I created the Knickerbeasts in 1990 while Susan Timmins and I were working on the Nuclear Roadshow in Shetland. The name was given by Krystyna Goudie as they were the clumps of plaster that had hardened in the crutch of the knickers I'd been dipping in plaster to create pieces for installation in the six houses around Shetland.
When I began researching on site in the Natural History Museum for the exhibition Still and Silent Objects, I began to develop the idea to use them as a fictionalised fossil collection unearthed for this exhibition. The labels tell the story of the people and places in Shetland that had played a part in The Nuclear Roadshow. I used the labels in the Natural History Museum fossil displays as the format for naming and placing the new names for fossils and geological time periods. I was quite stunned (and secretly pleased) when a young pupil who came to see the exhibition with their school believed they were real fossils. In a way, I guess they are.
Still and Silent Objects was a sculpture exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London. It was the second held by the 'Gathering Rites Group' who took their name from their first exhibition held at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, in 1988. The group consisted of three men, Chris Dorsett, Steve Hurst and Pete Smithson, who work in the vicinity of Oxford, and four women, Patricia Cox, Mouse Katz, Roxane Permar and Coffin Price, whose work was selected from the Women Artists Slide Library for the original Gathering Rites exhibition in 1988. We aimed to hold exhibitions in museums, using each location as the source material for our work around a common theme.
Chris Dorsett actually took on the project and continued to organise exhibitions in museums in the UK and internationally. In 1996 he included the Knickerbeasts in Divers Memories: A Collection of Things at the Manchester Museum. They were shown alongside the museum's fossil collection. Interestingly, the curator worried that the work would be inappropriate, i.e., along the lines of being X-rated!
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