We have been working on Mood Boxes for the past 5 weeks for Exploring Materials and Making, looking at artists like Joseph Cornell. We had to start off with an empty box and choose from given themes. I have a keen interest in the taxonomies of museums and their systems of display of other cultures so mine was based on looking at Africa, or rather the collection and display of African culture in Western museums of the 19th Century.
I made a mood board with a colour palette to include natural materials to suggest the study of natural science, as well as including masks for anthropology and ethnography. In the past African and Oceanic masks were appreciated only as curiosities or for their formal aesthetic values and were often decapitated from the costume associated with them. They also had no reference to the cultural context they originated from which included performance and rituals. I wanted to refer to Empire and the hunting habits of the colonialist and also to slavery- so here are some of the things I included. I made the masks from carved air dry clay pressed in to a teaspoon with loose stylistic references to masks from the Ivory Coast, Congo and Cameroon. The other items are found objects with a printout of a map of Africa and the famous image to the layout of a slave ship.
The difficult bit about this project was compartmentalising the box, and ordering everything. I wanted it to have the look of a Cabinet de Curiosities with the masks mounted on top. Here’s the final box. Apart form still looking like cardboard, I was pretty happy with the end result.