Mere Shells of Ourselves
“Mere Shells of Ourselves”
or Cypraea ethnographica
A Game for Initiates of all Ages
I'm not going to tell you what this artwork means or explain it away.
A stranger might describe this artwork as a cross between The Glass Bead Game and Mornington Cresent from Radio 4's 'Give us a Clue'.
Some of us have been too fascinated by seashells from childhood particularly cowries with their natural gloss, intangible beauty, patterns and transparent layers of colour. 'Nature' makes all art obsolete when needed.
Cowrie collecting is really a dialogue on aesthetics with hidden rules that we initiates pursue. Humans have traded cowries for aeons and cowries were traded for people in the slave trade, maybe this sin is still concealed under the shells dark layered beauty.
Each shell is fashioned into an ethnographic votive object then transmuted into tender revenge and desire objects directed at 'our' culture and ourselves. Each shell puts forth a strategy on how to interpret the world.
These questions are about personal, political, historical, artistic, scientific and moral questions. The synthesis of these questions into a greater whole is the route delineated: how to piece the world together, but not in the way the world is presented on the surface.
The shells are both inner and outer and within each category a structure of understanding, sometimes inept and ironic, a reflection of the world as it appears.