I’ve been to see the exhibition once before and although I was armed with my very informative House of Beasts booklet on that visit, this time, we had Meadow Arts curator Mandy Fowler to guide us through the exhibition.
Our tour and interview with the curator, which you can see here, allowed us to get behind the thought process that went behind this unique exhibition.
First thing you notice is the obvious animal theme going on. Most, if not all, objects are somehow connected to animals*. Mandy explained how Meadow Arts looked at the surroundings and let the house determine where the exhibition should lead. Looking around the estate and its history with the deer park, cattle and not forgetting the Earl of Attingham passion for dogs, it seemed an obvious place to start. With this mission statement in mind, the Meadow Arts team went about collecting the pieces within the exhibition. Interestingly, some pieces were commissioned while others already existed but they just knew they would be perfect.
As soon as you walk into Attingham Park, you’re greeted with Katie MacGuire ‘Vex’ which at first glance looks like a piece of sculpture you’d see in a huge estate house. However, upon closer inspection, you start to see how playful this exhibition is as the sculpture is actually made, not of marble or stone, but of pigeon feathers! To add to the playfulness some of the feathers still have the ‘I’m lost’ stamp on the indicative of racing pigeons.
Throughout the exhibition (both inside and on the grounds of the estate) there is an obvious agenda – contemporary art can be fun for all ages. Another point of this exhibition is that you don’t have to like everything; it’s ok to have opinions. Those who like Polly Morgan’s One for Sorrow or Kate MccGuire Evacuate might not appreciate Kathleen Herbert ‘Stable’ (16mm film).
While most of the art is not touchable (understandably), they have ensured this collection is fun for kids to get involved with via touchable objects near the art and making the trail part of the exhibitions (follow the booklet through each room and try to find the objects in each room is fun on its own!). They’ve also coordinated several events that are very kids/family friendly such as Pigeon Talk, Create a Temporary artwork Spawn and Owl Pellet dissection.
The non-traditional setting, added with the quirky and playfulness of the whole exhibition is a formula that should not work but it does with Attingham Park NT. The exhibition is on until July 15th.
Many thanks to Paul Hutchinson from Virtual Shropshire for the fabulous video.
* While the exhibition uses taxidermy and feathers, no animals were harm.