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Joanne Humphreys

Lockdown Museum

Mixed media installation. Dimensions variable. 2020

My most recent work is an exploration of contemporary art practice and site-responsive strategies to combine film, sculpture, and taxidermy defining my own personal experiences of death and grieving inside the sanctuary of a museum. Inspired by x-ray images of taxidermy, the practice evolved into the layering of what lies beneath and beyond the museum specimen. A process of life and death, challenging the environment of extinction against the concept of evolution inside a virtual museum. Due to the unprecedented situation with the coronavirus pandemic. The film and sculptures are a virtual response to being in ‘Lockdown’ in conjunction with museum specimens in a domestic setting.

Joanna Humphrey’s – winner of the first Sidney Nolan Trust Residency Prize. Awarded by Curator Antony Mottershead.

The Process

Digital video, sculptures and digital stills. Dimensions variable. 2019-20

The film is based on a documentation of a cathartic experience involving many aspects of the grieving process based on my own personal experience of my son dying of cancer. Aspects of costume making and the macabre with the costumes based on a Guinea pig skin turned inside out connects with the experimental treatment offered to my son at the time of his illness when he was just two years old, but also resonates with the rawness of grieving.

The Guinea pig skin was something I saw a few years ago when a Guinea Pig had been prepared ready to be preserved by a taxidermist. Objects were burned in a ritualistic sense, were images of MRI scans, x-ray images and photos of the cancer cells. The bird feathers were included as part of a memory I had of my son waking up one morning covered in white feathers from his pillow. The tearing off of the Guinea pig face indicates an ending to pain and suffering. The music in the background of the film, (Music piece by Gustav Mahler based on Friedrick Ruckets Kindertotenlieder,Songs of the death of children’ poem, composed as an expression of grief, creating a description of the grieving process through the loss of a child.

‘Now I see well with such dark flames

In many glances you flash upon me’

The cathartic process of burning objects resonates with memories of the cancer treatment my son went through, such as the MRI scans of his skull and x-ray images. The process of burning the images means that its destroying something tangible that destroyed my son.