The World Is Almost 6000 Years Old

Contemporary art and archaeology from the Stone Age to the present, across five of Lincoln’s most historic sites
Curated by Tom Morton
2 Feb – 7 May 2013
It isn’t a new curatorial starting point to invite artists to respond to objects from a museum collection, but seems to still be on trend. The Collection in Lincoln is an archaeological museum with a contemporary art gallery space and has a vast archive of old stuff somewhere off the ring road around Lincoln. This was where Tom Morton started the process for this show that has been some years in the making. It always surprises me the reverence with which we approach old objects and I liked the way this whole wall of Tupperware boxes was displayed in the gallery.
archive 1

Ambiguously labelled ‘Cremation’ there was one box without the lid on, allowing us to see that it wasn’t a bag of dust, but quite clearly bits of bone. A friend pointed out that one of the tupperware boxes appeared to have a wrapper in it, maybe a crisp packet, the remains of someone’s pack up secreted at some point amidst the really old ‘stuff’ perhaps. So often we are shown the beautiful objects from historical museums, but no doubt most archives are mostly full of tupperware boxes of the less aesthetic remains of a past humanity. The display gave the impression of being lifted straight from the archive store.

The room in the Collection included Anthony Caro’s CCLXIX (1975) caro
and towards the back of the space, Sarah Lucas’ Nud Cycladic 7 (2010) formed a wonderful juxtaposition with another shelving unit of archival objects.lucas
Rupert Ackroyd’s  stack of video tapes must remind many of us of our own personal archive boxes collecting to represent redundant aspects of lifeackroyd
Matthew Derbyshire’s glass display of rocks resembled a dry stone wall. derbyshire

Then we walked up Steep Hill to see Roger Hiorns Untitled, 2013  or “Jet Engine in the Cathedral” as it will no doubt be anecdotally referred to. The best thing about Roger Hiorns’ works for me is that when I hear what he has done, my immediate reaction is “How did he get away with that?” Setting fire to a bench in a gallery with a naked man sitting on the other end of the bench for the British Art Show 7, 2011; sprinkling crushed anti depressive medication on the surfaces of a historical blacksmith’s workshop for Profusion in 2010….. bureaucratic nightmares breaching health, safety, conservation and any other often senseless rules. That’s why his work is memorable and seems key to making us ask questions about what he is showing us.

We were led into the West entrance to the Cathedral, it is called the transept, which is one of the two parts forming the arms of the cross shape of a church. I’m not sure whether it was of relevance that it was positioned here, but I found it disorientating and it introduced the idea of incongruity as a result. It’s years since I’ve been in the Cathedral and I’ve only ever entered through the front door. I’d forgotten what a breathtaking experience it is to enter. The scale and workmanship of the building fill you with wonder and reverence. These emotions are so closely linked to fear. I am reminded that when it was built it stood as a huge monument representing God’s stern and controlling watch, towering over the miles of fields below. What else is Lincolnshire famous for? The Royal Air Force. Here then, was the engine of a Nimrod, originally developed as a modification of the world’s first jet airliner, and used for surveillance. Like God, the military keeps a stern and controlling surveillance over society, ostensibly looking out for us, ready to wield its power if needed.

Inside the engine, Hiorns has sprinkled crushed anti depressive medication. Instantly I made the association with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, the darker association with the military. As I viewed the jet engine strung in this magnificent space, it became figurative, as if a reference to Christ hung on the cross. War and Religion – inseparable.

As I wandered around the space I heard some murmurs of underwhelm from onlookers. I reflected that since first hearing the idea a year or so ago and confusing jet engine with jet plane, I have had in my mind the image of something like the size of a Boeing 747 in the centre of the cathedral, so it did seem small in spite of weighing over a ton! But the incongruity is memorable and the piece works really well…though I don’t know how he got away with permission to put a ton of engine in the Cathedral!

We didn’t have time to visit the work at the Usher Gallery or Greystone building…but will!

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