The Legacy of Mourning

Venu Dhupa, Jane Wildgoose and the Memorial Library

Jane Wildgoose’s home is to the brim filled with collected things of different sorts. A horse cranium is placed on a shelf together with Indian statuettes, a prisma of glass, medical pots and a small replica of the coffin of Lord Nelson. Over it all, a stuffed raven enthrones together with a crocodile. All rooms in her typical English terraced house groan with memories.

”I have been thinking a lot about the history of mourning and in which way things can create support and comfort. Twenty years ago people didn’t want to speak about this, but now lots of people come here, some in mourning clothes.”

She started building her Mourning Library eight years ago, the collection is still growing. Starting point was that she wanted to use hair in her Artistic work, and she discovered how many memories the human material was carrying. Memory and death have since been her main theme. It’s very Victorian, which gives an extra dimension: The societal idea about death and sorrow that is now lost.

Jane Wildgoose has, Venu Dhupa says, in a very conscious way showed the power of pedagogic; on how you can work with existential issues with a planned working method. That’s why she five years ago could convince National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) to put in project support in the Wildgoose Memorial Library. This is a difficult issue, Venu Dhupa says:

”You always need to create a structure, but it doesn’t have to be a scientific one. It might as well be a structure that is created as you go, by following your heart. We are not aiming for the results, but what is happening during the process.”

img_0074The Wildgoose Memorial Library was the start to continue the reflection of how you create creative environments that can handle risk and uncertainty. That is why Venu Dhupa, on the assignment of British Council, created a competence development course on issues like how you deal with risk and create an environment that can handle uncertainty. How do you deal with risk in a responsible way? How do you adjust to different – sometimes extremely difficult – circumstances?

”It is now, today, we are creating the inhabitants of tomorrow. And in the contemporary society you have to be able to deal with a duality, and not rarely also sorrow and sentimentality, and still, in the 21st century these are taboo issues in society.”

The secret, Venu Dhupa continues, behind creating a creative working climate and creative leadership is called ”mixed groups”. The people in India know this best! Why is someone in London telling what is best in China?

”I am working with small teams all around the world and send their results back home. In that way we have created a real global working method. I am working with six different groups in six countries. Each group consists of a large amount of different nationalities. I say it again: Think outside the box!”

After working with multicultural issues for over ten years, Venu Dhupa has a clear picture of what is needed to do to: From a bottom-up perspective achieve a heterogenic society that consists of many voices.

”We treat the ethnical groups like consumers, not like creators. The measurement is consumption! But what happens if we are serious with everyone’s possibility to create on equal terms?”

We don’t give our politicians time enough to reflect on these issues, she says, and therefore we get the response from politicians that we deserve.

”We don’t get intelligent answers from our political sausage machine! George Bush (who was) the busiest man of the world played golf 95 days out of his first year as president!”

The text is written by Ylva Gustafsson, secretary at Region Västra Götaland. The visit in London on March 3–6, 2009, was part of a study visit by politicians and civil servants from Region Västra Götaland. Nätverkstan was a connecting partner for the Region on this visit. Related blogpost is on Other Art and other practices and Bangalore.

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Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

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