A number of things have happened over these past few days that keep bringing me back to the theme of collecting – both from my own perspective as I continue the process of sorting through personal possessions and in relation to other people. There’s been so much emphasis on sorting and collecting in these past few week’s posts that I’m starting to get edgy about making some art.
Last Monday I was emailed an article on the BBC website about mass consumerism and the ever growing storage business – about the amount of stuff we own nowadays in comparison to in the past and the growing success of the storage industry. The person who sent me the link has seen firsthand how I often struggle with guilt about the amount of stuff I own. It’s not uncommon for collectors to feel embarassed – seemingly greedy and materialistic and appearing to be in a perpetual state of want, want, wanting. The reality of collecting is in fact, often far removed from this – people amass certain collections for a whole host of reasons but are rarely concerned with the monetary worth of things in my experience.
Space of course, is always going to be an issue for anyone with any sort of significant collection – and especially when it comes down to sharing space with other people. I’ve been reminded of a 1990s tv series, a ‘Sign Of The Times’ recently. It was a kind of fly-on-the wall documentary about the way British people kept their homes. It had its critics, some feeling the makers patronised the people they made the programmes about, but my recollection of it is simply as a fascinating and entertaining show.
I remember one episode in particular when space came up as a real issue for a young woman moving into her boyfriend’s already well-established home. The camera captured her boyfriend’s rather unimpressed reaction to having to accommodate her vast collection of soft toy animals. He clearly hated them and didn’t want them invading his home; she clearly loved them and had no intention of letting them go. The problem he had with the bundles of (fake) fur wasn’t just about good versus bad taste in this instance – it was also about the amount of actual physical space they took up in an already cramped flat.
Having read the BBC article, I found myself thinking about the amount of stuff I own and the amount of space it takes up; I was coming to the conclusion that a lot of it might be unneccesary.
But then, the very next day, I visited the Haim Steinbach and the Martino Gamper shows at the respective Serpentine Galleries, Hyde Park, London. Amazing exhibitions – so inspiring, both of them.
The collections of Haim Steinbach were a visual feast for the eyes as far as I was concerned. I spent ages in the gallery – completely enthralled by so many of his personally selected objects and relating to so many of them in so many ways. I was fascinated too, by the imaginative and diverse ways in which both he and Martino Gamper chose to display their collections. I even spotted a twin to my own George Best figure amongst the objects Gamper had selected from friends and colleagues. (My George Best features in my ongoing ‘In My Life’ piece, shown in the ‘I Remember’ show in 2012. George featured very much in my life, in the shape of a 1960s schoolgirl crush).
Seeing the respective Steinbach and Gamper exhibitions convinced me that it was okay to collect what I have and that I was right to be cautious about discarding things. I came away from the Serpentine galleries believing that if space was no object, then I’d keep just about every single thing I currently own.
Talk about contrasts and polarising my thoughts around the big question I so often ask myself – what do I let go of and what do I keep? There’s no definitive answer to that question, really – if space wasn’t an issue, I daresay I wouldn’t want to get rid of anything at all.
Seeing the shows has inspired me and I’m getting excited about what feels like a new burst of creativity on the horizon. Well, let’s hope so, anyway – Easter’s just passed after all, with its references to rebirth, hope over despair and so on.