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Unknown, and Unknowable?

19 September 2011

Readers of the blog will know that the Archives and Museum’s recent show at the Bethlem gallery, Unknown and Unknowable?, featured work from the collection by anonymous artists.  In curating the exhibition it was interesting to consider how we respond to art with little or no context, no title or date and no clue, other than our own perceptions, as to what we are ‘supposed’ to see, what it’s about or whether it’s ‘any good’?

There were no titles or attributions for the works in the exhibition; the labels merely represented the thoughts and questions they prompted in the minds of the curators.  Visitors were then invited to record their own reflections, responses and suggested titles for the works on display.

This striking image attracted the most comment:

LDBTH400-Figures Climbing Steps (c.1936) bThe way out

Freedom – one step at a time

Slowly crawling out of the depths of despair

Keep going up the slope. Hope is above.

Dante’s purgatorio

Examples of other comments and alternative titles:

LDBTH36-Sketching Class bA Royal Academy Entry

The strange observerLDBTH321-Figures in Rocky Landscape cSet in stoneLDBTH404-Blue Figures and Rainbows (c.1936) bAngels dancing

Ghostly fairies in the dell

An appeal for helpLDBTH636-Character Sketch IX - Man in Fez Hat bYou see my outside self. Only I see my inside self.

This I find the most moving piece in the show.LDBTH648-Painting with Music I bPrayers before bedtime

Mother love

A perfect nightLDBTH56-Bound Woman in Cellar (c.1937) bTables turned!LDBTH662-Naked Girl by Water bOphelia beforeLDBTH613-Figures and Concert bSilent deliberaton

An evening with Dr Smith

Posh gatherings

Before TV

Further reflections from blog readers would be welcome.

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