domesticated arrangement

domesticated arrangement



On a recent visit to the small local history museum in Bewdley on the River Severn we noticed a poster announcing an intervention by a local landscape artist.

When we were interviewed for a six-month residency in Edinburgh in 1988 we were asked by one member of the panel what we were likely to do if successful.
“Make trouble” we replied.
Everyone laughed … and we were awarded the residency.

Following our ‘successful’ intervention Road to Ruin at the City Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent we decided to contact the Royal Museum in Edinburgh – “Scotland’s finest museum”.

For some reason Dr Robert Anderson, the Director, answered the phone and was fascinated with our proposal for a temporary installation in the entrance foyer to coincide with the Edinburgh International exhibition down the road at the Academy.
“Why not come in for a cup of tea this afternoon?” he suggested.


Talbot Rice Art Centre Edinburgh 1988


We soon found ourselves in the company of a boyishly enthusiastic English eccentric. The minute we had finished our tea, he produced a very large bunch of keys which he jangled mischievously.
“The keys to my hidden kingdom” he said “… follow me.”
We found ourselves wandering in the labyrinthine underground passageways below the museum.
“This is where I escape to when I do not want anyone to find me.”

The rooms lining both sides of the vaulted passageways seemed endless, and as he excitedly opened one room after another we peered inside. Each room was filled with what seemed like hundreds of objects – chairs of every kind in one room; tables in another; armour, weapons, and so on; all carefully stored and labelled.

Back upstairs, he invited us to identify a suitable area for an installation. It did not take us long to decide that we wanted to arrange dozens of grandfather clocks together with corrugated metal, stuffed animals and so on, in front of a cityscape of the Edinburgh skyline.

The next time we phoned the Museum we were met by the voice of a cold and unsympathetic administrator who insisted on a meeting with us. Clearly discomforted by the fact that we had managed somehow to make direct contact with the Director without her knowledge or approval, she sternly informed us:
“Under no circumstances should Dr Anderson have shown you into the Museum’s storage rooms without proper supervision … each room has its assigned curator without whose prior written consent nothing can be disturbed, let alone used in a temporary installation.”

Having noted the Director’s “irresponsible enthusiasm” she began to outline the time-consuming difficulties and long drawn out negotiations necessary with conservation staff … and no doubt the Fire Officer, Head of Security, Administration, and so on.

We knew it was doomed … and we had not yet mentioned the straw.1