It’s taken a while, but my 10×10 project is back on the road. Thanks to Anthony Roberts of Colchester Arts Centre and Jenny & Holly of the award winning Hunt & Darton cafe, I was invited to take 10×10 to firstsite Colchester.

For anyone who’s not familiar with the 10×10 project, the history of it is here… http://www.katemurdochartist.com/ten_by_ten.html

Last Saturday I installed the 10×10 cabinet, put the 100 objects left at the end of the previous exchange in Hastings in their correct places, sealed them behind a perspex screen and left them for the people of Colchester to view until exchange day, this coming Saturday January 31st.

It’s always an interesting experience unwrapping the objects. I remember a lot of the narrative associated with the various items as I place them into their respective boxes. Certain people are called to mind and I’m reminded that these 100 objects are no longer mine. Just a couple of the original objects from 2008 are left (both ceramic pomanders, coincidentally) and I’ve now become a custodian of what other people have brought (and will bring) to the cabinet. 10×10 is an ever changing creation, made by the people who have contributed to it.

Since leaving the cabinet in Colchester – excited about it being in its first ‘proper’ gallery and grateful to the generous, welcoming Hunt & Darton cafe team – I’ve been wondering about what people will make of it and its contents. It’s big! – nearly two metres square – and though I was concerned about the perspex when it was first suggested by curators at the Herne Bay museum, it seems to give the objects a sense of grandeur. A used make-up case, a dried out highlighter pen, the four or five pens that have been left, for example have taken on a different kind of meaning behind a screen; the value of the individual items somehow appear to be heightened by the perspex.

Issues around value and worth come up a lot in my work, especially in relation to the objects I’ve collected over the years – a lot of tat, rubbish, kitsch junk on the one hand, but unique and precious indicators of social and cultural history on the other. In 10×10 it’s often the sentiment behind why they’re left and the stories and emotional associations attached to any given object that give them their true value. The small stub of a used yellow candle nearly always comes to mind when I think about this and, in response to a conversation I had about it with Hilary Wilce, an education correspondent and a trustee of the amazing organisation People United, she wrote this:

On Saturday a tiny stub of ancient yellow candle sat in one box. An international student had come to see the cabinet, then returned to claim a fat, decorative candle that someone had left and leave his last inch of burnt-candle. He was living without electricity and had only a candle for light – a wrenching little cameo about how it is to struggle in the cracks of society.”

There isn’t always a story attached to the objects left for exchange in the 10×10 boxes, but the narrative around the small yellow candle stub sums up perfectly for me so many of the issues around value and worth that continue to fascinate me. It takes me back to the questions that I asked at the very start of 10×10, when I let go of 100 objects that meant something to me:

What is an object worth to you? How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give up in return? Will it be people’s generosity or meanness that triumphs when it comes to the value of the objects that are bartered? Will the piece be ‘worth more’ at the end of the process?

Let’s see how the people of Colchester respond. And if you happen to be in the area this Saturday, here are the details.


1 Comment