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The Mantle of Animism

Marcelo Camus from the Arts Team at St Christopher’s Hospice tells us about a project initiated through the Horniman’s new art programme The Studio, which was performed at one of our summer Big Wednesdays.  

Her mantles are made from the finest materials, including gold threads, and her mantle covers all of her body apart from her face and hands...her devotees can touch her mantle, leave prayer notes beneath her feet or place their head on the back of her mantle and ask for a miracle. This is the custom of the shrine... The Handbook of Contemporary Animism by Graham Harvey

What inspired the project?

The Horniman’s new co-curated area The Studio with a programme and commissioned exhibition have offered opportunities for community groups to create their own project for visitors for the family summer programme.

  • The Mantle of Animism, Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

Patients and carers visited the Horniman with St Christopher’s Arts Team to see the collections and to understand ideas of ethnographic curating and collecting. Inspired by the theme of Animism in nature, introduced by The Studio Collective and artist Serena Korda, but looking at it form a perspective of healing and medicine, two topics very close to the hearts of those in end of life care.

Inspired by this visit to the Horniman patients began working on a large-scale magical mantle and other inspired animals and objects. Made of a myriad of hand-felted imagery - the hyde of a large human-animal mask.

The Mantle has been worked on intensively and majestically performed at the Hospice as part of our annual summer exhibition.

What processes were involved in making the Mantle

We ran groups every day of the week and brought the animism concepts into all of them. On Mondays the community choir, made up of 80 members, created a song for the performance.

  • The Mantle of Animism, People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

On Tuesdays our Open Access Art Group explored dry felting to create a large surface fabric, while on Wednesdays, the group designed masks made into fling bird like puppets.

Thursdays and Fridays we continued to work with the mantle through dry and wet felting techniques.

We also invited school groups to come to work with the patients on the theme and to contribute to the project. This enables young people to visit the Hospice and dispel fear, taboos and stigma around death and dying.

Eventually after tremendous effort we created a magnificent magical beast!

Seeing the Mantle take shape and progress week after week has been so exciting. The stories, conversation and imagination that take place in sessions from each person is powerful. We hope this was communicated to audiences at the Big Wednesday event at the Hormiman.

  • The Mantle of Animism, The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice
    The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice

Tell us about St Christopher’s Hospice

The Hospice have been building their partnership with the Horniman over the last two years, and have a dedicated team of arts therapists and artists who run workshops for patients, families, carers and community members.

As neighbours in Sydenham, we think it is important to establish a working partnership with the Horniman. The many collections available right next to us, from anthropological funerary and ritual items through to musical instruments, all play a role in the importance or moment of death in our lives.

No one goes untouched by this, yet our tools to deal with it are underdeveloped and unspoken.

The Arts Team at St Christopher’s places this at centre stage, creating artworks in response to what people are thinking and feeling at the end of their lives. What better place to showcase this powerful message that a Museum dedicated to the artefacts we leave behind?

Tell us about yourself

For St Christopher’s I have helped lead on many large-scale collaborative projects both in and out of the Hospice.

My own artistic practice sits within what is termed Social Art Practice. I have been commissioned by organisations to create live immersive events, installations, social interventions and outdoor arts with communities and the public.

I contribute this experience to the Arts Team at the Hospice to consider how we can enable the patients and give them agency to create powerful social gestures. The focus of my work is about collaboration, co-authorship and positive group dynamics.

See The Lore of the Land exhibition from 20 October in The Studio.

The Horniman drumming circle

We spoke to the Studio Collective about how they've been getting their creativity flowing in their recent meetings with some rhythmic drum circles.

During the Collective’s discussions to create our exhibition we’ve talked a lot about sound-making and looked at drums from the Horniman’s collections. One of our members Joe is a keen drummer, so he and artist Serena hatched a plot to begin one of our meetings a little differently, with something to get our creativity flowing…

  • Underfloor_heating_warms_the_drums (1), Drums warming on the underfloor heating
    Drums warming on the underfloor heating

With a selection of drums from the Horniman’s Handling collection, we formed a drumming circle. There were no rules apart from, it turned out, ‘don’t stop drumming’. So Joe started us off by setting a beat and then we drummed.

  • drumming_circle_ready, Drumming circle ready
    Drumming circle ready

As a group, our playing naturally grew into crescendos and at times softened almost to no sound at all. I faced my own challenge of not racing ahead of the beat. We stopped by unspoken consensus halfway through and then resumed. We didn’t time it, the drumming simply lasted as long as it lasted. 

  • Judith_drumming, Judith drumming
    Judith drumming

Joe, our resident drummer, was quite complimentary of our efforts. He was pleased that we listened to each other and tried to fit our playing together. Very apt for our collective endeavour to co-create the first Studio exhibition. Keep an eye out for some drums when it opens later this year.

Artist Commission: The Studio 2019

We are looking for an exceptional artist with a collaborative practice for our 2019 Studio commission. 

What is the Studio?

The Studio is an exciting, new contemporary arts space at the Horniman, as well as a collaboration between the Horniman, artists and local community partners. The successful artist will join the Collective, the working group who programme the Studio. The chosen artist will be commissioned to create a new artwork as part of an exhibition opening to the public in October 2019.

The Studio will open for the very first time in October 2018. We will commission a new exhibition programme each year inspired by the Horniman’s collections.

The Studio aims to be a hub for exciting events and activities alongside its exhibitions programme, co-curated by artists, community groups and partners working with the Horniman.

The Commission

The Studio in 2019 will focus on Memory. Museums play a vital role in mediating memory, since they often present objects, images and stories from the past. 

Anthropology museums have a particular responsibility in how they present the way the past speaks to the present.

They need to provide a space for contested and alternative forms of memory to flourish. Such memories often challenge and re-orientate the Horniman's curatorial voice, creating both social cohesion and disruption amongst its visitors.

Selection Criteria

We are looking for an artist with great experience of working with people, and involving communities within their work. The artist will also have experience of exhibition-making in their portfolio of works but is not required to have had past experience of working with museums or museum collections.

  • Artists with a practice in social arts or socially-engaged arts, who work together with people and community as part of their practice. We will also consider applications from artist-led organisations where artists share a collaborative practice.
  • Artists who have a track record of creating exhibitions as an outcome of participatory process.
  • Artists who can demonstrate best practice and ability to engage the public in critical enquiry through their work.
  • Artist’s Expression of Interest statement on why the area of enquiry is of interest and interest in the Studio.

Please note: we are not looking for a proposal idea response to the enquiry in your Expression of Interest at this stage of application.

Next steps and application

Download and read the Guidance in the open call document below:

Then submit

1. A brief Expression of Interest statement of no more than two A4 sides that include the following information:

  • Why you are interested in the area of enquiry (see above section Commission Area of Enquiry). No more than 500 words.
  • How you may work collectively or collaboratively with community partners and curators. No more than 700 words.
  • How this opportunity will support your own artistic practice. No more than 500 words.

2. Visual examples of your work. Select three examples that best represent your practice in relation to the criteria outlined in this brief. Please send these as a separate document or signpost us to links of these works online. Please note that if you are emailing us images we are unable receive emails over 9MB.

3. An up-to-date CV (Curriculum Vitae).

To Anila Ladwa, Curator of Studio Programmes (aladwa@horniman.ac.uk) by 5pm on Tuesday, 3 April 2018, with the subject line ‘Studio 2019 Expression of Interest’.

The Collective meets the objects

Learn about the Studio Collective's visit to the Study Collections Centre to inspect objects that may feature in their exhibition later this year.

The Collective spent a lot of time in our meetings talking about objects from the collection and looking at pictures of them. But nothing compares to seeing objects in real life, so our visit to the Study Collection Centre, where the Horniman stores everything that isn’t on display, was much anticipated.

Collective member Julia says ‘Sometimes you can be really surprised when you “meet the objects” – things which didn't seem so special on the database can really shine and some objects which we thought would be huge turned out to be tiny!’

Horniman staff at the Study Collections Centre had laid out our selection of objects on large tables, and there was plenty to catch the eye, and keep our interest.

Collective member Dom (the Horniman’s Community Engagement Coordinator) says ‘I enjoyed the cabinet of curiosities vibe of seeing such a range of objects. I particularly liked the small, ordinary-seeming objects we looked at, like the piece of bark which is actually a fragment of a much larger object used for divination.’

Several of the Collective were particularly fascinated by this figure of a donkey, made up of other interlocking animals including swans, fish, a monkey and a lion (and a man’s face, see if you can spot it). It’s from India, was made before 1837 and is part of a set of 12 similar figures including two people also made of animals.

Seeing our longlist of objects ‘in the flesh’ was the next step towards deciding what will be included in the first Studio exhibition, opening in autumn. Will the horse figure make it into a display case? You’ll just have to wait and see but in the meantime, the last word goes to Julia…

‘Seeing all the objects together, outside of a glass box, gets your imagination going. They conjure worlds. It's a lot to take in but it's very special.’

A Blank Canvas

Joe from the Studio Collective updates us on their work on our exciting new Studio project.

It seems like an age since I joined the Studio Collective as a community partner representing St Christopher’s Hospice, basically not knowing what to expect. Whilst traveling to the first meeting, I felt a nervous anticipation of what was to come. I knew I was an open book, a blank canvas, and would be bringing to the table my organisational skills from running businesses, but I also hoped that my basic love for art and a musical background would be an added bonus.

So the journey begins. My early days in the collective were like being a fish out of water, struggling to think where and how I would fit into the process but I sat, listened patiently, and soaked up what extra information I could from my more knowledgeable colleagues.

Personally I think it could be true to say that this fantastic journey has been a massive learning curve thus far and still is for many of us on the project. We are all feeling a certain degree of excitement and anticipation, and this could well be because this is the first time that the Horniman has embarked on creating a studio exhibition in this way.

The process so far has had its twist and turns, with incredibly lively debates along the way but with a respectful tone. We had to select an artist from a shortlist that we felt would be the ideal fit as a partner to the Collective going forward.

The process of selecting an artist was a simple one - it was done by a selection of different colour post-it notes for our first, second, and third choice. Simple, clever and effective. When the post-it notes were counted the successful artist was announced as Serena Korda.

I felt we had selected an artist who would be a welcome addition to the Collective. The prospect of collaborating with her and the ideas she would bring to the table was exciting. I felt a real connection with her, her love of sound creation, and the linking of sounds to various objects. As a musician, this seemed right up my street. Since Serena’s appointment, she has introduced the Collective to a range of her ideas for the studio exhibition. I was especially drawn to Mike - he’s adorable - you may have read about him in another blog, a wonderful bodiless head that records sound all around him. Hopefully, he might find his body soon and could make an appearance in the exhibition.

Since then we’ve been discussing exhibition themes. At our latest meeting, the scene was set with three tables awaiting the Collective. Members were seated in even numbers at each table ready to discuss in more detail and to get a better understanding of each of the three concepts. Each table, led by a facilitator, was given approximately ten minutes for discussion.

When the meeting of minds came to an end it was time to decide on the concept for the exhibition, and oh yes you’ve guessed it, it was time to dig out those lovely post-it notes. In our previous vote we had the luxury of three post-its, this time it was just two, we had to choose only our first and second choice. The vote was close and I am pleased to announce that the winning concept is A******. Well you didn’t really think I was going to let the cat out of the bag now, did you? But stay tuned for further blogs from my Studio colleagues and exciting updates on the concept for the fantastic Summer 2018 Studio Exhibition.

Upon being a Horniman Studio Collective Member

Phil Baird tells us about his experiences so far as a member of the Studio Collective.

  • Phil_1, Phil Baird
    Phil Baird

My name is Phil Baird and I am this artist and a member of the exciting and innovative Horniman Studio Collective.

A decade ago, while recovering from the most serious mental health condition, I considered taking a volunteering post at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, possibly doing some conservation dusting. Little did I know that I was destined to be a part of the multidisciplinary Studio Collective, whose current aim is to curate an exhibition and related events with artist Serena Korda.

It is great to be a small part of what is a large group of about 19  artists, anthropologists, research specialists, publicists, service users and, like me, workshop facilitators for the many and various community groups that are the heart of the process. The project has an egalitarian, forum-style organisation that is new and innovative. It allows Studio Collective members to take part in various levels, and we can leave the areas that we are not specialists in to the other team members.

It is great for me to see behind the scenes of the Horniman and to work with professionals with an incredible vastness of collective knowledge. The whole process for me is a weaving together of ideas, of people in the form of a community, of sounds and their means of production, of places – the whole museum, environment and Gardens, and of objects – Serena's art objects and those from the Horniman Collection both currently displayed and in the ‘secret’ reserve collection.

I feel privileged to have access to hundreds of thousands of objects that we are all custodians of. Had I known anything about anthropology when I was younger I would have certainly considered a career in the profession.

Meet Mike

Meet Mike.

  • Mike - The Studio, Alison McKay
    , Alison McKay

Mike is a binaural recording device, modelled from the head of artist Serena Korda’s friend, also called Mike.

Mike – the model, still with me? – has microphones in his ears, and works by recording and playing back the sounds around him, to create immersive sonic experiences – so the listener hears everything just as if they’d been standing where Mike was.

We met Mike at the first meeting of The Collective attended by Serena, its newest member. Serena was chosen from a shortlist of artists to join The Collective, working together to create the first show in the Horniman’s new Studio space.

She brought Mike along to the meeting as an introduction to some of the ways she works. Much of Serena’s current artistic practice uses soundscapes because, she told us, she’s interested in the healing potential of sound. She wanted to show the group how binaural recording can creative emotive experiences, a sense of space and of the uncanny – what she calls ‘ghost sounds’.

  • Mike - The Studio, Alison McKay
    , Alison McKay

So we had the chance to create our own immersive soundscape while chatting in our circle around Mike – randomly making noises such as chairs scraping and pens tapping, then moving around the space, singing, chanting and even making chewing sounds into Mike’s ear.

Listening back to the recording was fascinating – some of us listened with eyes shut; some laughed out loud or jumped in surprise.

We don’t know yet know what role sound might play in The Studio’s first show but, now we’ve met Mike, we’re looking forward to working with Serena to find out!

Join The Studio Collective

We are looking for people to help us create amazing things in one of our new spaces planned for 2018: The Studio.

The 10 people chosen will become part of our Studio Collective and help us create exhibitions and events alongside an artist and Horniman staff.

What is The Studio?

The Studio is a new space which will be opening at the Horniman in 2018. This new space has given us an opportunity to run an exciting engagement project where the Horniman will work in collaboration with artists, partners and the local community.

What are the criteria?

You need to be over 18 years old, involved in a community organisation and be based in south London to take part. You would need to be available once or twice a month for a period of four months, for a minimum of two hours per session.

What are the benefits?

Successful applicants will receive a partnership allowance equivalent to £12.50 per hour to attend meetings, and expenses to attend meetings will be covered. You will also receive training and support along the way, as well as a unique insight into the Horniman.

Why are we doing this?

The Horniman has an excellent track record in building community partnerships, as well as expertise in creating well-regarded exhibitions and public programmes.

We want to take this a step forward to create challenging and thought-provoking exhibitions and event programmes with artists and our communities.

Learn more about The Studio and The Collective:

How do I apply?

Download and complete the application form below and return this to communitylearning@horniman.ac.uk or give us a call on 020 8291 8690.

Places will be awarded based on the answers you give in the application form.

Deadline for applications is 9am Monday 27 February 2017. 

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