Marking the first off-site collaboration for the David Roberts Foundation (DRAF), over 40 contemporary artists re-examine familiar objects and materials in unexpected ways - a bench, plug socket, grate, section of railing or broom – and invites viewers to see the familiar anew.
“She sees the shadows… she even counts the tree-trunks along a promenade by the shadows, but sees nothing of the shape of things.”
In 1886, a 22-year-old woman in Lyon saw the world around her for the first time. Objects that had been instantly recognisable by touch were hard to distinguish with her new sight, and shadows appear more concrete than solid forms. Testimonies by the patient and her doctors describe the sudden strangeness of familiar environments, and her singular experience of the world as a newly sighted person.
The patient’s experiences were recorded by Marius Von Senden in his book Space and Sight alongside similar cases of regained sight spanning from 1020 to 1932. These captivating accounts have influenced writers, including Maggie Nelson who quotes a 13-year-old patient’s description of her first view of a hand in her poem Something Bright, Then Holes. These descriptions of patterns of shadows and brightness express how something familiar, when seen in a new way, can show a previously unacknowledged beauty.
This exhibition explores shifts in perception of objects and materials from contemporary daily life. The artists in this exhibition have looked again at day-to-day objects in unexpected ways, and invite viewers to see alternative qualities and narratives therein. On the occasion of the exhibition, artists and writers are invited to re-examine familiar items, and to write about the emotional, material or political narratives they see in them.
The works are drawn from a long-standing collection, but each exhibition generates new relationships and dialogues, making visible different ideas that shaped them.