Image: Freddie Robins installing “Someone Else’s Dream – drowned”, flanked by “Someone Else’s Dream – murdered” and Someone Else’s Dream – hanged”, all 2014-16.
“What Do I Need to Do to Make It OK?” opened on 25 August at its fifth touring venue, Forty Hall, in Enfield, North London. Forty Hall is a Jacobean manor house in extensive grounds, owned & operated by Enfield Borough Council and has been renovated in the recent past, to give a stronger sense of what it was like to live in when first built in the 1630s. The exhibition is presented mainly over the first floor, a series of beautiful interconnected paneled rooms with views over the gardens and grounds. I am particularly delighted that new commissions by Freddie Robins and Karina Thompson have now joined the tour at this fascinating site, which has its own particular history of damage and repair over the last four centuries. (NB the images in this article are working shots; professional photography will follow.)
In the Great Chamber we’ve installed Someone Else’s Dream, a series of reworked picture sweaters by Freddie Robins that reflect on the reality of the rural idyll, as each garment takes a subject such as a car crash, house fire, or death by drowning or hanging, which are carefully recreated through laborious over-stitching on the original pattern. Freddie relocated to the countryside of Essex a few years ago and has been struck by how many people express envy and a desire for the beauty and peace of the countryside. She has observed that local incidents of crime and accidental death are more numerous than might be expected, and now spends time scouring EBay for suitable vintage garments to adapt in depictions of the rural reality.
Image: Detail of “Someone Else’s Dream – hanged” by Freddie Robins, 2014-16.
In the Withdrawing Room on the same floor can be found The Lepers’ Hands, a new work by Karina Thompson that, like her earlier work “The Leper’s Skull” was created with the support of BARC (Biological Anthropological Research Centre) at University of Bradford and VSM UK Ltd. VSM provide her high-tech sewing machine, and BARC have given Karina access to their image bank, including historical x-rays from the Jos Andersen archive at the Centre. Karina says, “These x-rays were take whilst Andersen was working in a lepers’ hospital in Addis Ababa in the 1980s. At that time there was medical treatment that could stop the bone loss demonstrated in the x-rays. Patients would have gone on to lose partial or total use of their hands. In the West we think of leprosy as a disease of the middle ages but last year alone over 200,000 people were diagnosed with the disease worldwide.”
The exhibition continues until Sunday 20 November, 2016. There are a number of linked activities and workshops, all detailed on their website. In particular, they are holding tours of the exhibition on Saturday 8th October and the same day exhibiting artist Celia Pym will be leading a workshop on darning and repair. (Follow the links for more information and to book.)
Image: “First One’s the Best” by Celia Pym, 2015, as installed in the first floor Chamber at Forty Hall. This work was created in the aftermath of the artist’s Parallel Practices residency, with Dr Richard Wingate, in the Dissecting Room, Kings College London, 2014. Residency sponsored by Crafts Council, UK and Kings Cultural Institute.