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The Medicine Chest

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  • Where the Wild Things Are (Field study)

    'Where the Wild Things Are' (21 October – 5 November 2014) explored the political, social and historical narratives embedded in the natural world through investigation, observation, mapping, archival research and art making. The exhibition consisted of various on-site interventions engaging with contemporary and historical spatial dynamics and the significance of Hiddingh Campus. The Egyptian Building (home to sculpture workshops and studios) was built on the site of a zoo established in the late eighteenth century that was replete with lion’s dens and a small lake that supposedly housed a hippo. The campus was also the home to UCT’s first Zoology and Botany building (now the Michaelis Building). This historical perspective highlights both the site’s colonial imprints and its early affiliation with the sciences. The UCT campus is divided into its main upper campus, a middle and lower campus, and a few satellite campuses, of which the Michaelis School of Fine Art and the South African College of Music form part. Students drew on the methodologies of artist/curator Mark Dion, collaborating with specialists from upper campus (entomologists, ornithologists and botanists) and Michaelis Fine Art students, to highlight its natural environment. The interventions occurred on different days, and over a two week period. A calendar was provided to stipulate event times and artwork appearances. Curated by Nina Liebenberg Participating artists: Christopher Swift, Dillon Marsh, Fritha Langerman, Thuli Gamedze, Pippa Skotnes, Alex Kaczmarek, Rone-Mari Botha, Jessica Holdengarde, Fanie Buys, Lara Reusch, Stephani Muller, Tegan Green, Evan Wigdorowitz, Mariam Moosa, C J Chandler, Adrienne Van Eeden-Wharton
  • Page 135 of the Curiosity CLXXV catalogue

    "Peering into one of them could, for instance, reveal musical instruments from the South African College of Music’s Kirby collection; old wooden mathematical models of abaci and polyhedrons from the Maths department; mobiles demonstrating platonic solids made by mechanical engineering students; publications by a UCT Professor of Astronomy; a sign pointing to ward D10 from the old section of Groote Schuur Hospital; glass slides once used as a teaching aid for art history at Michaelis; bird ringing material from the Avian Demography unit; and a bottle-brush plant labelled by the son of one of the curators" (Liebenberg 2021: 179).
  • The experiment (Wine into water)

    An experiment in three parts, reversing the first miracle.
  • Door, 11 rue Larrey, New York.

  • Flight Patterns

    Flight patterns observed on a bus en route back to London from Oxford on a research trip in 2017.
  • Similitude

    "In 'Similitude', Langerman brought together a selection of objects from three disparate disciplines – glassware from chemical engineering; a skull with an arrow embedded in it and a torch used as a murder weapon from forensic pathology; and two flutes from the Kirby collection. Ignoring the assigned functions the objects performed within their respective disciplines, she chose instead to use their formal characteristics as a taxonomic device. They were all, as she described them, ‘long thin things’ (Langerman n.d.). In displacing these objects from their respective disciplines and positioning them in proximity to objects that shared this new category, she neutralised their disciplinary functions and flattened their meanings within those fields (Langerman n.d.)" (Liebenberg 2021: 183).
  • About Ed Ricketts

    "Just about dusk one day in April 1948 Ed Ricketts stopped work in the laboratory in Cannery Row. He covered his instruments and put away his papers and filing cards. He rolled down the sleeves of his wool shirt and put on the brown coat which was slightly small for him and frayed at the elbows. He wanted a steak for dinner and he knew just the market in New Monterey where he could get a fine one, well hung and tender. He went out into the street that is officially named Ocean View Avenue and is known as Cannery Row. His old car stood at the gutter, a beat-up sedan. The car was tricky and hard to start. He needed a new one but could not afford it at the expense of other things. Ed tinkered away at the primer until the ancient rusty motor coughed and broke into a bronchial chatter which indicated that it was running. Ed meshed the jagged gears and moved away up the street. He turned up the hill where the road crosses the Southern Pacific Railways track. It was almost dark, or rather that kind of mixed light and dark which makes it very difficult to see. Just before the crossing the road takes a sharp climb. Ed shifted to second gear, the noisiest gear, to get up the hill. The sound of his motor and gears blotted out every other sound. A corrugated iron warehouse was on his left, obscuring any sight of the right of way. The Del Monte Express, the evening train from San Francisco, slipped around from behind the warehouse and crashed into the old car. The cow-catcher buckled in the side of the automobile and pushed and ground and mangled it a hundred yards up the track before the train stopped" (Steinbeck 1951: 279). ​After Ricketts' death in 1948, Steinbeck dropped the species catalogue from the earlier 'The Sea of Cortez' and republished it with a eulogy to his friend added as an afterword.
  • Left luggage

    St. Pancras Station, London. Suitcases full of holes, handkerchiefs and string sculpture - destroyed by the train pulling out of the station
  • Ma

    The Japanese have a word, ‘ma’, for this interval which gives shape to the whole – this ‘gap’, ‘opening’, ‘space between’ or ‘time between’. Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements, rather it can be understood as the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. A room, for example, is called 'ma', as it refers to the space between the walls. Or a rest in music, which indicates a pause between the notes or sounds (Pilgrim 1986: 255).
  • Vaal Bridge

    The train crossing the Vaal bridge in the picture was the funeral train of Paul Kruger, the former president of the ZAR. He died in 1904 in Switzerland and his remains were taken to Pretoria. ​
  • Barkly Bridge over the Vaal River and a barge

    Woodburytype
  • Devils Bridge sketched by Lister

    'Devils Bridge' sketched by Lister on his travels through Europe showing a bridge crossing the Gotthard Pass, northern approach, Switzerland. ​The term 'devil's bridge' is applied to many ancient bridges found primarily in Europe. These were stone or masonry arch bridges and, because they represented a significant technological achievement in ancient architecture, were objects of fascination and stories. The most popular of these featured the Devil, either as the builder of the bridge (relating to the precariousness or impossibility of such a bridge to last or exist in the first place) or as a pact-maker (sharing the necessary knowledge to build the bridge, usually in exchange for the communities souls). The legend attached to the bridge sketched by Lister is of the latter, and was related by Johann Jakob Scheuchzer in 1716. According to Scheuchzer, the people of Uri recruited the Devil for the difficult task of building the bridge. In return for his expertise, the Devil requested the soul of the first thing to pass the bridge. To trick the Devil, the people of Uri sent across a dog by throwing a piece of bread, and the dog was promptly torn to pieces by the Devil. Reference: Scheuchzer, J. , 1747 [1716]. Naturgeschichte des Schweitzerlandes. Vol. 2: 94.
  • Where their lives took on true weight

    In Alice Munro's short story 'Post and Beam', the two protagonists return home from a short vacation: "Up Capilano Road, into their own part of the city and their own corner of the world, where their lives took on true weight and their actions took on consequences. There were the uncompromising wooden walls of their house, showing through the trees" (Munro 2001: 212).
  • House

    Lokrete with metal armature Grove Road, London, E3 (Destroyed 11 January 1994)
  • The South African College

    “UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, a high school for boys. ​ The College had a small tertiary-education facility that grew substantially after 1880, when the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north – and the resulting demand for skills in mining – gave it the financial boost it needed to grow. ​ The College developed into a fully fledged university during the period 1880 to 1900, thanks to increased funding from private sources and the government. ​ During these years, the College built its first dedicated science laboratories, and started the departments of mineralogy and geology to meet the need for skilled personnel in the country's emerging diamond and gold-mining industries” (University of Cape Town 2021).
  • On the External Characters of Minerals

    "The chest is designed to meet the requirements of travellers, miners, missionaries and others who need a chest of sufficient capacity to take a good supply of medicines without undue bulk and weight. It is very portable, and, on account of the material of which it is made, capable of standing hard usage" (BWC 1934: 24).
  • Holes

    The landscape of the Karoo and the Northern Cape – the land of the |xam – is rich with holes in the ground. Below the surface of the earth burrowing animals navigate their way through the roots of grasses and shrubs, small trees and creepers. Holes are made and inhabited by scorpions and spiders, mice and shrews, suricats and mongooses. One of the most energetic of burrowers is the anteater whose holes, in places, transform the landscape. Anteaters are such active diggers and their holes so numerous that abandoned burrows are quickly occupied by bat-eared foxes, hyenas, hares, civets, bats, jackals, owls and porcupines (Skotnes 2010: 26)
  • Fairytales warn us...

    "The fairytales warn us that there is no such thing as standard size – that is an illusion of industrial life – an illusion farmers still struggle with when trying to supply uniform vegetables to supermarkets … no, size is both particular and subject to change. The stories of the gods appearing in human form – scaled-down power deities – are also stories against judging by appearances – things are not what they seem. It seems to me that being the right size for your world – and knowing that both you and your world are not by any means fixed dimensions – is a valuable clue to learning how to live" (Winterson 2011: 35).
  • On the External Characters of Minerals

    "The chest is designed to meet the requirements of travellers, miners, missionaries and others who need a chest of sufficient capacity to take a good supply of medicines without undue bulk and weight. It is very portable, and, on account of the material of which it is made, capable of standing hard usage" (BWC 1934: 24).
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge

    The old Tacoma Narrows bridge was named Galloping Gertie because it vibrated rather strongly whenever there was a little wind due to resonance, the property which most objects have, of vibrating more strongly when exposed to an external force which is itself vibrating at the object's natural frequency. Crossing Gertie was actually quite a popular thing to do, similar to riding a roller-coaster. On November 7, 1940, things changed for the worse however. It was a day of rather high winds which caused Gertie to take on a 30-hertz transverse vibration with an amplitude of 1½ feet. This developed into a twisting motion of about 14 hertz, which then tore the bridge in two. The only victim of the disaster was a three-legged Cocker Spaniel, Tubby, left in the back seat of a lone car abandoned on the bridge.
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