There’s been a lot of activity here on Artists Talking – so many interesting conversations going on and so many questions being raised. One thing I’ve been thinking about in particular recently is the issue of documentation. When I write about my work, why am I doing it? What’s the point of it? Who am I documenting it for? How much context should I provide for the viewer; how much should I let the work stand alone?

With much of my work, I don’t feel a need to document it. I like to think that it speaks for itself. But for some pieces, the process of recording it is very much a part of the work. This is especially true of 10×10 and I’ve come to realise that it’s the interaction and the narrative behind the exchanges that makes the work what it is.

Despite the great turn out and the many interesting stories that people brought to 10×10 in Hastings, I had found myself feeling a bit reticent about writing it up for my website in the usual way. I started to worry that there are only so many times that you can write about people’s generosity, the thoughtful and considered exchanges and so on. At one point I thought about simply compiling a list of all the exchanges made and leaving it at that.

When it came to compiling the list, however and I thought about all the stories associated with each object, it became clear to me that it wasn’t enough. To exclude the narrative associated with each of the objects would surely be missing the point of 10×10.

To simply state that a hairbrush was swapped for a plate for example, tells you very little. But when you know that the plate had initially been received as a gift from an Iranian asylum seeker and that the hairbrush belonged to the estranged grandfather of a woman who brought it along as an act of penance for not having made her peace with him before he died, the exchange starts to take on a whole new significance. To my mind, it’s the stories behind the objects which make 10×10 infinitely more interesting. And to keep those to myself without documenting it would be to ignore the very essence of the piece.

It would also ignore the amazing generosity of the people I rely upon to make 10×10 happen – without audience participation, after all, 10×10 would simply not exist. The 10×10 cabinet of objects has now been placed in five different venues and each time I’ve had no idea how many people would turn up to take part. I’ve approached each event with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. So far, I’m delighted to say, I haven’t been let down.

For all those reasons, I’ve decided to continue documenting 10×10 and sharing the stories that help to make it what it is. It feels good to be more clear about why I’m doing it.


There wasn’t enough space in my last post to include the titles of two books that people have recently recommended – they’re both well worth a read, especially if like me, you’re interested in the emotional attachments we make to the things that surround us in our everyday lives. I’ve been reading specifically around this theme, partly in response to resurrecting 10×10 over the past couple of weeks but also in preparation for responding to questions currently being sent through to me by artist/curator, Jane Boyer. Jane is interviewing all artists included in her ‘This Me of Mine’ exhibition to be launched in March 2013.

‘Evocative Objects: The Things we Think With’ is a book which was recommended to me some time back – here, on Artists Talking by artist/blogger Elena Thomas. On the surface it’s a book made up of people’s personal accounts of the attachments they make to the various everyday objects featuring in their lives. But the book digs deeper than that and editor, Sherry Turkle teams up the autobiographical essays with comments from philosophers, psychoanalysts and other professionals with great insight. It’s an informative book and I’ve really enjoyed reading it; it’s written in plain English – accessible and easy to read and understand.

Another book that’s really drawn me in came from another recommendation, this time by Graham Crowley – ‘Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris, including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry.’ The title slightly unnerved me – would this be another of those art books I was destined to not ‘get’ – the language being too complex to understand. In fact it’s turned out to be one of the most accessible books on art I’ve ever come across (well, it is primarily photos!) and at less than £3, secondhand on e-bay, it feels like a really good investment.

Created by Canadian artist Leanne Shapton, it takes the form of an auctioneer’s catalogue and offers us amazing insight into the story of a failed romantic relationship – all through short snippets of text and photographs of invented memorabilia and relics belonging to an equally fictional couple. It’s an astounding book, demonstrating brilliantly how the objects we surround ourselves with can say so much about us – our inner emotional world, our social and political standing in society and the external image we present to others. Shapton gets beyond just the love and sex in her portrayal of her fictional couple’s four year relationship and ‘Important Artifacts ..’ becomes a commentary on class, gender, money and branding amongst other things.

The theme of objects and the emotional value we attach to them continues to be very present, then; there’s so much to think about in relation to it at the moment in terms of my work. The story behind the perfume bottle is ready, waiting to be relayed, my responses to Jane’s questions have to be thought about and returned to her and I’m continuing to dig deep into the recesses of those storage boxes in the studio in search of further memorabilia to complete the work I’m submitting for Harry Pye’s exhibition, ‘I Remember’ in November.

It feels like a busy time, though having caught up again with Wendy William’s and Julie Dodd’s blogs over the weekend, it’s all relative! The pressure nevertheless is on to get some artwork made. And I can’t help but wonder – does writing about it all here, help or hinder my practice? I haven’t even started writing up the vintage perfume bottle story yet …







The days move quickly. It’s now two weeks since the 10×10 exchange day took place in Hastings. Objects are very much at the forefront of my mind and I seem to have developed a sharpened awareness of the things around me. Accepting a new intake of objects for the 10×10 cabinet has sparked off memories associated with the things I already own and I’ve been remembering a lot of the stuff I have in storage. I was away from home for five nights, too during the time 10×10 was a part of Coastal Currents in Hastings. It doesn’t sound like a great stretch of time in the grand scheme of things but rather like my studio, I live very closely and intimately with my surroundings. I miss my home environment very much when I’m away, not purely because it’s the place where my loved ones are, but because both aesthetically and emotionally, so much of me is invested in it. It’s the place I love to be, where I feel safe and secure, a place where I can truly be myself.

A whole new dimension has been added to 10×10, aesthetically and in terms of the stories associated with a lot of the things left behind. The objects people bring to it as well as the items they choose to take in exchange are a continual source of fascination to me. I’m interested in what it is about certain objects that make them appeal to certain people and equally curious about the items they bring. If every object tells a story, then 10×10 has become richer in terms of the narratives contained within it.

I wonder sometimes about where the objects which have been taken might have ended up. How do they look in their new environment? Are they on display somewhere or shoved in a cupboard never to see the light of day again? Do people hold onto the object they take away with them or is it discarded?

There are now only three of the original objects from the initial one hundred remaining in the cabinet, two of them, ceramic pomanders (do people know what these are?) and a miniature teapot, part of a child’s china tea set. My ‘ownership’ of the contents of 10×10 has altered considerably since its launch in September 2008. I’ve become the guardian of other peoples’ objects, they’re no longer my own and though I no longer feel any where near the kind of personal attachment to them I had with my own, they are still precious. Wrapped up with other people’s histories, I feel a kind of responsibility for them and I’m keen to safeguard and protect them.

This reminds me of the communication I had with the director of the Museum of Broken Relationships recently. Due to an administrative oversight, I hadn’t received confirmation that a book I’d submitted in the summer was in the Museum’s safe hands. I was bothered by this; despite wanting rid of the book and submitting it for cathartic reasons, it was nevertheless still a sentimental item and I wanted to feel it was being looked after with at least some degree of respect. I got an almost immediate response to ‘rest assured’ that my book was indeed, very much in their safe hands.

I was comforted by this and it’s been a timely reminder that some of the people participating in 10×10 in Hastings might be letting go of so much more than the actual physical object they submit. Certainly, people generally seem to want to know what will happen to their objects when they leave them and are pleased to know that I’ll be holding onto them until the next exchange takes place. Many told me their story attached to their object on the exchange day in Hastings, some wrote in the ledger book provided, while some simply took part in silence. This evening I’m going to be speaking with someone who’s keen to tell me the full story around the beautiful 1930s vintage perfume bottle she left in the 10×10 cabinet; I sensed when she left it that there was a lot of emotion attached; I’m intrigued and excited to be able to hear her story.