Rebecca Uffindell and Eleanor Slaney work as part of a collaboration and throughout their practice challenge notions of worth mostly concerning materiality. During the external project “Things That Matter”, the title serving as the project prompt, the collaboration have explored notions of projected value and identity found in objects inhabiting a liminal space. Through this, they have also engaged with Anselm Franke’s theory regarding “Animism” and have questioned whether an object can truly possess an identity and, if this is true, is the object’s memory and previous existence a determining factor to its worth?
In the exhibition #ThingsThatMatter, Rebecca and Eleanor installed a variety of objects, retrieved from charity shops, and suspended them using wool over the beams within SPACE Gallery. The collaboration were mainly intrigued by the existence of liminal spaces, this being present in the setting of a charity shop. At once the found objects adopt a role of the abandoned and the salvaged and, until they are bought or discarded, will remain inhabiting that identity. By hanging the objects Rebecca and Eleanor hope that the audience will truly be confronted by the rejected and are able to navigate the features of each item and consider them in the open. In the centre of the exhibition lay cards posing questions such as: “Do these objects change when they are placed in a gallery setting?”, and “Ultimately, do these things matter?”. The intention was to pose unintrusive questions to the viewer, to allow them to acknowledge and consider these found objects and determine if their worth has changed. As the cards are placed centrally in regard to the installation, the viewer is forced to navigate the space in which the objects exist: in this instance, they refuse to be ignored.
Artists that have influenced Rebecca Uffindell during this process include the filmmaker Agnès Varda and Jeff Koons. After watching The Gleaners and I, Varda served as an interesting starting point to the collaboration and allowed them to consider the worth of what has been neglected by humanity. Varda, within this documentary acted as mediator to the observed and observer and was an active participant to gleaning herself. This instigated Rebecca and Eleanor to consider the liminality that is often present in identity as well as space. Jeff Koons was influential in establishing an arena in which the ordinary can take centre stage. This is present within his Banality series, as well as repurposing pre-existing objects, Koons transfers these ordinary ornaments into a space that was previously not inclusive to them, therefore permitting them to be acknowledged as something worth viewing.
Rebecca Uffindell and Eleanor Slaney intend to continue working collaboratively and further engage in materiality, perhaps expanding off of the external project. Ambiguity and whimsy remain as strong elements to be featured in their work and they hope to expand upon their current practice and continue challenging their audiences – and their own – perceptions of identity, place and belonging.
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One day after the opening we came to de-install all our work and “make good the space”. As our work was relatively easy to dismantle we had a lot of time to assist with others work and make sure the space was left as it was found.
As our work deal with liminal spaces we thought it would be interesting to re-donate these objects and return them to the threshold they came from. Just as we were making good the space, we allowed these objects to have the potential of being recovered, we hoped that at some point someone would see the value in them.
below are a few images from the de-install:
As a whole, the external project “Things That Matter” was extremely beneficial to me. I really enjoyed coordinating and taking part in a group curated show outside of the university setting. Not only has it allowed me to interact and communicate with people I perhaps wouldn’t have on my own accord, it has taught me how to engage with and execute a wide variety of skills. This project has made me realise how lucky I am to have the resources that we do at the university and has taught me that I should fully utilise them. Kirsten has been a big help as well and the meetings in studio has really helped solidify what was to be expected of us.
Looking back over our installation I would say I am fairly happy with how it turned out but I think maybe collecting more objects and hanging them in a wider variety of way would have made the piece stronger. I do felt that it fit the theme well and fit in with the exhibition as well but I definitely think there is potential to grow. Perhaps this is something myself and Ellie can pursue next term.
Compiled by Beth Prentice
All photos were taken by Beth, Elpiniki and Claudia
Below are some videos shot by Beth of our work:
We began by making sure that everything was set up before hanging, this included attaching our objects and making sure the wool was strong enough to hold the weight of each individual piece, as well as the middle being strong enough that it would not snap. Whilst it was difficult to thread all the pieces together the main challenge was getting the individual threads over the beam we were using! as it was quite wide and relatively high to the ceiling it was hard to find an angle that would make it easier to pass them through. Eventually we just had to take the plunge and lob it over and hope for the best! This plan actually worked rather well…surprisingly.
Later Ellie and myself helped Beth with her installation and helped her find some more hooks in order for her work to be moulded and fastened into the shape she wanted. This ended up in us making a little excursion to the nearest building supply shop where we felt wildly out of place. after helping Beth she filmed a Ellie and I and interviewed us about our work for the show-reel in studio for a couple of weeks time.
Throughout the day everyone pitched in and helped eachother with installation and clearing the space. Myself, Ellie, Beth and Athina ventured out to use the bar money to get beverages, cups and Ice. This was a heavy trip but we managed to get everything set up par the cups and ice which I had to get a little closer to the opening due to the fact that Lidl didn’t have any at the time.
During the crit with Jon he discussed our method of hanging and he said that it turned out better than he expected. I liked the height we hang everything at as they were at varying levels and played with your eye level so that you had to consider the height and placement of each object. He looked at the text piece we had included which had questions such as “do these objects change once they have been placed in a gallery setting?”, and “Ultimately, do these things matter?”. It was discussed that the paper did aid with the understanding of the installation. It was interesting to see that there was a discussion to what some of the objects original purpose was which i found intriguing and a successful part of the installation as it struck up a conversation about belonging, function and place. I spoke briefly about why we chose to display this work this kind of way and talked about how initially we had thought about giving the objects human names like Bob or Dave or Frank. Jon told me he liked that idea and it might be an interesting springboard for next term. This is definitely worth considering.
I had to leave the crit early in order to retrieve cups and ice as the exhibition was starting soon. Me and Ellie took first rounds at the bar and helped direct the public to the printed handouts about the exhibition.
I visited Ellie to discuss hanging our objects. She thought that draping the objects over the beam in SPACE – like I had practiced – was effective and we tweaked with the order of the objects so it was ready for installation.
Here is our chosen layout, we will judge on installation day the heights to position the pieces at and what works well within our work and as a cohesive exhibition. Here are lots of images of Ellie gracefully modeling our pieces!
We decided that we should a little text piece so the audience can really consider the title “Things That Matter” and what we were trying to address. We wanted the written piece not to reveal too much about what are intentions were and instead felt that posing questions to them might be a good way to get across our main themes and thinking without spoon feeding the audience.
During this meeting we discussed the intricacies of the exhibition and consulted what each team has managed to contribute so far. Inbetween the meetings in studio, all members of the Things That Matter group have been very active on our closed Facebook group where we discuss the images of the flyers and press releases, also what equipment and who is bringing it down, and making sure everyone have what they need ready for installation. This has been very beneficial as mostly everyone within the group has access to social media, and instead of checking emails and replying that way, everyone can be notified and can contribute.
Here is the completed flyer for the exhibition, it features an altered version of Vanessa’s work and was completed by the press team:
During this meeting we also decided that I would be in charge of the bar donations. We decided that each member of the group would pay £3 in order for us to get £75 worth of beverages. After researching this at home I debated using Go-Fund-Me as a method of payment but after looking at the fine print withdrawals of the deposit would take too long and they take a small portion of the money donated. I then later looked into PayPal but there was a similar issue with that. After consulting the group on Facebook we decided that people would pay the money into my personal account – of course I added that if anyone was uncomfortable with this then we could find an alternative method. Everyone seemed happy with that method and so we began collecting money this way.
Bev, Ellie, Nina myself and Kirsten stayed after the meeting to help choose who should be chosen to represent the show on social media. We didn’t want to include everyone as then some of the intrigue of the show would be lost. Therefore, we selected the most aesthetic pieces that would attract viewers.
Myself and Ellie thought that by hanging our objects, we could confront the audience with the abandoned. After talking to Rob about our work, he suggested that we should not place our objects like they have been scavenged from charity shop, instead we should find an alternative way to display, in such a way that our installation becomes more individual and unique. We agreed with this concept, although Ellie’s tutor did not, but we felt we should trust our instincts with this.
This worked out perfectly as we able to salvage some wool from a charity shop so almost 100% of our installation has had a past life and have been rescued from that liminal space. After hearing this I began to experiment with hanging (some objects are more difficult than others!) and how the pieces would work with weight and how they would function as a collection attached to one another. I found this method a lot more successful due to the fact that objects seemed to have more agency when they are attached in succession. After all that is the main point to our installation, we want the objects to possess some power and be noticed as things that matter.
I will talk to Ellie and see if she has any improvements and comments to improve this!