Exhibition visit – Tim Etchells & Vlatka Horvat: What Can Be Seen – Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

This was a chance visit, as I just happened to be walking past the gallery while shooting street photography.

On walking into the exhibition area, I noted a number of large frames, sans paintings, all wrapped in bubble wrap, with large labels on them, or magic marker written directly onto the bubble wrap.  I concluded that they were still setting things up, and continued to wander around, looking at things and trying to get a feel for what the exhibition was about.

The obvious thing to do at this point would be to read the information posted on the walls, but…. duh.

There were display cases filled with collections of objects. One that I liked was full of old ornate pocket watches. I noticed there were labels with writing that didn’t seem to mean anything to the casual observer. Stock numbers or something. Then there was the occasional empty space, with a note saying something like “item not found”. This struck me as odd.

I continued looking around, finding other collections of things, and other, larger items. All with cards or labels on them.

Then I found a series of photos.

They were of what I can only describe as museum storage facilities. Stacked boxes… and cards from file systems… or cards placed on items. One that I remember vividly read “Set of non-specific bones. Provenance unknown.”

At this point it struck me. The collections of things, while all very interesting and visually pleasing, were perhaps not the main subject matter. It was the nature of organising and recording. The missing items, and the cards detailing the items, or lack of items… I don’t know if they were what the exhibition was actually about, but they were certainly a very important aspect of it.

Then I grinned like a raving loon. The bubble wrapped frames. They weren’t preparations for an exhibit. They were the exhibit!

The gallery website http://www.museums-sheffield.org.uk/museums/millennium-gallery/exhibitions/current/tim-etchells-and-vlatka-horvat-what-can-be-seen presents the exhibition differently, but this post represents my own personal experience when visiting.