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Embodied Memories

Embodied Memories was a commission from the John Hansard Gallery and Art at the Heart, funded by Arts Council England to make a new piece of work that would commemorate the department store Tyrrell and Green. The new complex that would open in 2018 and house the John Hansard Gallery was to be built on the site of the department store, which had been a fixture of Southampton’s Above Bar Street from 1898 to 2000. In the accompanying publication to the exhibition, John Hansard Gallery Director Stephen Foster described the work:

“Jennifer was interested in studying the relationship between place, clothing and identity through the creation of a new body of work in response to verbal descriptions of treasured Tyrrell and Green purchases of clothing, jewellery, and accessories, and in particular, the gaps and absences in those recollections. These descriptive rifts and the infinite possibilities for reinterpretation created, allowed Jennifer to explore the way personal identities are constructed and experienced through clothing and personal items [my italics].”


The project began with sound recordings that were conducted to attain only a description of an object as it was remembered by the owner which crucially includes gaps, uncertainties and forgotten details. These descriptions were used as the source from which to have new garments and objects made. Some parts of the descriptions are incredibly vivid, though not necessarily accurate in terms of the material qualities. The inevitably patchy recollection, as well as the self-imposed reliance solely upon the description using unreliable language, is the crux of the project enquiry: a practical and tangible exploration into identity, memory and the (mis)communication of image. This practice of referencing pieces from the past resonates with the practices of couture, designers of couture garments continually refer to cultural and sartorial history, creating a space that simultaneously allows for the voice [and image] of ghosts of the past, whilst providing something new (Bancroft, 2012:89). The project in its emphasis on the ‘affect’ of the garment (some of them at the time of the project being undertaken no longer in material existence) sought to erode the material status of the object by placing the emphasis of the study on the affect of said objects (not frocks but coats, lingerie, shoes, and jewellery) on the consciousness of the wearer, even years later.  An Embodied Memories catalogue is available here

Embodied Memories photographer: Chris Overend

Doreen's Housecoat (shortened) Jennifer Anyan
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