James Putnam
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Time Machine - Ancient Egypt and Contemporary Art

An exhibition at The British Museum.
1 December 1994 - 26 February 1995 (extended one month) with Stephen Cox, Andy Goldsworthy, David Hiscock, Liliane Karnouk, Rita Keegan, Jiri Kolar, Igor Mitoraj, Alexander Mihaylovich, Marc Quinn, Peter Randall- Page, Martin Riches, Kate Whiteford.

This exhibition was intended to contest the idea that the British Museum and its ancient Egyptian artefacts are stagnant remnants of the past, with no connection with the present. Twelve artists from Britain and abroad created pieces which not only explored themes within ancient Egyptian Art but had resonances within their own work. Installed among the antiquities in the vast Egyptian Sculpture Gallery, the works included a twenty-five foot high painting, a multimedia CD Rom installation and a living sculpture requiring refrigeration.

This was the first time any major museum undertook such a bold project on this scale which illustrates that museum spaces can be used in new and exciting ways for the BM's seven million yearly visitors, some of whom were introduced directly to contemporary art for the first time. Above all it demonstrated how the Museum's collections have the power to inspire succeeding generations of artists, showing a continuity of ideas and expressions unbound by time.

Time Machine was funded by the Arts Council of England, The London Arts Board and Momart PLC while inIVA (the Institute of International Visual Arts) co-produced the exhibition catalogue .

*Andy Goldsworthy quote - 2nd picture from top -
"My first response to the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery was of sand. Sand is somewhere between stone and earth. It can be compressed hard and yet it can become fluid. It has a sense of strength, fragility and movement. The work would flow through the room- touching the sculptures and incorporating them into its form to give a feeling of the underlying geological and cultural energies that flow through the sculptures. I want to think of the landscape and the life from where they came. The project was initially turned down because it would have restricted access to the room. James Putnam contacted me later and suggested that we made the work for a day, photograph it ,then remove it, to be represented in the exhibition as a memory. I found this a fascinating idea and one that would make the work stronger. That something was there, but has gone, touches on the relationship between an object and its origin. To think beyond the object to what we cannot see. A.G. 1994"

*Quinn - 4th picture from top - used a perspex mould of his head within which he placed a North American Wood Frog( Rana sylvatica) in the position of the dormant primitive part of the human brain. The Frog was in a state of suspended animation or hibernation, in a maintained temperature of minus three degrees to simulate the climate of its natural habitat during the winter months. It's state of apparent death waiting to be reborn in the spring parallelled the funerary beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and their practice of mummification. At the end of the exhibition the frog came out of hibernation and was donated to London zoo.

Selected Press Reviews:
1) The Daily Telegraph - 'Bridge across the Centuries' - David Cohen - Dec. 3, 1994
2) The Guardian - 'About time' - James Hall - Dec. 5 1994
3) The Financial Times - 'Artists respond to ancient Egypt' - Lynn MacRitchie Dec.6, 1994
4) The Times - 'Making a present from the past ' - Guy Walters, Dec.14, 1994
5) Time Out - ' A show in Ruins' - Sarah Kent, Jan. 18, 1995
6) Channel 4, TV - 'Big City'
7) BBC Radio 4 - 'Kaleidoscope' - interview with Tim Marlow & Richard Cork

watch clip
To download edited video clip from 'Big City', LWT click here

To download edited video clip from BM Education video click here

Stephen Cox - Flask , 1991, Egyptian Hammamat Breschia.
Andy Goldsworthy - Sandwork , 1994, made from 30 tons of sand
Igor Mitoraj - Tsuki No-Hikari (Moonlight), 1991, bronze
Marc Quinn - Rubber Soul, 1994, Stainless steel, steel, glass perspex, refigeration equipment and frog (Rana sylvatica)

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