Human Form in Art

Duration 00:17:41:15
Digital Video / PAL 16:9 Anamorphic

Content Warning: Film shows museum case containing human remains

This short film was the first work I made during my AHRC Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the Ruskin, and marked an important development in my practice, not only with regard to the subject matter, but also in its approach.

In it two white-coated curators decant two display cases in the Pitt Rivers Museum prior to its redevelopment; the film’s title is taken from that of the display cases which contain object representations of the human form. Given the comparative nature of many of the displays in the Pitt Rivers Museum, some of the objects are more representational, and some more abstract, than others; indeed, the move to abstraction was something to which the Museum's displays have, historically, paid particular attention. Similarly, the actual human forms of the curators working on these displays are subject to increasing abstraction — bisected by display cases, or becoming rather immaterial reflections — before disappearing completely, their protective coats and gloves all that remain.

I have long been fascinated with museum displays, and the politics which they often hide in plain sight; indeed, my first exhibition as a curator, ‘The Institute of Cultural Anxiety — Works from the Collection’ (ICA, London, 1994) was influenced by the memory of a childhood visit to the Pitt Rivers. However, this film marked a closer consideration of these issues, and what it means to be put on display, and by whom. It also established was a way of working and looking — slow, attentive, and allowing for the emergence of meaning — which can be found in many of the works which followed it, such as The Oblate (2013), Analysis(2015), and Abdo Rinbo (Je est un autre) (2015), amongst others.