Uncontained

hybrid objects, subject objects,

have a quality

of intimacy

Bachelard, G. The Poetics of Space

Dear Madam,

I write to you once more with regard to your expectations as the heir to your aunt’s possessions.  This circumstance would have conveyed both sorrow at the loss and interest as to your potential gain. For the latter however, I must advise against undue optimism: your aunt’s fragile remnants comprised little of value.

Her material possessions were folded in a suitcase, which, at your behest, we have taken the liberty of opening. The odour of rust was quite overpowering and I fear the fabric will not endure, even if we were not minded to take the course of action which I will humbly propose.

The contents defied understanding but might have hinted at a darkness of the soul, if we were to assume that the items were the products of her hands. A sepia composition implied a dark, conspiratorial world in which men of the cloth and members of the gentry, and including men of law such as myself, were esteemed to be some considerable distance from salvation, which was reserved for those of a lower class. More disturbing was a type of handmade doll that some of our missionary brethren have witnessed amongst savages. You would no doubt wonder at how your aunt might have made acquaintance with such practices and be inclined to postulate a more innocent interpretation, but I am afraid there was some evidence, which I will not put down in writing, of a more sinister meaning. There is also some indifferent handwork, lacking finish, and with motifs belonging to a somewhat different genre to those which normally grace the teatray, and needlework of a good quality, but which has been defaced with imagery that is scarcely more pleasing to the eye than that of the tablewear.  On a more conventional level, there are signs of your aunt’s thrift in a number of patchwork cloths with unusual motifs. Your aunt also seems to have evinced an interest in geography, although maps are of a strange landscape, of no familiar provenance. 

In short, dear Madam, the collection is of a strange nature, and has an air of something unpleasant. As material it is unfit even for dishrags. Unless my account of the contents has stirred some intelligence and suggested a value that I have not discerned, I would suggest that, on your authorization, this bundle of aged and stained cloth be destroyed.

I will await your further instructions, and be assured, madam, of my sincere wishes to be of assistance in this regard.

Your servant

J.M. Wilson

Compass: etching on paper
Poem, Washed Up, on rusted cloth

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3 thoughts on “Uncontained

  1. This was my favourite room so I’ll leave my comment here.

    Particularly evocative for me is the Book of Sleep and Dreaming, there’s something about the folding and sound of the fabric that recalls momentos of long dead relatives, separated in boxes by thin tissue paper, it’s comforting and yet speaks of loss. I also like the Poem, Washed Up, on rusted cloth. You don’t actually need to be able to read the poem to take meaning from the piece, it’s symbolic as the remains of a human being expressing themselves in poetry but layered with the marks of time, I’m attracted to the materiality of the torn pillow case and the rusty nail marks, just a personal thing.

    Reading the letter from JM Wilson reminded me of Christian Watt with it’s very limited idea of how a woman should behave (sane or insane); ‘A sepia composition implied a dark, conspiratorial world in which men of the cloth and members of the gentry, and including men of law such as myself, were esteemed to be some considerable distance from salvation, which was reserved for those of a lower class’. How dare she have an independent mind!

    Christian Watt’s story also reminds me of the story of Mary Francis Heaton who was sent to an asylum in Doncaster in 1837 for challenging the vicar, during his sermon, about the money he owed her for tutoring his children, she never got out and was buried in a pauper’s grave.

    I have to confess that I am a mature student of the OCA (since 2007) who is just embarking on Sustaining Your Practise and I missed your chat with Doug Barton the other night but made a point of looking at your website and exhibition which I find very thought provoking. It has really made me enthusiastic about staging an on-line exhibition and of putting together a more worked out website to showcase my work. There are several points where your thinking and work cross over with mine in that I am interested in personal identity, how we evidence it and how it is performed and contested in the real world. I use myself as a case study with autobiographical writing and collages of memorabilia contained within found books.

    ‘Inheritance and identity, independence, possession and self possession, goods and titles, physical tokens of an individuals place on the earth’ is something you said that I wrote down and have been mulling over and will continue to do so. What I’d be really interested in reading is your essay and your categorisation of objects, if that’s possible I’d be grateful, if not then I understand.

    My father died whilst I was completing my previous level 3 courses and I skirted round the issue with my own work, apart from finding comfort in some of your work (I don’t have the words to explain that yet) It has made me feel ready to re-examine aspects of his life and my sense of loss. Thanks.
    Simon

    PS. Describing Brexit as a family tragedy is absolutely right

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    1. This is a beautiful comment Simon, thank you so much. I will look at your work on your blog and respond more fully. I’m really interested to see how you deal with similar topics.
      Meanwhile, if you are interested in my essay, it’s on my blog:
      uncontainedsite.wordpress.com

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  2. I found the essay thanks, I’ve also found a copy of The Poetics of Space which my son left after he’d finished his degree in Fine Art at Brighton, I knew there was a reason I hadn’t thrown it away. Your very welcome to look at my blog although I must warn you I mainly wrote it for myself rather than the general public, in particular my frustrations with my research tutor and where she left me at the end of the course are perhaps not me at my best. Your website and exhibition are very impressive and just keep doing what you’re doing, I think that’s the important thing, I hope I can bring it all together with the completion of my final course as well as you’ve done. All the best Simon.

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