I am interested in the way objects are used to convey a narrative in Cornelia Parker’s work. Twenty Years of Silver consists of two silver goblets, which her friend was given as a wedding present. The marriage has since broken down, and the two goblets were never polished since they were received. Parker describes the constant accumulation of tarnish as the element she is exhibiting. Parker is also known to have exhibited handkerchiefs showing traces of tarnish (like Turin shrouds), left behind when polishing famous historical objects, for example, Henry VII’s suit of armour.
I am considering gently cleaning my Great Great Grandfather’s and relative Michale Connolly’s medals, and keeping the tarnish on a cloth in a way similar to Parker. The medals would have been held by my relatives and in a way completely discarding the traces of wear feels disrespectful. I am interested in the conflict between preservation of objects, and the natural deterioration of them over time.
I have been researching family history from my paternal grandmother’s side. I have always been interested in objects with a history behind them, whether something displayed and preserved in a museum cabinet, or ephemeral postcards with handwritten memoirs on them. In a way, I personify the object, viewing it as a glimpse into the past, and forming a link between the previous owners and the present. The object acts as a witness to the passing of time and outliving several generations. I have been looking through a couple of bags full of objects and ephemera passed through my family.
One small velvet lined box contains military documents, badges, and medals dating from the first World War. There are also a couple of small metropolitan police medals from 1897 commemorating the service of officers on duty during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria. Another medal from 1902 is for officers on duty during the Coronation of Edward VII.
Through family stories backed up with genealogy research, I know that these are the medals belonging to my Great, Great Grandfather, George Elbby Smith. He was later enlisted during World War One and was a Staff Seargent with the Mechanical Transport Army Service Corps, in London until his death from dysentery in Fulham Military Hospital in 1918.
The other military medals and military forms are from another relative, Michael Connelly, who was part of the King’s Scottish Borderers. One of the medals is inscribed with his name. I have also been able to view copies of documents online which reveal some information about his military life. Interestingly, some of these documents have been damaged by fire, so only fragments remain.
As part of my contextual research and influences, I have looked into the work of Boltanski, particularly the way in which black and white photographs have been displayed to evoke specific emotional responses to the viewer. Narratives within Boltanski’s work are alluded to, yet these are often not factually correct, and instead become a fictional story created by his placement and selection of images, and titles. I am interested in the narratives created, as well as the way photographs have been used to form an installation. His works trace the lives of lost and forgotten people, and feel almost like a memorial, yet sometimes the photographs are taken from newspapers and this creates a sense of unspecialised mourning, an atmosphere evoking sadness yet not focussing on the story of a specific individual’s life.