I Just Read Different Books


Buggered by Art

It seems appropriate for my first CFI blog to talk a bit about a CFI-related project I've long been seeking an opportunity to get going. It seems scarcely believable that the fortean exhibition I put together with Croydon Clocktower Museum, Of Monsters and Miracles, was almost 12 years ago now, and I'm still amazed we pulled it off. It happened because Bob and Paul were looking to put on an exhibition of some kind to celebrate 21 years of FT, and being a museum curator, I was in a good position to pull it together, but we had no venue or money, so I went off and touted it around adventurous and forward-thinking places that might be willing to go for something a bit left-field, and Croydon went for it. They came up with a sensible budget and a team that "got" forteana instantly, and we put together an enormously pleasing show of material evidence for fortean phenomena. I have photos, so maybe I should see if we can put them up on the CFI site so people can see what it was like, I certainly still have the brilliant CD-ROM catalogue created by the late Roy Stringer, which stands up remarkably well, even today, although it is in a Mac format, which, given the scorched earth policy apple had to backwards compatibility with OSX, makes it increasingly hard to play, and maybe we should see about getting that put on the site too in some form.

Anyway, I digress, that is not the project about which I want to talk about no, rather, the Croydon exhibition was all material evidence, a Rat King, Roswell debris, apports, spirit hands, fairy coffins and the like, but one thing that became immediately clear from this was that there was a rich vein of art that could also be tapped for an exhibition and that we should do one of these too, there are all sorts of things that would be perfect: Cattelano's Pope struck by a meteorite, Yinka Shonibere's aliens made out of African fabric, Keith Haring's UFO drawings, Susan Hiller's installation of alien abduction accounts, any number of Jeffrey Vallence pieces, the list is long. In the US there have, over the last 10 or so years, been two related exhibitions that show such things are not impossible: The UFO Show in Illinois and Cryptozoology Out of Time Place Scale in Kansas (in which Loren Coleman was heavily involved), both of which were very entertaining, but so far, no one in the UK has successfully bitten the bullet. The closest I got was with Cardiff's Centre for the Visual Arts a few years back, but they operated on a financial knife-edge and imploded before the exhibition had gone further than being pencilled in on their forward plan, so I am still looking. We need a venue that is able to come up with what will probably be a six figure budget, has an adventurous turn of mind and international standards of security and climate control that will enable them to borrow artworks from museums and private collections. I have a few potential venues in mind still, and have not given up hope, so will keep plugging away to see if we can make it happen! In fact, by now I have probably also come across enough additional material evidence to do Of Monsters II without any overlap of material, and maybe I should look at doing that as well while I'm at it. Unfortunately, as I now work in science centres, we don't do object exhibitions (or our own temporaries for that matter) so cannot stage either in my own institution.

In the meantime, though, I have animatronic monsters, incuding a rather grand Gigantopithicus-derived Yeti, on at my current science centre, Newcastle's Centre for Life, which has given me the opportunity to run a free-entry UnConvention- style event on 1-2 September as one of the accompanying events (see http://www.life.org.uk/monsters/ for full details and free tickets). Hope to see some of you there!

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