Sunday, November 21, 2010

Walking and The Museum of Everything

Halfway through the marking, I'd had enough, so I hopped on the tube down to Chalk Farm to visit The Museum of Everything. I had been curious to see this Museum, which I believe has been curated by Peter Blake, the collage artist responsible for the cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. 
I hated the first corridor which featured posters and photographs of small people and giants: the famous 'General Tom Thumb' was there and it seemed crass to be gawping at the same images Victorians gawped at, in this so-called enlightened age. After all, those people had feelings, didn't they? I don't think it's necessary to recycle these pictures to be re-gawped at, frankly.
In the first room there was a beautiful model of a wooden steam-roundabout with carved little horses ridden by little chaps with tam o' shanters, sandwiched between the occasional tram car. There were oil lamps fixed above them, presumably to light them up as they merry-went-round. It was inspirational and I loved it.
There were lace-decorated cards, dusty and crusty with age in frames, and a small room full of shell-pictures and figurines: crinolined ladies, rabbits, coy-looking cats and intricate clipper ships with sails made of smooth flat clam shells.
A room full of ventriloquists' dummies and Punch-and-Judy puppets spooked me with their rictus grins and hysterical-looking cheerfulness.
One ventriloquists' dummy sitting in a miniature basked chair bore a passing resemblance to Jools Holland (oops! I'm sure the man has feelings!).
A rather fetching paper-mache dog shared a cabined with an evil-looking and frightening baby with a piercing squint. I felt empathy and horror in equal measures for the Judy puppets with their tiny helpless feet and the dead arms sprouting from their chests.
Next up was erotic Berlin Woolwork and some witty Alice in Wonderland Pieces, all of which were colourful and well-made.
A large room displayed hand-painted banners which advertised circus acts: a man fights a bear, and people with distended stomachs, frilled arms and huge feet are 'All Alive'; Don Carlos's Dog and Monkey Hotel, 'Strange little People', dogs in ruffs, a 'Midget Bull', a 'Two-headed Calf' and 'The Most Terrifying Creature Alive'... by this time I was speculating that perhaps that one was Peter Blake himself. The celebration of the macabre was beginning to depress me beyond redemption.
The exhibition was redeemed temporarily by, up some stairs, a display of beautiful fairground signage handpainted in rich colours: steamboats, traction engines, Kings and Queens and a painted 'Carters Dodgems' sign that featured the head of Little Richard between the words. Lovely- I'm going back with my sketchbook to sketch the perfectly-executed painted typography (there's a thousand pound fine for taking photographs, as numerous notices tell me).
The cases of stuffed animals: well, I remember wanting to see these when I was a student in Brighton. Today, they seemed like fusty cases of (in the case {sic} of the red squirrels) endangered species stuffed and posed as schoolchildren with black beady glass eyes, their rust coloured fur fading to beige.
Two headed lamb, three legged duck: was this part of some evil childrens' nursery rhyme? There was a hunt populated by a team of stuffed dead puppies called 'The Sporting Party'. Ugh. At the point where a set of stuffed animals act out boxing scenes in a series of glass cases, I decided that I'd had enough, and walked down to Camden.
That's where I saw this cheerful steel pan band, braving the cold and wearing their Hawaiian shirts over their jackets. They are called The Caribe Allstars and this is my namecheck to them.

Hi Guys! You brightened up my day- thank you!


Claire said...

I remember seeing those stuffed animals in Brighton too. I feel quite sorry for dead stuffed creatures these days, it doesn't seem a very dignified end to their little lives really.

Jude Cowan said...

Thanks for the insight into the Museum of Everything.