Thursday 19 July 2018
The Art of Magic: Museum of Witchcraft's Lost Objects
Last night I was at a performance to open a new exhibition called The Art of Magic, which is all about missing artifacts once housed in the archive of The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
The exhibition, currently on at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, London, shows artist's re-imaginings of magical items that have been lost. All that remains of the originals are labels given to them by museum founder Cecil Williamson. However, the labels themselves offer a wealth of information about what the items were made of and the folk beliefs about them.
You can see some photos I took of a few of the works of art on display. At the top is a somewhat softer version of a nail supposedly used to slay a vampire in Italy. One of the items on the table in the photo below gives an artist's impression of a witch's whistle, supposedly used to summon spirits.
There are objects made from a wide variety of materials and also pictures and audio-visual displays. Some of them seem to be attempting to recreate the lost objects while others are more loosely inspired by the words on the old labels.
They are all fascinating, thought-provoking and intriguing. They might be art, but they are also, in their own way, still magical.
The same was true of the performance, which included haunting and eerie music, a film show offering glimpses of strange things, a live presentation of one of the rituals performed on film in the exhibition and poetry that turned words describing natural phenomena into a form of evocation.
Steve Patterson, author of Cecil Williamson's Book of Witchcraft, also gave a talk about the history behind The Art of Magic. He explained that some of the items had been swept to sea in the flood that devastated Boscastle in 2004, but that other items had been lost over time with no idea what had happened to them.
Perhaps some of these things will eventually resurface. In the meantime, these wonderful works of art give an impression at least of what some of them might have been like.
The Art of Magic exhibition runs until 28 July at The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD. It is open from noon to 6pm every day. You can find out more here: https://www.thehorsehospital.com/events/the-art-of-magic
You can view Cecil Williamson's Book of Witchcraft on Amazon.
Links and previous related posts