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Arts & Culture

'Pasts to Come, Art, Archaeology and Speculative World-Building'

Pasts to Come, Art, Archaeology and Speculative World-Building, explores how the deep past has inspired artists to rethink our relationship to bodies, sexuality, and spirituality.

The collection will be displayed at the Curiosity Cabinet between 13 May- 30 August 2024. 

While artworks encountered in a gallery are often understood to be products of individual inspiration, archaeological artefacts in museums are generally interpreted as cultural expressions that represent communal values or debates. If considered as artefacts, what collective values or conversation, what relationship to bodies – our own and other’s – could these objects be celebrating or exploring? The works in Pasts to Come invite the viewer to imagine how they could function in rituals, mythology, or daily life of a past society (or perhaps of one yet to come).

Rather than referencing a particular culture or time, Pasts to Come presents creative amalgams and reinventions of the archaeological past. The exhibition takes place in dialogue with the research project Matriarchal Pasts and Modernist Futures by Dr Frederika Tevebring, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Classics. This project focuses on the reception of spectacular archaeological finds from prehistoric Europe, made in the first half of the twentieth century, that revealed women in prominent positions. These discoveries, together with increasing knowledge about non-European cultures, implied that social institutions such as social classes, royalty, marriage, and the nuclear family were only some ways out of many to organise relationships, divide work, and allocate power.

Pasts to Come aims to explore the relationships between the use of the past to imagine futures, today and a hundred years ago.

A collaboration with artists:

Marisa Müsing
Hot Desque (Lizzy Drury and Neena Percy)
William Cobbing
Fiona Berry
Fani Parali


Project status: Ongoing