Beginnings by Julie Turner

Secret life of objects.What does this mean to me? How can an object have a secret life?

An object is an object. It is a thing we know. After all a bag is a bag, a shoe is a shoe, a knife is a knife.

But an object wasn’t always what it ends up being. For example a bag could be made of paper, fabric, leather or plastic it often includes thread to sew it together which could be cotton, silk or polyester the clasp to hold it closed could be bone, horn or metal etc.

This is the secret life of objects that I am interested in. What was it before it became the object we know it as now? What processes did it go through to become that object? What other uses are there for these raw materials? What other objects could they become? Why was this raw material used?

Using some carefully chosen museum pieces as a starting point I will explore these questions and I am sure a few more. Mixing the old with the new I hope to construct and deconstruct modern variations of ancient themes.



Starting points by Edie Jolley 


How can an object have a secret life? It is surely inert, uncomprehending, a non-subject. And yet, the things we make, collect, preserve, grow attached to have their own histories. Many of these histories are not open to our understanding, in fact, most are not. They are forgotten and usually opaque to our gaze. Yet the object carries these histories in some way unfathomable to us in any direct way. These past lives are realities of the past, even if untouchable in the present.


Do we imbue an object with our own stories around our curation of it? It may appeal aesthetically, remind us of something or someone or represent an idea or belief. What of the previous owners’ stories as an attractant? Why are objects curated at all? From one point of history, ie now, it may be ‘obvious’. It is rare, extinct, a good example, a series. Equally, it may appear random and without purpose, or incomplete, broken and useless.


Museum collections are particularly interesting, I feel, as they purport to be held for some identifiable reason. They may be of antiquarian/historical/archaeological interest, representative of local or national flora/fauna or cultural practices. These collections of objects, or at least the ones presented on display, have an ostensible purpose – to inform. However, many objects held in museums are incomplete, broken, partial or deemed culturally sensitive and are not displayed. These are the objects that intrigue me and which I will be using as starting points for my work.


I am just beginning to think about these ideas and to choose some objects from the Bankfield Museum collection 

The objects chosen will become part of a joint exhibition titled ‘The Secret Life of Objects’ which we hope will be on view towards the end of 2017.


Further reading:

The artist Mark Dion explores the juxtaposition of museum objects, their assemblage and interpretation in this:
This Guardian article explores the psychology of collecting.
Here Susan Pearce reflects on the urge to collect, amongst many other interesting essays: