’s worth exploring and testing it.

This board is about something I have used for many things, a found object retrieved from a burnt out garage of a house that became my parents much-loved home. A glass bowl that has, in its lifetime, lived on a dressing table, held screws in a garage, contained earrings and now holds coconut cream.  It is a beautiful thing and a pleasure to handle – the glass is fine, the bevelled edges delicate. The silver top is dented yet still clips onto the rim securely.

It may literally hold things as a vessel, for utilitarian purposes, but it also holds memories of my parents favourite home. My parents bought it following a serious house fire and the old lady that had lived there was taken to a safer place to live.  My father died in Clematis Cottage and it was right that he should. My mother stayed for as long as she could, until she moved out just as the previous owner had.

This little pot is not just a memory of my parents home, it is also a connection to my past. It is a conduit for emotions.

I’ve tried to connect both people and places in the storyboard – am not sure it says as much as it should. I’d appreciate feedback if anyone has any.

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Story of Objects as a learning tool – changing the way we think about ‘things’

The recent research I have done has revealed that talking about objects we love, shared within a small group of people in a safe environment, can be life-changing (at its best) and very enjoyable (at its least).

It is a great way to develop storytelling techniques and to express our feelings and intellectual approach to understanding the objects we encounter in life. Most particularly, for my own practice in the arts sector, it is a way of talking about things, including art, in a new way.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain to another person why we keep something close to us forever. Sometimes it’s equally difficult to understand why we fall in love with a painting, or feel engaged by an artwork that we don’t think we even understand. Some art shuts us out in some way – we can’t even find an opening to approach it. It leaves us cold. We walk away without trying to understand it.

How can we develop tools that can help us to pursue the curiosity that art so often stimulates?

How can we see things differently?

As an adult education tutor many years ago my greatest achievement was to know that some people felt I had helped them ‘to see the world differently’.

It still makes me smile to type that.

The Story of Objects can help to do that too.

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20 days since last blogpost – busy times!

Where does the time go? Here I am doing a blog post on a Bank Holiday Monday, just because I can, and because, for a few hours, the sun has been low key too….

I’m writing a lot lately, so I’ve been updating my website a little to reflect that shift – regular visitors might note that texts have even been promoted further up my menu!

I’m very aware that writing has become more of a priority for me in 2016. It is ten years since I moved to the Forest of Dean, a good time to look back, gather, learn and head forward. It’s always fascinating, and useful, to reflect upon how things evolve over time. I have written a piece about my journey with writing for the VASW website.

Last year I enjoyed being a writer in residence for Double Elephant Printmakers, this year I’ve produced commissioned pieces for a-n and for the Summer 2016  issue of the  Four Seasons hotel in-house magazine.

I’d love to do more wordsmith commissions – just drop me a line if you need one. Creating an ‘opinion piece’ for the Four Seasons Hotel magazine was a very enjoyable experience, because I had a free rein and some excellent editorial support to help me adjust to the house style and readership demographic.

Following a trip to South West Ireland last week, I’ve been in a very contemplative place. Last week I walked for miles in Schull and absorbed this view. I’ve also increased my private writing, which is ongoing, in the form of poems and the modification of a particular novel. I’m still shy about these things, but if you are interested, I will share a poem with you, privately. It was an emotional trip for me.

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Yesterday I enjoyed these roots high above Monmouth….roots and views….images and words….

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Call for host venues for The Story of Objects – the next phase – workshops

 

SOO yellow bar logo longJust a quick note to get you thinking over the weekend – I’m looking for hosts for the next phase of the Story of Objects – maybe it’s you?

The Story of Objects to date has very much been about ‘show and tell’ sessions, for research purposes.  The overarching vision – to create a social media network for things – is still underpinning all activity. However, the encounters have been rich and rewarding for many people.

One set of themes that came up again and again were inherited objects from family members that  relate to making or creating something. All sorts of tools and materials, artefacts and childhood memories.

I’ve been exploring how to work with the stories you’ve shared with me – there are the 30second shorts on Youtube; the Flash Fiction pieces on Medium and even a Story of Cake! The Facebook page shares news about the projects and also about other interesting object-stories from around the world – all food for thought.

The next phase will involve workshops – and I invite you to contact me if you’d like to discuss this for your organisation. I’m shaping the programme now and have some great ideas developing from the conversations so far. Each partner/collaborator is welcome to get in touch now to explore how the framework can work for you and your audiences. It is currently flexible and adaptable, which is another of features and benefits of the programme structure.

If appropriate, where a making activity is not right for the object theme, there will be an option to book a talk/presentation by a practitioner or specialist for the subject area.

I’d love to hear from arts organisations, museums, heritage organisations, material culture people, ethnographers, archaeologists and historians. Also, studios for woodworking, metal working, potteries, forges, printmaking studios, musical instrument workshops, anyone who makes – oo, and I may need a chef too!

Get in touch by email (carolyn@fkowprojects.org.uk), phone or message me via the Facebook page.

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The Story of Objects is now on Medium – do share yours

The more I talk to people about the Story of Objects project, the more I recognise that it is a fantastic tool for creative thinking and writing. This is an invitation to test that idea out – why not stretch your writing muscles and take a few photos of something you keep close to you, write about it, tell the reader what it is, why you love it, where you got it from, where you keep it?

Have fun with the idea – let yourself explore the facts, feel free to insert some fiction. I made a cake that inspired a story (well a beginning of one) – if you have a great idea for an ending for that please feel free.

Here’s where you can see  the Publication page – if you need help doing it drop me an email – I’m no expert but am learning!

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how to make a 30 second video for The Story of Objects project – learn how on youtube

The Story of Objects playlist is to share 30 second video clips of people telling the Story of THEIR Objects.

We all own things that we keep with us as we travel through our lives – often little things that we anticipate we will keep forever. Sometimes we may be parted from them, and they may change ownership, for whatever reason.

Flow Contemporary Arts is doing some research into the stories of those objects with a view to developing a way of harvesting them.

But for now, Carolyn invites you to contribute the story of YOUR favourite object/s.

Watch the How To Create Your The Story Of Objects in 30 seconds video to find out how.

Be creative!!!!

When you’ve made your film, if you could put it in Dropbox and share the link, or send it to me by youtransfer or similar would be great…..email flowcontemporaryarts@gmail.com

I appreciate not everyone knows how to work with video fles – they are big and cannot be emailed easily. If you live local to me I can come and collect them on a drive, or even do your film for you – just get in touch.

thanks