What I See Meets…The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Memory Palace

“If you could only keep one memory, what would it be?”

This is the premise behind The Victoria and Albert Museum’s latest exhibition, Sky Arts Ignition: Memory Palace.

Based on Hari Kunzru’s dystopian novel, Memory Palace, the intricately decorated interior of the museum reveals the thoughts of the protagonist, with plays on his language, his thoughts and his senses.

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Images courtesy of The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Experimenting with graphic art to tell the story and place the language in the context of the narrative, the exhibition reveals a distorted view of the world, with a single memory being the only part of a human that can ultimately survive.

Beautifully illustrated posters conclude the exhibition, incorporating memories from every visitor. You can add your contribution to a poster by drawing or writing your memory on the spot – you’ll then receive an email indicating when it is on display at the V&A.

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The V&A is open daily from 10am-5.45pm and from 10am-10pm on Fridays. The Memory Palace exhibition runs until October 20, 2013.

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What I See Meets…Wimbledon

By Harlen Leonard & Marése O’Sullivan Today the What I See Project team braved the hussle and bussle of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. We walked the length of the queue and received contributions from women who were eager to become involved … Continue reading

What I See Meets…Leicester Square

What I See Meets…Leicester Square

By Harlen Leonard Today, the What I See team headed to Leicester Square to ask women what they see when they look in the mirror. We had a wonderful time chatting to everyone and hearing each woman’s different perceptions about … Continue reading

Ladies Who Impress: A Night of Celebration

By Marése O’Sullivan

The What I See team headed to Cecil Sharp House in Camden on Monday to check out the Ladies Who Impress event, organised by Jana Bakunina.

The theme was ‘London In Her Eyes’, and the host made sure to quiz her guests of honour on how they see London. Jana herself moved to London from Ekaterinburg in Russia over a decade ago and has since established a career in media. With wonderful guest speakers in the shape of Jenny Dawson, founder of chutneys and jam business Rubies in the Rubble; Katherine Grainger, Olympic gold medallist and Homicide PhD graduate; and Xiaolu Guo, filmmaker, novelist and one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013, we were certainly inspired.

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Ladies Who Impress: Founder Jana Bakunina

“In the modern day and age, whom do professional women, juggling work and family, balancing desire to look good with cravings for treats, carrying The Economist and Grazia in their totes, find impressive?” writes Jana on her blog. “I realised that there are lots of amazing women out there from very diverse backgrounds. […] And so I have decided to do something to celebrate those amazing ladies and inspire other women to be more confident, daring, creative, enjoy life and give more to others.”

Jana plans to regularly host events to encourage interaction with women in the public eye who have made huge achievements. Sponsored by GOSH Food and fundraising for Alzheimer’s Disease International, Ladies Who Impress was a true revelation of the strength and determination of these women.

“Entrepreneur, athlete, writer…let’s look beyond these labels,” said Jana.

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JENNY DAWSON, Founder of Rubies in the Rubble

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Jenny’s home-grown company, Rubies in the Rubble, started in November 2010 and the young entrepreneur, who has a Masters in Maths from Edinburgh University, has quickly developed a knowledge of her market. Inspired by her mum, Jenny hit on the idea of using surplus fruit and vegetables to make delicious and resourceful chutneys and jams. Now she’s selling 300 jars a day.

“I stumbled across something I was passionate about,” smiled 27-year-old Jenny. “I realised I can make a really fun business out of [food that could be] wasted.” She said that approximately 60% of thrown out food is good. She employs several disadvantaged people at her stalls and kitchens to help them get their pride and self-confidence back in a work environment – two of the women that work for her are homeless.

Her chutneys and jams have had interest from America and she plans to expand the range of products that she and her business partner Alicia Lawson currently produce. “I guess the thing that all entrepreneurs have in common is a little naivité or lack of fear,” she declared. “Even if you fail, give it your best shot. I care about it so much – [but] if it all goes to pot, I’ll try and laugh about it…if possible!”

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KATHERINE GRAINGER, Olympic gold medallist and PhD graduate of Homicide Studies

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Although she is a three-time Olympic silver medalist and a six-time World Champion, Katherine revealed the struggles she went through to achieve victory as an Olympian. She fell into rowing at university. The mantra behind her team’s first silver Olympic medal was “We’ve never really reached our limits. Why don’t we tap into something we’ve never tried before? We believed it was possible – the different mindset transformed us.” Her competitive nature encouraged her to pursue the sport, but it also led to downcast periods in her life where she felt disappointed in herself. “I genuinely felt like a massive failure,” she said of not receiving gold at Beijing in 2008. “It was really tough to come to terms with it.”

She promised her mum that she’d compete at London 2012, although she didn’t know if she would at the time. “[Mum had said] ‘Promise me you’ll be in London, because I know you can do it.’ It’s just hard work,” she told us. “You don’t make assumptions [that it will not be].” Her determination paid off at the 2012 Olympics when she won gold in the double skulls with Anna Watkins. “I love what [the sport] brings out in me…the journey is worth it.”

She revealed that Princess Anne told her that she had no foreknowledge of the Queen’s surprise appearance in the James Bond spoof during the Opening Ceremony. When the Princess asked the Queen what made her do it, Her Majesty apparently declared: “We needed to find a way to beat Beijing!”

XIAOLU GUO, filmmaker and novelist

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The bestselling author of UFO In Her Eyes (the title of which inspired the Ladies Who Impress event name) and A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction, also made an appearance. This multi-talented lady has penned screenplays, poetry and fiction and is known for the deep emphasis on cultural awareness and alienation in her feature films, which she directs and produces. Xiaolu studied at the Beijing Film Academy and earned a Masters from London’s National Film School. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists this year.

Photography courtesy of Jana Bakunina, Harlen Leonard, Marése O’Sullivan, Xiaolu GuoKatherine Grainger and Rubies in the Rubble.

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What I See Meets…Oxford Street

Yesterday, the What I See team took to Oxford Street to find out what women see when they look in the mirror.

We really enjoyed meeting the lovely ladies who stopped to chat to us. Many joked about their appearance, some liked theirs, but all of them were honest.

What struck me most was seeing people take in what our sign said and then mouth the question back to themselves with a look of complexity.

Here’s a selection of the reflections we had:

DSC_0067 DSC_0068 DSC_0082  Hayley Laing Sherlene McKenzie Sy Lim

Female Perception through Art: An Exploration of the Tate Modern, London

By Marése O’Sullivan

How does female perception relate to art? The What I See team went to the Poetry and Dream Exhibition at the Tate Modern in London this week to find out.

The images of modern women were strong and dramatic, evoking very fine and different depictions. The male artists I’m discussing seem to have a visual focus on the power of the physical body – the woman figure dominates the frame – while the female artists insist on the detachment and solitary nature of the woman.

Below are some of the male representations of women. All image credit to the Tate Modern.

Meredith Frampton – Portrait of a Young Woman, 1935

Portrait of a Young Woman 1935 by Meredith Frampton 1894-1984

Frampton’s portrait centres on a tall woman who dominates the frame. Her sharply-angled body evokes tension, as do the taut strings on the double bass, enhanced by the dark atmosphere. Half her face is in shadow, perhaps a reflection on the pre-World War Two era. The contrast of light and dark – including the black and white floor – perfectly demonstrates the inner conflict of the woman: both wanting to be herself and who the painter wants her to be. The seemingly natural environment, with music and flowers, is full of arrangements and falsities: the bended plant sways towards the border of the painting, echoing the woman’s need for release; the instrument sits unplayed, its bow at the edge of the table; her tight curls are set in place and emphasise her frown.

This should be a traditional portrayal of feminine beauty – with her red lips, flowing figure, and pastel clothing, but her almost angry expression, tense body language, and somber surroundings reveal a subverted moodiness and discontent. She does not look at the viewer, her eyes fixed on a point in the distance.

Meredith Frampton – Marguerite Kelsey, 1928

Marguerite Kelsey 1928 by Meredith Frampton 1894-1984

This woman remarkably almost blends in with her surroundings. She manages to appear almost expressionless, but there is a hint of sadness in her eyes.

Her beige dress reveals little of her pale skin. Her red shoes, tucked behind her, hint at a joyful personality that she’s hidden from the viewer and painter.

Her tightly-pinned hair and stiff fingers add to the taut structure of the painting. These women don’t seem comfortable in the environment that they’ve been placed in by men.

Francis Picabia – Otaiti, 1930

Otaïti 1930 by Francis Picabia 1879-1953

This woman is portrayed a lot more sensually. With a fantastically evocative blend of darkness and light, her uncovered body is powerfully sensualised. She is kneeling, defined in black, with pursed red lips. Her focus is on the creature above her. The entanglement of brown and yellow colour gives this painting a more earthly feel. Merged with drawings of beasts and faces, this woman is firmly connected to her natural self.