Lucy Harrison -The Absent Collector

Using a collection of letters and postcards found on a roadside in Sicily, Lucy Harrison is attempting to piece together a biography of the person who discarded them with the help of a variety of Italian speakers from around the UK and Italy.


The London-based artist was visiting Palermo last year when she discovered a carrier bag full of correspondence spanning 20 years. She returned home with the letters, intrigued by what they might reveal of their owner – and what they might withhold.


Shortly after Harrison’s return home, her own mother died, and she began to speculate that the letters could be seen as substitutes for items that were discarded or given away when the artist cleared her mother’s house.


She became interested in the collectors of her mother’s possessions; how others might have found, understood and formed relationships with those items that were given away when her house was cleared.


The Absent Collector is Harrison’s investigation into the process by which objects, letters and ephemera collected by one who is no longer there have new value judgments placed on them and are often disseminated to various locations and read without the previous owner’s knowledge of why they were kept, or of the specific relationships between the objects that determined their meaning.


By focusing on an unknown collector, the project attempts to consider how others may have found those items that were given away, and also the way in which those that were kept now signify a void, the writer or receiver of letters no longer being present to clarify points or retell stories.


For Harrison’s exhibition at Crate, she has not only asked various Italian speakers to translate the letters into English, but also to interpret and speculate on what the letters might have meant and what they reveal about the correspondents’ lives and relationships.


This dissemination of the collection is in part an attempt to explore how personal connections and family histories make objects meaningful: that when Harrison’s collaborators’ input is gathered to form a new collection, it might create a portrait of the void that is created when someone dies. 


The exhibition also examines the act of ‘reading’ a collection of objects – whether they be letters, objects, photographs – highlighting the role of guesswork in the absence of the original collector, and the extent to which one’s understanding of collections is guided by one’s own desires rather than curatorial or objective agendas.


The Absent Collector is part of Bad Translation, Crate’s programme for 2009/10.  It is supported by Arts Council England and Kent County Council.


Exhibition preview: Friday 12 March 2010 6-9pm

Exhibition opening dates and times: 13-14 March 2010 12-5pm and 19-21 March 2010 12-5pm


Duration 12 March 2010 - 21 March 2010
Times 12-5pm
Cost Free
Venue Crate Project Space
Address Old Printworks Margate CT9 1DX, ,
Contact / /

Related Events

Artlyst -- Art to Poetry - Competition In Association The Poetry Society
Artlyst Benefit screen prints by Simon Patterson. Exclusive Editions
Open Source Salon with Hauser and Wirth - A new monthly discussion group
Advertise your next show on Artlyst from £200 per week