Open house for city’s creative talent

Open Up 2011'Sam Dexter at work in her studio at Clarence Works
Open Up 2011'Sam Dexter at work in her studio at Clarence Works

MANY of us have received something as a gift which we dislike or have no use for but are faced with the dilemma of whether to keep it or not to avoid causing offence to a loved one.

An exhibition opening next week at Sheffield Hallam University is giving people the chance to share that experience. The Campaign for Objects in Purgatory is inviting visitors to tell the story of their own ‘object in purgatory’, through photos, sketches and written submissions, all of which will remain anonymous.

Already examples of bizarre and ugly items have been submitted such as a liquor decanter, a stuffed toy, a doll’s house, and a broken pot.

Each contributing visitor will be given a handmade brooch, made from embossed paper, ink and wax, featuring a photo of an ‘object in purgatory’ submitted by another contributor.

The organiser of the exhibition at the Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery, Julia Keyte, senior lecturer in metalwork and jewellery at Sheffield Hallam, said: “We are building a collection of images and stories about real people’s ‘objects in purgatory’, in order to explore the scenarios surrounding them and the dilemmas we face when contemplating throwing something away.”

Anonymity is important, says the curator. “What is interesting is when I talk to people about their experience what comes across is that people have guilt and anxiety. It’s because they care about the giver and while they might not like the object they appreciate the gesture.”

Julia Keyte cites her own experience with a stone object which she was given which had a macabre look, was badly made and she never liked, but nevertheless was never thrown out. “It ended up living behind the front door, as if it was on the way out,” she says, effectively in a state of purgatory. Hence the title of the project. The idea of inviting visitors and passers-by to bring in photos of the objects or to draw them or write down descriptions, in effect to tell the story of their arrival and continued presence, has several benefits.

“It’s a kind of amnesty,” says Keyte. “The Campaign for Objects in Purgatory gives people the opportunity to give these items a new lease of life by drawing attention to them and their plight in purgatory. In a way, it’s an example of recycling.”

It is also a research exercise for the academic. “I am also interested in using it as part of an investigation of over-consumption and also into design research. There’s an emotional attachment to possessions and I am interested in how designers use that information,” she says.

The Campaign for Objects in Purgatory opens at the Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery in Sheffield Hallam’s Furnival Building, opens next Wednesday and runs until May 20.