Saturday, 1 August 2009


Kettles Yard ~ Camerae obscurae by Issam Kourbaj

Definitions of Reflections:
1. The return of rays, beams, sound or the like, from a surface
2. The reverting of to the mind to that which has already occupied; it continued consideration; meditation; contemplation; hence, also, that operation or power of the mind of which it is conscious of its own acts or states; the capacity for judging rationally especially in view of a moral rule or standard.
3. The transference of an excitement from one nerve fibre to another by means of the nerve cells as in reflex action.
4. The phenomenon of a propagating wave (light or sound) being thrown back from a service
5. A remark expressing careful consideration

Jayne Parker - Horse hair and cello Scroll.

Yesterday was a work 'team building outing' to Cambridge. The day before I decided I would go. In the group I was in the minority - most of my colleagues being non White British - Black British and one Asian British. However in Cambridge it were my colleagues who were in the minority. Armed with pictures of my Cambridge 24 years old ~ married with childhood stories I was met with another Cambridge. Could I call this home?
We had booked a punting trip with a guide listing out snip bits of history of the different colleges - who had founded them - who had been there. Traditions of students climbing the buildings and leaping off bridges, a trap for swans for the only college given permission aside from the King/Queen to be allowed to kill and feast on this bird and a Grade II listed 1960's concrete halls of residence this was the end of our tour in 45 minutes. I was surprised how shallow the boat and water was. How close I was to the water and how clear. As the boat moved along the river I failed to see the bottom and I failed to see my face in the water. I asked was this history part of me, did it define who I was?
My colleagues asked if I punted when I was a child. No. Did I hang out in the gardens. No. My life was not part of the University. I did not see the carved buildings or the people who lived in the University. Instead, as we walked down the road to Jesus Green I could have pointed out the spot where my mum's hip bone broke ~ her bones made fragile from the spread of her cancer ~ and almost crashed the car; or the street where my father ran a pub with a gay bar at the back and the fights in the male toilets between the regulars of the front and the men from the gay bar. The toughest was called 'Mother' over six foot rugby built man with chandelier earings and tatoos - no man from the front would dare to fight him. There were many stories I could have told of that time; or when I was 14 sitting in the Social Service asking for money to pay for bed and breakfast as I was homeless ~only to be told I was too old to be adopted and too young for money; or the place where I persuaded a council official to give me a grant to go to art college even though my parents lived in Suffolk and I lived in a Bed and Breakfast in Cambridge. I just answered no.

After lunch I made my excuses and left the group in a pub and made for Kettles Yard. I knew what to expect. Even if it looked different to how I remembered it I knew I could rely on the house being just the same. Frozen. Not dusty or laden with cobwebs, but loved. As I walked along the road, picking out all the shops that were no longer there I arrived full of questions. What would I see? What would be different? Would the house speak to me? I pulled the door bell and was ushered in with questions. Had I been before? Yes about 20 years ago. Did I know about the exhibition? No. For the first time some of the objects in the house had been taken out and placed in the exhibition space and artists had been commissioned to have work placed in the house.

I rushed around the house, gobbling up. Amazed and excited. My eyes widening. Slowly my rhythm changed to allow my taste buds to adjust. But there was so much to see! I felt had been starved. It was all so beautiful. Sensitive and thoughtful. At the same time thrilling, delightful, witty, touching. The new work was so tactile ~ sensual though we were told 'not to touch'! (with the exception of the Director who when I asked who the horse hair/cello piece was, promptly picked it up and stroked the hair, moving it in his hands, he placed it back in a completely different place on the table. I was agahst. I had thought that the piece had been placed specifically by the artist. I was furious by the Director's casual handling of the piece. So he could touch but not me?) I found I loved all the work ~ responsive to the environment, the house, the memory of the Mr and Mrs Ede intention/expression. The contemporary work was new but at home. A wonderful dance. A new lens to experience the 'old' as new. And the new as old?
Yes the house did speak to me. I hid in the upstairs room ~ after making my way past a 8 -9 year old girl crouched on the stairs. Staring out of the window. I am reminded of myself at that age of taking the time to ~ take in. Notice. Analyze. She said " Look a squashed ladybird. Its so squashed really flat". Her mother answered " Yes so many people would have trodden on that ladybird thats why it's so flat". Was she responding to how many people had not noticed the ladybird? Or was she responding with an explanation. The little girl replied " I've never seen a ladybird that is so squashed, look its so flat ~ look Mummy!"
I met up with my colleagues at the end of the day at the crowded bus stop. It was like rush hour on the tube. A silent panic to get on the bus. One of my colleagues remarked that they had been thrown off the previous bus as she had been eating an ice cream. Apparently the bus had a sign inside stating no eating. She had refused to get off until the bus driver said please. My thoughts went to how after I left Cambridge ~ its city centre had been 'cleaned up' ~ 0 tolerance to the homeless and begging. And so my day ended in Cambridge as we again pushed onto the train ~ back into London in 45 minutes.

No comments: