Friday, November 26, 2010

Susan Brind & Jim Harold: Curious Arts – No. 3

Curious Arts – No. 3, a refurbishing of the Library, takes the form of a series of related wall and ceiling texts on a rich and warm coloured ground. The chosen texts re-introduce to the Library history and ideas discovered by the artists during a period of residency in the house in 2007. During the residency, jointly funded by Hospitalfield Trust and the RSA Edinburgh, the Library provided both a studio space and a source of research for the artists. The work is about the nature of libraries, the acquisition and ordering of knowledge, and the overarching desire to understand the world around us.

Hospitalfield House dates from the C13th and its current style reflects the cultural values of its C19th owners, Elizabeth and Patrick Allan Fraser. The design of the House is very much about their relationship with the landscape that surrounds the building and a wider understanding of the world and the individual’s place within it. These same concerns are reflected in the holdings of the Library and in the writings of one man in particular, Richard Parrott, an ancestor of Mrs Fraser. His journals, and most of the books in the Library, reveal a reading of the world informed by a study of astronomy, cosmology, theology, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, the natural sciences and Classical antiquity.

One particular journal, hand-written and compiled between 1740 and 1762, is indexed alphabetically; encyclopaedic topics appearing in an apparently random order under subject headings. Strange and poetic connections are made as ideas on the pages seem to grow out of each other like rhizomes: Memory, Meridian, Melancholy, Thunder, … . When facts are recorded that cannot easily be categorised they appear under the heading Curious Arts, the title adopted for this site-specific work. This journal, with its elliptical approach to the recording of knowledge, provides one of the sources for the texts used in the installation, It is also inspired the form of Curious Arts – No. 3 as a series of apparently disconnected ideas that seem to spin around the room attracted to each other by the context.

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