Sunday, 27 November 2011

Love Potion Number 1

Remember the potion book I shared with you in a previous post? Well, I've spent the past few days stitching up the love potion from it (apologies for the long absence; I've had two friends to stay pretty much consecutively, and consequently have been quite busy!)

The tiny stitches are practically illegible; unintelligibility is a concept I have previously been interested in in terms of the spoken word in sound art; censorship, self-censorship, a lack of transparency of communication, stuttering, irritating modern-day “thinking aid” fillers such as “Yeah” and “Like”, etc. I think illegibility can sometimes work when done intentionally, for example in this case with the sprawling handwriting of young children, with its invented and secret languages. Also, it only adds to the mystique of potion-making!

Yesterday an aforementioned friend who was staying with me and I visited the Wellcome Collection in Euston, one of my favourite London galleries. The exhibitions are often a fascinating combination of art and science. The current exhibition  which I was most interested in, however, was a bit of a departure from the scientific side of things; titled Charmed Life: The Solace of Objects, it was curated by the artist Felicity Powell (who I think may just be my new favourite artist!)

Powell selected talismanic objects from the collection of Edwardian amateur folklorist Edward Lovett (which comprised 1400 amulets). Despite rising to the rank of Chief Cashier at the City of London's Bank of Scotland, Lovett had a keen interest in the superstitions of working class Londoners. He began collecting charms which these Londoners carried for luck or protection, amassing the huge collection from which Powell has drawn the exhibition.

The sea horses shown above, for example, were made in Venice and carried by Londoners to bring good luck.

A coil of wire from Ceylon with "length equal to the height of a person" was intended to ensure a successful resolution to any request by the person in possession of it. Alongside the wire were displayed "Gemstones of poor quality, given by Gem-miners", also intended to bring good luck.

One of the most aesthetically interesting installations was comprised of a huge selection of beautifully laid-out charms, votives, and amulets, to ward off "nightmares" etc. These included glass acorns, lucky horse-shoes, glass slippers, tin hearts, carved coral and bone, fossils, and metal crosses and phalluses. The (rather blurry and wonky)scan below shoes how this installation was laid out:

Powell also made work in response to the exhibition; ranging from an etched coin "Against insomnia, for sleep, against amnesia, for memory", with a scene of clouds gathered over the sea. This put me in mind of relaxation techniques for sleep; "whale song", and imagining that "you are on a beach..."

Powell's current practise mainly focuses on wax "amulets" carved into mirror backs. These dream-like scenes are evocative of folkloric art. The short films Powell had created for the exhibition truly captivated me; they were full of the illusion and "magic" with which the objects Powell curated were imbued. In one, Powell "strokes" wax on to a mirror back, and hands appear; in another, "beams" of coral-coloured wax dissolve into flames.

Sleight of Hand, video, 7 minutes, 2011

Folkloric art and charms is definitely a practise I will be looking into towards the time of my CAP (the final performance/installation/presentation of my degree). I feel it is relevant for The Cure for Love, however, due to my focus on love potions and seeking a "cure" for love.

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