This is a blog post originally published on my website http://soniaboue.co.uk

I publish it here and now to create a forum for artists working with objects to join me. Send me posts, links to articles anything of relevance to the furtherance of our understanding of how and why objects form the core of our practices. In my view – a museum can also constitute a repository of ideas and information. We can build the museum as we go.

I look forward to hosting your ideas and all submissions will be welcome.

 

Until recently I hadn’t thought that there could be museums wandering the earth seeking shelter from the elements, their collections endangered, uncatalogued, and at risk of imminent dispersal. Don’t all museums have a building, curators, attendants and plenty of visitors for company? Well no. Some museums live in our cupboards and imaginations, awaiting their moment of arrival. So it was with my idea for a Museum for Object Research.

I have major plans for Barcelona in a Bag to create an online museum dedicated to the experience of exile and the objects that remain from the homeland and those that are remembered. This takes up a great deal of my time and my thoughts. I am in an intensive phase of research and development, which I hope will one day yield results.

This work, forms part of a greater scheme, the desire to truly understand our relationship with objects through a cross disciplinary approach, consulting with the public, artists and academics alike. I have a department reserved for autistic perspectives, which I believe are important in developing ideas about the significance of objects. So my museum has come home. No more wandering or wondering. A museum, I am finding can begin with an idea, which once published becomes concrete.

Join me in building it!


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Press Release

The Museum for Object Research

– a project born out of an autistic practice.

– Press Release/ Phase 1

The Museum for Object Research has been granted Arts Council funding for research and development.

The Museum for Object Research (MfOR) launched on a-n blogs in 2014 as an innovative online forum for object artists to share resources and develop a network of like minded practitioners. MfOR quickly sparked the interest and enthusiasm of a core group of professional artists who form a unique community around object work as practice.

Objects as cultural signifiers and material memory comprise the artistic focus of the Museum’s work.

The MfOR blog was originated by artist Sonia Boué, who also leads the Museum’s pioneering initiative to create a template for her work as an autistic arts professional. Artist and educator, Elena Thomas is MfOR’s project co-lead and key to the development of MfOR in its current form.

MfOR is an inclusive collaboration, whose work on autistic leadership seeks to develop best practice outcomes.

We seek partners committed to inclusion and diversity for dialogue, venue spaces, and conference participation. We are keen to explore areas of intersection with other minority groups.

The culmination of this initial phase will be our Arts Council funding bid for MfOR – Phase 2. Exhibition, day conference, artists talks, workshops, publications and a project film are included in our plans.

MfOR is based in Birmingham, Oxford and online.

MfOR Team:

Sonia Boué – project lead/ artist

Elena Thomas – project lead/ artist

Simon Meddings – design

Sarah Mossop – curation

Laura Rhodes – film/ photography

Dr Jacqueline Taylor – research/ conference planning/artist

Kate Murdoch – artist researcher

MfOR Collaboration:

Sonia Boué

Sonia is an autistic multiform artist, creative project developer and manager whose recent work includes a film collaboration with Tate Britain.

Her practice encompasses paint, assemblage, video and performance. Objects form the springboard for the many branches of her work, which is concerned with themes of exile and displacement, with particular reference to family history and the Spanish Civil War. A background in Art History and Art Therapy informs her practice.

Born in Birmingham to an exiled Spanish Republican, she grew up between cultures. Family visits to Spain during the final decade of the Franco dictatorship form the bedrock of her practice as she continues to unpack her grandmother’s handbag.

www.soniaboue.co.uk

Her writing on autism can be found on, The Other Side

Elena Thomas

Elena Thomas is a multiform artist and songwriter, creative project developer and manager. She has exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work comprises textiles, installation, performance and song.

Her object inspired practice encompasses touch, both physical & emotional, and the traces of influence of one person on another that are implicit in the objects and garments left behind. Imagined narratives are manifested in the stitching and the songs.

She has collaborated with producer and songwriter Dan Whitehouse on her recent Arts Council Funded Nine Women project.

Her blog writing on Threads forms a large part of her reflective practice and can be found at elenathomas.co.uk

Exhibiting  Artists

Neil Armstrong

Sonia Boué

Dawn Cole

Jenni Dutton

Dave Edwards

Ruth Geldard

Patrick Goodall

Kate Murdoch

Dr Jacqueline Taylor

Elena Thomas

 

 


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This is a painting by my father, José García Lora, painted eleven years into his life-long exile from Spain, due to the Spanish Civil War. My father died in 1989, and it is one of the most precious objects I own. My mother gave it to me for the Barcelona in a Bag project back in 2013. It formed part of my residency – from which the entire project evolved – in our studios project space, Filament 14.

And then it vanished.

Distraught that I had somehow thrown it out in one of my studio clear-outs, I failed to find it. No matter how many boxes I looked in or how deeply I poked about in the corners of the studio rafters, I just couldn’t locate it.

Cursing my absent-mindedness, I believed the worst of myself. I had thrown dad’s (only?) painting away. But I said nothing. Too ashamed in part, yet ever hopeful that I surely could not have been so very, very foolish, and that some day it would return.

Dreadful pangs of grief and anxiety pierced me each time I saw this photograph in my iPhoto library. But at least I have the photograph I would sigh, trying to console myself.

It must have gone missing in about 2014, and slowly it faded from my daily conscience and remained in the margins of consciousness to rebuke me only on occasion. In those horrible moments I was a careless child again, and should never have been trusted with something so precious.

Periodically I searched for it, but over the two years of it’s absence I imagined that ghastly bin bag it must have slipped into by mistake. You know the scene. The pile for throw away and the pile for keeping must have got muddled in my brain. I played it over and over in my mind.

But today, of all days it came back to me. Today of the flat tyre and the hopeless delays to getting to the studios, became THE day. It became the day the painting came home. And it did so in the most unexpected way.

My studio mate has decided to vacate her space for a few months and I’m taking it on. The timing has been perfect for both of us – she needs to take some time out, and I need to stretch out. The deal was done quite quickly, and during this morning of my endless delay in getting there she had moved out, leaving a table, a chair and two boxes.

The table we had discussed. The chair was a nice bonus – I’ve doubled my studio size and I like the idea of two chairs rather than having to move one chair about all the time.

The boxes, I told myself were hers. Though funny that they looked quite like some I have. Funny to leave just two…

My mind took in the scene and I very quickly decided to put aside my painting session and begin sorting. This I happily did for a while – it’s beautiful space – and there is almost nothing I enjoy more.

But the boxes caught my eye again. I’ll send an email I thought. Perhaps she has forgotten them!

I carried on. For several hours. I can sort for England if the motivation is right.

My sorting brought me closer to the boxes. Hmm…what if I move them out from under the table, I thought? That will make it easier for her to find them when she comes to collect them, and I can start stowing my stuff in their place.

On pulling them towards me, a thought suddenly struck. I better open the lid to check what’s inside. Perhaps she doesn’t have space at home and I can stow them somewhere in the rafters for her, but I didn’t want to go lifting them up a ladder if there were breakables inside!

And that was it. THAT was the moment I saw my father’s painting again, and in a blinding flash discovered that the boxes were mine. Old works from 2012, some collage materials, and dad’s painting safely stowed on the top!

I had not after all been careless with his memory. I hadn’t tossed away a most precious object in a family legacy I’ve pledged myself to these past three years. There was no black bin bag. There was no mistake. I DIDN’T TAKE DAD’S PAINTING TO THE TIP!

Instead it had lain in a cosy cardboard box in my studio mate’s corner space. And now I remember. I was short of storage space and she so very kindly offered to stow these two boxes away for me. Its the kind of gesture we’ve made for each other over the two years we’ve shared this space, and I so appreciate her for it.

But the thought remains. Because my memory is poor, and my boxes are never labelled I DID mislay the painting. I really should have kept tabs…

But honestly, words really can’t describe my joy.

I love this painting so much, and can now again study each brushstroke, marvelling that my dad took so much care. To me it reads as well as any letter. I feel I can read his thought processes, and trace his decisions. I think I understand the tone. It brings him closer to me in the way handwriting also does.

It was made so long before I was born, coming from a part of his life I can only get glimpses of through family photos of the period.

Mum thinks the scene is invented but she doesn’t remember too well.

I like to feel it relates to the joy of holiday reunions with his parents – who had different luck and returned to Spain. The family was forever split in two, but reunited countless times after the long separation of 1939-1947 (which marked them all for life). They used to meet in France, just over the border from Spain, in the years before my father was able to visit Spain.

But this object also brings me sharply into the present. I think about the objects today’s refugees hold dear, and the stories of survival and loss, of their most precious possessions.

I feel more and more the living truth that the intimate objects in our lives come to take on signifanct aspects of human identity, and have the capacity to contain a world of condensed meaning.

I know objects are not life and death, but for me this observation makes the refugee crisis all the sharper.

Sonia Boué


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Tread Carefully

We bought a rug in Tunisia

but they kidded us.

“I am your waiter – don’t you remember me?”

Cajoled onto his catacomb tour;

one thousand year eyes stared up at us.

“My friend’s shop is better value -

it is government controlled”
he said.

So we descended cold stone 

to the showroom below.

“This one is perfect
-
and this one too…

This is the tree of life.”

“Should I take off my shoes?”


A top quality five knot twist

with no grounds to resist purchase.

So the suitcase got rammed with our rug;

heavy as their complicated history.

“Thank you for coming at this time”

the coach driver tannoyed,

“we appreciate your support.”

One year later that beach went global,

for all the wrong reasons.

I imagine their sea still laps;

their camels’ feign indifference

and insurgents still insurge

through Sousse to Syria.

And our real waiter,

who no doubt was a good man,

probably has no job.

But that wasn’t him.

Most days I tread the rug,

and the soles of my feet

wear delicate paths 

those cunning unknown souls

unwittingly began.

neil armstrong 2016


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63 Objects From My Son’s Mouth, is a project by artist Lenka Clayton, documenting the objects she found in and removed from her baby son’s mouth. The Museum is extremely grateful to object artist Kate Murdoch for the link to this beautiful presented yet challenging piece.

Artist Elena Thomas reacts.

My initial response to this list of objects was one of horror… How could a mother put her child somewhere where it was possible for him to play with these items so that she had to retrieve them from his mouth? How many had been ingested rather than retrieved?

I then remembered that I had once discovered my own child painting with the pigeon poo that had landed on the waterproof cover of his pushchair… Pushing it around in glorious circles…

Parenthood is chaotic. Childhood is exploratory. Any semblance of control is an illusion.

I then began to think about the relationship between artist and child. I recall a female artist telling me that I could not be an artist and a mother… Was this more evidence that gave weight to her argument? To be an artist puts your child at risk? To be a mother puts your art at risk?

I start to think about the collection of high risk items retrieved… Why would you save them? To quantify risk and measure subsequent guilt?
And to place them in the grid… Ordered, listed, catalogued…. controlled?

Looking at other work by this artist, there is control, measurement and order everywhere…
Life isn’t like that is it?

Life is always a fag butt heading for the baby’s mouth…

Artist Sonia Boué reacts.

The work is beautiful, and conceptually interesting. The photography is sumptuous. Yet as you start clicking on successive images surely doubt begins to creep in? In my case followed by waves of incredulity and concern. I’m not sure how to feel. If I believe that all these objects really were removed from a baby’s mouth I begin to picture a radical and potentially dangerous experiment in childcare.

I picture a baby put out to forage, or one encouraged to mouth all those objects, in a way contrary to the usual parental norms of censure and protection.

I also imagine a sensory seeking baby – one whose compulsion it is to mouth all manner of objects. This being a specific question during my recent diagnostic assessment for autism. I was able to tell the eminent Dr Gould that I had famously swallowed two coins and a burst ballon at 18 months (this becoming family legend). This was what my mother remembered/ knew about and anxiously awaited evidence of evacuation, but most probably there were many more. Dr Gould nodded and ticked, as this fitted all the other information she had gathered about me.

Tiny babies do put things indiscriminately into their mouths, and teething babies will chew whatever it takes, but parents watch them (as much as they can). This parent was, it seems, on it when it came to object retrieval, but what was happening on the gate-keeping front?

There is something about the forensic way this work is laid out, a detachment in the listing of objects such as “sharp metal pieces” which make me snap. I think of a tiny infant’s soft skin and vulnerability to harm. Toddlers are more robust and can seem bullet proof. All manner of things can occur in the blink of an eye.

As artists we push boundaries, but many questions here arise. Perhaps the unspoken and darker undercurrent on presenting this work is the question of privileging and protecting material through the medium of art. You have to ask how, for example, a client of Social Services would be perceived and treated if such evidence were viewed by a caseworker. What in this case would the outcome be?

In this digital era – this presentation is also the child’s legacy. I find it intriguing to think about how this will pan out as the child grows.

I’m keen to hear other reactions to the work and can insert further contributions at any time via email.

[email protected]


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