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Our losses recalled, be they people, things or times – come weighed with the intermittencies of the mind, murmurings of inner inconsistencies that never quite grasp what has been and what remains to us in the wake. Our stories retold are full of forgotten facts and mystified anecdotes that try to recapture a time and the emotional resonance associated with it.

Inspiration on the other side, that light lucid emanation born in unguarded time, in its instant – collects our lost time and vividly reminds us of the perpetual alteration of loss and recovery within our life experience. The question of what we recover and how we go about recovering it from the recesses of time and experience is one of the intriguing notions posed by the exhibition ‘Shadow Traders’. Stephen Greenblatt’s thesis on ‘Resonance and Wonder’ presents a conceptual thread on which the exhibition Shadow Traders is woven.

In his essay Greenblatt writes; ‘Among the most resonant moments are those in which the supposedly contextual objects take on a life of their own and make a claim rivaling that of the object that is formally privileged. A table, a chair, a map, often seemingly placed only to provide a decorative setting for a grand work, become oddly expressive, significant not as background but as compelling representational practices in them- selves’.1 Coming together again in creative collaboration the artist’s Marie Brett and John McHarg explore the vicissitudes of this notion by generating a live alphabet of things pulled in from the peripheries and margins of material culture. From what can be described as a Kunstkabinett filled with unfashionable fashions, sounds and smells to the reparation leftovers of private collections – the artist’s provide a lexicon of sensitivities to the everyday past. ‘Shadow Traders’ engages questions on how apparently inert objects and memorabilia of times past – supposed to lack in intensity, self-reflexivity and unpredictability can be recovered to contemporary resonance and perhaps wonder.Ruminating on the Greenblattian questions such as;  ‘what were the feeling of those who originally held the objects, cherished them collected them, possessed them’? Shadow Traders’ inevitably asks us to consider, what then happens to us in experience when absence replaces presence in leading meaningfulness?

The artists Brett and McHarg don’t seek to produce solid permanent work but rather to engage audience participation amid the transience of shadows, where dream and memory contrive in somnambular tension. A tension that combines in the relation between the conscious production of art and the involuntary forms of sensory experience which they conjure in the recovery of more intimate and enigmatic forms of object-hood.

From loss to recovery from past to present from the prosaic to the wonderful the exhibition ‘Shadow Traders’ operates on many levels simultaneously. Occupying the shadows the artists seek to traverse a site where ordinary museological experience is about to loose its mundane and habitual banality and open where a re-enchanted life world may stand forth in all its complexity.

Maria Tanner

1 Greenblatt Stephen, Resonance and wonder. Chapt 3,P44-45 Routledge Critical Thinkers 2 ibid P 45

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