The flimsy copy
A love letter to the spectres of women past, present and future
Installation, textiles, objects, drawing and audio by Sarah Gillett
The flimsy copy
Sarah Gillett's The flimsy copy started in the family archives of Rockingham Castle, with the artist’s interest in the lives of its female occupants throughout history. Over a year in the making, her resulting body of work uses physical and digital spaces to dig into the resonances left by these women on literature, spiritualism and gardening and reminds us of the importance of what we leave behind.
The flimsy copy manifests as an installation of drawing, objects and sound in The Long Gallery at Rockingham Castle. A floating figure wears a dress based on a 19th century pattern, as may have been worn by Lavinia Watson, lady of the house and a close confidante of Charles Dickens in the 1840s. Elsewhere in The Long Gallery a cabinet displays correspondence between Lavinia and Charles, a remnant of an extraordinary friendship which inspired Bleak House.
Sarah's fabric design is made up of tiny scenes from her Minecraft world, Many hands make lightwork; look closely and you will see a pixelated version of the meteorite stone circle that exists in this room as a large drawing, hung nearby on the right hand wall.
The spectral occupant of this dress can be explored online in Not only; but also, an artwork that takes us inside the dress and body of a woman lying in the gardens of Rockingham Castle at night. In place of organs are objects of desire owned by Sarah. We hear fragments of a seance. Outside we can see a ghost of the Minecraft world but cannot access this other time and place directly.
In The Long Gallery Sarah's objects of desire appear as 3D printed figures under glass domes and in boxes. Spirit trumpets point upwards to capture a whispering soundtrack that drifts in and out of the space. We hear fragments of letters and seance transcripts from Florence Culme-Seymour's archives. Against increasing tensions in 1930s Europe, Florence writes frequently to her son about her daily life, the changing of the seasons in the garden and her worries. Through the seance transcripts, her longing to connect to her late husband through a medium unearths both poignant and surreal visitations, growing into epic supernatural narratives that last over 10 years.
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The old fart in Room 17 is becoming a problem. He does it even when his wife’s on the terrace, sweating, counting her rosaries. Clack-clack. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Ah, Mamma, what would you say if you could see me now? Four stringy children and a fat pig of a husband who belches triumphantly after every meal and snores all night. Clack-clack-clack.
Most people whose mental digestion of the marvellous is quite robust will refuse to believe this account, and yet there must be a few whose hair has been stirred and whose hearts have beat an unusual tattoo at the sound of a ‘Something Inexplicable’ in the watches of the night. Our conclusion is that there are such things as spirits, and in believing, we tremble…