On Saturday Jane Wildgoose will be speaking about the role of hair jewellery in the ‘language’ of Victorian mourning. Here the artist, writer, broadcaster and consultant takes a moment to talk about her fascinating personal collection.
The Wildgoose Memorial Library is “a place where the heart remembers; where tender connections are made with forgotten feelings; and where the emotive power of the lost rituals of death is explored and interpreted by Jane’s sensitivity and unerring eye for the compelling.”
Roger Bowdler, World of Interiors (Nov. 2006)
The Wildgoose Memorial Library (WML) is an ongoing collection of reference material that informs Jane Wildgoose’s practice as an artist and writer. A constantly evolving work in progress, and a place for meditation and consultation on universal themes of life and death, the WML began as an informal collection of objects and books relating to Wildgoose’s enduring fascination with the interest of the dead to the living, and a research resource for her work as a designer for theatre and film.
In 2003 the collection took on a more formal aspect when it became the consultation basis for the BBC Radio 4 documentary On One Lost Hair – a meditation on a wisp of hair from the head of Horatio Nelson, bought on eBay, co-devised with producers Gregory Whitehead and Neil McCarthy. Encouraged by critical acclaim for the programme, and a NESTA Dream Time Fellowship to develop her role as Keeper of the WML, Wildgoose has gone on to establish a multi-faceted approach to collecting that offers perspectives on a broad range of associated values – ranging from the historical, aesthetic and sociological, to the emotional and instinctive – while embracing an acquisitions policy that places emphasis on the capacity of an object to resonate with the viewer’s imagination through its appeal to the senses.
The Wildgoose Memorial Library (WML) has a digital home at www.janewildgoose.co.uk devised and designed in collaboration with Harry Willis Fleming. Elsewhere, the WML makes regular appearances ‘on location’ as Wildgoose presents her collection to the public in a variety of settings, which have included: the 1930s marble and wood-panelled municipal splendour of Hornsey Town Hall in North London; the white space of the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, Portland, USA, and – on a foggy midwinter night – the candlelit, vaulted cellars of Copped Hall, a magnificent derelict eighteenth-century mansion in Epping Forest. Back at home in the WML, Wildgoose hosts consultations by appointment with interested members of the public; she also uses the unique setting she has created as a forum and reference resource for collaborative work and for debate, as well as the backdrop for digital photographs informed by her research into Victorian studio portraiture and seventeenth-century vanitas paintings. She is currently investigating the potential for a permanent and more public-facing home for the WML – part artist’s studio, part reliquary, part research centre – which she envisages being built from reclaimed materials, overlooking the sea.