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28/06/2011 / jenniferrobsonartist

D’Arcy’s Tortoise Cabinet

The D’Arcy Thomson Museum is one room at the bottom of a staircase, hidden from the world, no windows peak in. Dissected frogs hang in jars, a sleep infinite, baby-face monkey twists serenely in his glass grave. Kept, recorded, remembered. Specimen.

Tattered winged bats lie like a discarded newspaper – the items look like something you would discover yourself in an old disused cupboard or a locked drawer. Everything is set out like evidence of a particularly peculiar crime. Who would collect such things? Take any exhibit and imagine it found out of the context of ‘museum’ and it could and has made for a juicy elaborate tale, all on its own.

And the best possession for me? An object, a creature? A construction or contraption which in itself holds an enormous presence, yet could be easily missed. A chilling, yet heart achingly beautiful specimen. A tortoise, cut open, internal parts removed long ago, except for hip and shoulder bones and a head. The shell has been re-attached with a hinge and a hooked latch. A hinge and a latch! I fancy it is a book without words, a thousand stories wide.

I mean, who hasn’t wondered if there really is blood and bone underneath those shells? If actually inside, is a complicated clockwork mechanism or has fancied that a tiny man is in there peddling the tortoise, pressing buttons, pulling strings? Who hasn’t thought of the tortoise, sitting inside his shell (at home) with a cup of tea sitting, skinny and wrinkly on his sofa reading the tortoise news?

Look closer and a more foreboding and sinister tale reveals itself. It is far more unsettling to take it – As it is. There is nothing inside the shell. We can open and close it at will. It is empty. Nothing but shell and bone, heavy with the space of the missing tortoise.


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