Pandemic Pondering #250

How to celebrate #250, maybe by a good old ponder that links some random thoughts and pictures.  Yesterday’s blog about my volunteer shift at The Box confirmed to my own rules of blogging about volunteering at the new Museum and Art gallery. Namely that I would only talk about the spaces as I experienced them, and got to know them well enough to natter usefully.

Steps and stairs at The Box

Small stairs rather than big steps. Illustrated here by the entrance to the all important shop. I like to know what I’m pondering about and it introduces the museum to the blog in bitesize chunks as I learn. There are some tough subjects in some of the galleries.

I was an avid attender of the old museum and art gallery and had some lovely times there with my children and also with my parents when they visited from Essex. I had a tiny moment of sadness yesterday when I saw this door furniture; all shiny, retro and, to many people, insignificant.

This door furniture would have been used by everyone who ever left the old museum. My dad would have used this handle to  proudly hold the door open while I manhandled, or woman handled, the pushchair holding his precious grandchildren, after visits to the museum on rainy days. Hannah’s parents would have visited and used this door on many occasions. I miss them all and wish we could share this new experience with them . I’m only pondering this sad connection because so many people I spoke to yesterday felt the same about the restored old parts of the museum. Many got glassy- eyed when talking about their love for the old building , reminiscing about past visits with families, now deceased. The magnificence and quality of the restoration inspired some lovely stories.

I suppose this blog is about the insignificant textures of a building and their importance. The bar at The Box has a beautiful texture and it was lovely to see small people touching it with such evident pleasure yesterday, even if in these Covid-19 times it is not to be encouraged. I hope visitors love this new museum as much as the old one was and that it too becomes entwined in collective family memories.

Pandemic Pondering #249

Another Box pondering.Today I was volunteering in North Hall. Originally the main entrance/ foyer of the old museum and now the hub of the museum. Everyone passes through North Hall and many people do exactly that, they pass through North Hall , noses buried deep in their museum plan, anxious to get to the gallery of their choice. Some pause for nostalgia remembering this hall as children or as the parents of children, revisiting the memories of the old museum. North Hall currently holds a piece of Contemporary Sculpture named Figurehead II by its creator Alexandre du Cunha. To not pay it attention is a waste of a revealing art moment.

Toe to toe with Figurehead II

From the picture above it is hard to even see a piece of contemporary art. And yet this picture really simply shows a relationship between contemporary art, craftsmanship, and decorative art.

I want to call Figurehead II a monolith, but it is not in one piece and not truly made of stone. It is Monolithesque and created from 4 mass produced concrete drainage pipes. It is an ordinary object repurposed as a sculpture , repurposed because it has holes gauged out of the sides of the segments of drainage pipe and a sculpture because it stands, out of context, within an art gallery. It is a ready made piece of art like Deschamps Urinal entitled Fountain, just a little further down the drain chain. It can never be a drainage pipe again. Set within the original Victorian entrance foyer and stairway, the sculpture captures attention. In some ways incongruous but actually a dominating, beautiful concrete tower. Tactile and interactive it invites visitors to explore it with hands and eyes. It teases the adventurously minded to clamber in and pose for companions to photograph them, framed by it’s grey concrete edges. It directs your eyes to the Victorian staircase and landing and in some views the circles pick up the detail of a fifteenth century ceiling panel.

Here is my humble opinion as to why this is such a simple art lesson. Explaining where this piece of contemporary art sits with decorative art and crafsmanship. The concrete pipe is a mass produced manufactured item. Where the holes have been carved out you can see the construction ingredients of stones and cement. Sitting, as it does, on the original museums Victorian decorative floor. It is immediately obvious how similar in construction the two things are, and yet the decorative floor just ‘ is’ a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Intriguingly the concrete pipe occludes the markings that gave the decorative star a purpose. It is actually the points of a compass but without the letters denoting direction being visible it has been stripped of any usefulness. Without purpose it doesn’t exactly excite your mind to think around it. Figurehead II , love it or loath it, makes you think in all sorts of ways and that,in my opinion, is the point of this piece of contemporary art.

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