Above Image: © Jane Wildgoose 2009; All else my own.
Knowledge is a dangerous and unstable pursuit. In history and fiction it carries a health warning: Pandora unleashed all the troubles of the world when she lifted the lid of a particularly intriguing box. But from Adam and Eve to Bluebeard’s Castle, Icarus to the Manhattan Project, the prohibition against curiosity has been ignored. Pandora’s Box invites the visitor to inquire within – come what may...The Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London--one of my favorite natural history museums!--has a rather exciting looking exhibition coming up. One of the participants is none other than Jane Wildgoose, photographer and keeper of the fabulous Wildgoose Memorial Library (you can see one of her lovely photos, to be featured in the exhibition, above, top); the other is a lovely artist I met recently in London named Amanda Schiff, whose artwork--entitled "While Sleeping, Watch!"--is featured in Wildgoose's photo beneath the skeleton.
As you can see by the other photos--taken myself over a series of perfectly ordinary, everyday visits to the Grant--this cabinet-like museum is something of a wunderkammer even without the addition of an art installation, and promises to be a perfect setting for a project of this scope. Can't wait to see the final product!
Pandora's Box: Curiosity and the Dangerous Pursuit of KnowledgeTo find out more, click here. To visit the Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London website, click here. To find out more about Jane Wildgoose and her library, click here. Please click on images to see larger, more detailed versions; you can see more photos of the here. Also, thanks so much to friend and friend-of-the-blog Natasha McEnroe for allowing me to poke around the museum and stores with my camera, and for alerting me to this wonderful looking exhibition!
Box assemblages and cabinets of curiosities by Amanda Schiff
Photographs by Jane Wildgoose
February 15th- June 11th 2010
Like a twenty first century alchemist, artist, filmmaker and writer Amanda Schiff transforms abandoned and forgotten objects into intriguing and unsettling narratives.
In her new installation at the Grant Museum of Zoology, Schiff, who describes herself as an excavator of ephemera, explores her fascination with things that have survived ‘by chance or miracle.’ In Pandora's Box she takes these orphaned objects, whose makers are long dead and whose purpose is outworn or forgotten, saturates them with fictional narratives and arranges them in a series of boxes. The resulting assemblages, constructed with a filmmaker’s eye for detail and a writer’s love of tall tales, are beguiling, and on occasion, sinister. They inhabit the ambiguous world of fairytales: superficially playful, with an unsettling underscore of dark secrets and obsessive interests.
Knowledge is a dangerous and unstable pursuit. In history and fiction it carries a health warning: Pandora unleashed all the troubles of the world when she lifted the lid of a particularly intriguing box. But from Adam and Eve to Bluebeard’s Castle, Icarus to the Manhattan Project, the prohibition against curiosity has been ignored. Pandora’s Box invites the visitor to inquire within – come what may. A cast of characters emerges: some identified in accompanying short stories, others hinted at by the cabinets of curiosities that they have made of their lives. The viewer, it soon becomes clear, is the missing element; their imagination is being called upon to complete the picture and resurrect the stories.
There are also new site-specific works in the Museum, investigating the convergence of alchemy and natural philosophy with the sciences during the Renaissance. Jane Wildgoose’s atmospheric and beautiful photographs of the boxes, taken with natural light in intriguing locations, provide context and further layers to the stories and images.
Amanda Schiff is a film producer, writer and lecturer in screenwriting. Her first exhibition was We are Shadows: Metamorphosis, Curiosities, Dark Tales at Eleven Spitalfields in June 2009. Her long film industry career has included stints at Columbia Pictures, the NFDF, Goldcrest and an eight-year partnership with producer Barbara Broccoli at Astoria Pictures, where they produced Crime of The Century. She graduated with an MA in Creative writing from Birkbeck, University of London. She is currently writing a novel and co-writing screenplays. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Wildgoose is a NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) Fellow, artist, photographer, broadcaster and writer with a background in stage and film design. Since 2003 she has been Keeper of the Wildgoose Memorial Library, and is currently developing projects with museums in the UK and the US. www.janewildgoose.co.uk
Images: Top image: a photo to be included in the exhibition, featuring an artwork by Amanda Schiff entitled "While Sleeping, Watch!," © Jane Wildgoose 2009; all other images taken by myself over various everyday visits to the Grant Museum.