The Last Tuesday Society

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Dolls, stuffed animals and skeletons

On Saturday I went with a friend to explore The Last Tuesday Society, a very curious museum tucked away in Mile End. It’s a dark, mysterious pit of a place, so I couldn’t get any photos inside, but some exhibits were:

Beautifully carved skulls, giant crab shells, dildos, mummified mermaid corpses, stuffed two-headed cats (and two-headed teddy bears on sale in the shop), skeletons of many animals, books of porn, broken dolls, tropical butterflies, many dead moles in a jar and some strange sculptures. It was very much the personal collection of a rich, artistic and slightly twisted eccentric. That eccentric is the still-living, party throwing artist called Victor Wynd. Wynd is a lecturer at the London Institute of Pataphysics (Pataphysics is what happens when artists get hold of science.)

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Spot the zebra unicorn and the blurry peacock

We also got to meet a number of living animals, such as chameleons, water dragons and snakes. I got to walk around the museum with a Nicaraguan Boa curled around my arm. I’ve not held a snake before, he was reassuringly heavy and mellow, and his skin felt pleasantly shiny and smooth; a beautiful animal.

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Insect Menu

Upstairs in the cafe, we spotted they sold insects to eat. This is something I’ve been curious about for a while – after all, if our global troubles with population with continue, we may have to start eating insects soon. We got the insect platter and chocolate worms. I have to be honest, I didn’t like the insects much, the flavour was ok, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was eating a load of insects, the texture was too papery and crispy, and just too much like I would expect a dead insect to be like. I also felt sort of guilty, there were so many of them, all those tiny lives snuffed out so that I could crunch on them feeling a bit sick. The chocolate was nice though.

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Crickets, worms and beetles. The middle object is a slice of banana with worms on.

 

Inside the House of Dreams: an adventure

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Yesterday I explored the House of Dreams, the museum/home/art installation of artist Stephen Wright. A tangled delight of junk, jumble, thoughts and images hiding behind a blue gate in Dulwich, London. The museum is only open a few days a year and photos can only be taken of the front garden, so what you see here is a fragment. I think that’s for the best though, photos could never give you the experience: the chance to explore, touch and be surrounded by the contents of the house.

A colourful jungle, absolutely crammed full of ephemera and words, the house contains powerful messages about love and loss, but also about acceptance of the self. Stephen has woven his thoughts and experiences into a visual adventure that others can share, telling a tale of love, grief and defiance.

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Part of what makes this house special is that the artist and his partner, Michael, both spend time talking to visitors one to one. I think I was my usual nosy, odd self and asked lots of questions, but both were patient and I learned first hand about how the house came into being and a little of what it means. I was also able to ask about why it was called the House of Dreams. For Stephen and his previous partner Donald the name was arrived at organically. It grew, like the house did, out of a random idea coming to life. For me, the name has real significance, tied into my understanding of what dreams are.

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When I had the brain injury (gone on about here) I had many dreams, and in a few ways they were like this house: vivid, crowded and stayed lodged in my thoughts throughout the day. I decided then that dreams are the brain’s way of frantically sorting through information in order to make sense of it and learn from it. From tiny irrelevant details of a TV show to complex emotions, the unconscious brain spends the quiet time at night filing and connecting at random each nugget of your life, testing one against another until each is finally slotted into place. My dreams were my brain’s way of sorting through my own experience of death and illness. This house seems like Stephen’s more external way of doing the same, it enabled him to process intense grief (he lost his partner and both parents in a very short space of time). It uses the same random juxtaposition of dreams: putting a sculpture showing his feelings about his father’s death next to a collection of brightly coloured bleach bottles; hair curlers next to diary entries. Walking through the house was a little like walking through someone else’s dreams.

One of the most powerful messages I got from the house was to be fearless with who you are. To boldly be who no one can else can be. There is  a lot of pressure to hide our oddities, and as someone who can weird people out quite easily, I tend to tuck the messy edges of my personality out of sight. That’s an easier way to interact in society, but art is not about behaving and being normal; art should be the explosion of the self, the unfeterred release of who we are. Mostly I write fiction and I’m always adamant that I don’t write about me in my stories; but it’s important also that I don’t distance myself from what I write, that I don’t sketch half-hearted thoughts, but instead throw myself into the eye of the storm. That is certainly the inspiration I’ll take from this house.

More info, videos and pictures here. If you ever have the chance to visit the house on one of the open days then you really should. We live in mass produced, largely blank and repetitive world, the chance to see something unique and as inspiring as this is well worth the effort.

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