Projects Pending

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Mick at the Booth Museum

Mick at the Booth Museum

Mick Jackson is the new writer-in-residence at the Booth Museum, funded by Arts Council England, from September 2014 to August 2015. Throughout the residency he will be running creative writing workshops and conducting his own research.

Mick is on Twitter, follow him @mickwriter

I was sitting in the office at the Booth Museum yesterday when someone knocked on the door with a dead pheasant they’d found that morning whilst walking their dog. They were regular visitors to the museum and as the bird was in such good condition they wondered if it might be the kind of thing they’d like to have.

It seems it is. John, the museum’s Keeper, thanked the couple, took the plastic bag with the dead pheasant in it and carried it out to the shed where various carcasses awaiting preparation are stored in a pair of chest freezers. I tagged along. One freezer’s contents include a badger, sundry snakes and bats, as well as a couple of the museum’s exhibits which have been removed after showing signs of infestation (a week or two in a freezer tends to take care of even the most persistent mites).  The other freezer contains a snow leopard.

On a recent tour of the geology storerooms I was shown what was referred to as the ‘Pending Drawers’. The bones and fossils rattling around inside them have lost their labels, become separated from their original collection or are simply proving difficult to identify. There’s something particularly intriguing about such odds and ends – the fact that, despite their circumstances, they’ve managed to resist categorisation and maintain some mystery.

Later in the day I mentioned the notion of ‘pending’ to Lee, the museum’s other curator, and he led me out to a row of barrels, next to the shed with the badger and snow leopard in them. Apparently, the barrels are filled with a solution of formalin (10% formaldehyde / 90% distilled water) in which the skins of a cheetah, a kangaroo and a couple of wildebeests currently soak. One or two of them, according to Lee’s calculations, have been marinating for over 30 years.

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Of course, I’m now of the opinion that the museum should consider drying out the wildebeest (and defrosting the snow leopard) while I’m in residence. I’d like to be around to see them take shape. But the Booth, along with every other museum, has limited resources and an ever-tightening budget. Building a manikin for a wildebeest is probably not its number one priority.

IMG_20141009_141419984_HDRInevitably, the more I contemplate the Booth Museum’s pending projects the more I’m reminded of my own – the novels, screenplays and tv series in various states of preparation that never quite seem to justify the required time and attention. It’s a rare man or woman who can admit that some of their most interesting potential enterprises are simply never going to make it to the top of the pile.

At some point yesterday I learned that, in order to strip it down to its bones, a carcass may occasionally be buried, allowing the worms to do their stuff. According to staff at the Booth, a donkey in their possession was buried out near Stanmer Park some fifteen years ago. By now, it’s thought, the bones should be as clean as a whistle. Unfortunately, the member of staff who buried it has since left the museum and no-one’s entirely sure where it is.

Mick Jackson, Writer in Residence, Booth Museum @mickwriter

The puzzle of the photos at Hove Museum show by artist Von Holleben

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Amazing Analogue by Jan von Holleben

Copyright Jan von Holleben

There was no alternative. I had to sit down on the floor and look a little longer. A photo by a group of Brighton youngsters and German photographer Jan Von Holleben had me stumped.

Called The Amazing Analogue: How we play photography, the exhibition of photography is a new exhibition at Hove Museum exploring the playful side of picture making.

I found the images fun, fascinating and extremely perplexing. The element which caused confusion is that von Holleben works with film and not digital and I simply can’t work out ‘how they’ve done it.’

They are a group of young people from Brighton and Hove who worked with von Holleben at the museum. Their starting point was the photography collection which documents the pioneering work of early photographers in Hove.

Amazing Analogue by Jan von Holleben

Copyright Jan von Holleben

Von Holleben discovered a dusty old box of slides and negatives which he showed to the children in order to inspire them and get them thinking.

The images are curious – shapes and textures which are beautiful and colourful. From those images, the groups started to create machines which echo the early cameras and projectors in the museum collection as well as the shapes in the old images. Using modern bits and pieces from machines and general life they have created some incredible looking, almost Heath Robinson style creations, which are ‘designed’ to view the images.

But that’s where I’m stumped – I’ve no idea how they have managed to create such visual tricks – there’s a peg bigger than a boy.  A huge light bulb hangs from a table. The children appear to be operating a machine made out of a mobile phone as big as them.

The images are playful and intriguing. I can see some of the tricks are produced by the use of perspective but it’s hard, knowing there is no digital manipulation to understand how each image is created. I sat for a long time, analysing how each machine was manipulated by a camera, with no clever computer tricks to create the effects.

Photographers may know the answers but I left with little idea of the mechanics behind the trickery. I don’t really mind.  It doesn’t detract from the beautiful, intricate and entertaining images.

This show is part of the Brighton Photo Biennial 2014 called Communities Collectives and Collaboration which runs until November 2.  There are a series of events, shows, talks and screenings happening across the city organised by Brighton-based Photoworks.

Caroline Sutton, Blogger in Residence

Ice-skating at the Royal Pavilion

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Royal Pavilion Ice RinkI’ve just booked up our annual trip to one of the BEST things ever about living in Brighton – the fantastic ice-skating at the Royal Pavilion.

I can honestly say it is one of the most exciting and exhilarating highlights of my entire year.

It’s the fifth year the outside rink has been in the grounds of the Pavilion and there is nothing more Christmassy than gliding on the ice alongside the beautifully lit palace.

Some people hate ice-skating – they feel out of control, their knees lock and they spend most of their time panicking they’re going to fall over. When you’re a kid, falling over doesn’t hurt so much and falling as an adult can feel quite terrifying.

A couple of years ago, I ended up with concussion after a fall while holding hands with my son and hurtling around the rink. He slightly changed direction and I fell back and bashed my head. I definitely saw stars. That night I ended up at A&E, with the nurse shaking her head knowingly when I said it was at the ice rink.

Still it didn’t stop me and I was back about a week later, a little more cautious at the beginning, but once I got my confidence back, just as happy to whizz around feeling the cold air on my cheeks with a huge big grin on my face. It makes me feel like a big kid again and for that hour, I feel completely carefree and joyful

We’ve booked for Christmas Eve again this year and I can’t wait.  There’ll be skating, some mulled wine and then home to wait for you-know-who to visit

To find out more visit the Royal Pavilion Ice Rink website for tickets and prices.

Caroline Sutton, Blogger in Residence

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