MY LIFE IN THREE BOXES
When I left home, my dad gathered together all of my belongings and distributed them between three cardboard boxes that were waiting for me by the front door when I returned home from art school one day – all three of them standing to attention, with my name written on the outside in black marker pen: ‘SUE’.
Most of my friends I noticed were able to leave their stuff lying around forever in the attics and bedrooms of their paternal homes – a welcome reminder for a hungry student returning to the parental bosom every other weekend and a comforting teenage shrine for a parent whose offspring had fled the nest and their emotional grasp.
But not mine. My life was parcelled up and waiting to be taken away and journey with me from its humble beginnings of my paternal home in Leicester on its Grand Tour of dangerously heated and lonely unfurnished rooms of my student life in Nottingham, thrown into the back of a van, to travel up and down our green and pleasant land for ever pastures new, hidden under tables - out of sight- out of mind, locked in the damp basements of Bradford, until finally having a room of one’s own, later to be unpacked, as a life unravelled itself in order to adorn the walls as some forgotten masterpiece of an architecturally designed landmark studio in Shoreditch…..
As an artist who has made a lifetime career from using found objects, I collect and I scavenge, and I can never pass by a skip without stopping to look in it for hours, just in case I stumble upon something that I just can’t live without. I had held on to those three tattered cardboard boxes because I knew that they held within them the truth–and that one day the truth would be called upon.
My father had neatly divided their contents into three categories.
Schoolwork: drawing books and rough sketches for paintings I never completed.
Personal items: diaries from 1984–86, jam packed with explicated thoughts and ideas.
And then the third box – the box that contained all things relating to the teenage obsession that dragged me kicking and screaming throughout my adolescence: Siouxsie and the Banshees. The Scream, Kaleidoscope, Juju and the gatefolded sleeve of Join Hands; the 7” singles of Christine, Happy House – and all the rest – still in their picture bags; concert tickets and coach passes at £6 each dating back some thirty years; crumpled posters with economical squares of Blu Tack still attached to the corners; pages torn out of Smash Hits, immaculately kept and carefully folded front covers of the N.M.E., Melody Maker, Sounds, Record Mirror, Blitz and ZigZag magazine; Siouxsie wearing a Japanese kimono photographed by Sheila Rock on the front cover of The Face in 1982; black and white newspaper clippings of concert reviews and my very own membership card for the Siouxsie and the Banshees fan club–The File. And very rare and illegal bootleg cassette tapes of live concert recordings, some of which I’d seen – Leicester De Montfort Hall in 1979 – and some I only dreamed of – the 100 Club in 1976. A plastic bag that contained much sought-after concert T-shirts held together for dear life by safety pins, not for the punk aesthetic but in order to retain their very existence.
Somehow all this seems to have been a moment in someone else’s lifetime, a story only ever read about in books – although now I’m not ashamed, but even proud, to admit that it is mine.
Sue Webster and Tim Noble take ordinary things including rubbish, to make assemblages and then point light to create projected shadows which show a great likeness something identifiable including self-portraits. Their process of transforming discarded waste,scrap metal or even taxidermy creatures to a recognizable image, echoes the idea of ‘perceptual psychology’ a form of evaluation used for psychological patients.