In a world so often plagued with negative exchanges, leading ceramic artist, Clare Twomey, seeks to replace such interactions with inspiring positivity by encouraging visitors to exchange a promise of a good deed for a piece of her inspiring site-specific installation, Exchange: 1,000 Good Deeds.
Over 1,000 teacups and saucers are inscribed with unique, individual good deeds and are gradually removed by visitors throughout the course of the exhibition to reveal their messages. Inspired by the acts of exchange and philanthropy that lie at the heart of the Foundling Hospital – the UK’s first children’s charity and England’s first public art gallery – Twomey has created a positive space in which individuals can both suggest and complete good deeds.
Each day of the exhibition sees ten visitors invited to pick a single cup from the hundreds displayed on the tables in front of them. The individual may pick one cup and one cup only, and after reading its message can decide to complete the good deed shown, and reveal it to future visitors of the exhibition, or to simply return the teacup to its original place. As the
exhibition progresses, good deeds are exposed both within the space at the Foundling Museum and online.
Deeds range from a simple request to “Smile more” all the way to the challenging task of “Take part in a 5k run for charity”; from the modest “Make someone a cup of tea (in this cup!)” to “Raise £100 for New Horizon Youth Centre” (which I myself received). The breadth and variety of the good deeds are as diverse as the people from which there are drawn. Local schools, former pupils of the Foundling Hospital, community groups, charity organisations, the museum’s volunteers, supporters including actress Gillian Anderson, Director of the Tate Britain Dr Penelope Curtis, presenter Paul Gambaccini and journalists Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Jon Snow, are among some of the individuals who have contributed ideas for good deeds to the installation housed by the Foundling Museum.
Drawing upon the humbling human content of the museum and the intimate stories resonating within the space, Twomey explores the tense relationship between herself as an artist and the substance of the museum.
“The cups and saucers allude to the mass of institutional life in the Foundling Hospital,” states Twomey. “Visitors have to think about the sacrifice they will make and what they are prepared to do in this exchange. I hope the content of the work for each participant is personal and as they see their museum object in their homes, they remember what they did and where they did it.”
The Foundling Museum’s Director, Caro Howell says: “When others left their babies at the Foundling Hospital, they were making a heart-breaking exchange: the loss of a child for the hope of a better life. Twomey’s response to this central act of exchange is both powerful and engaging. By linking the work of the hospital with that of the Foundling Museum today, Exchange encourages us to follow the example of inspirational philanthropists.”
Visitors that choose to accept the challenge of a good deed will be able to report back to the museum regarding their progress as part of the online display accompanying the main exhibition. In addition to this, an online site enables a further 10,000 blank cups to be given deeds by members of the public and encourages online visitors to accept a good deed from digital teacups.
Exchange: 1,000 Good Deeds by Clare Twomey will be at the Foundling Museum Friday 14th June to Sunday 15th September. To find out more about the exhibition or to partake in the online exhibition please visit: http://exchange.foundlingmuseum.org.uk/