David Miller selected an old museum cabinet he found in the Art and Design Archives that had been used to display a casket originally containing a scroll confirming the award of ‘The Freedom of the City’ to Alderman William Kenrick in 1911. Both had since been lost. He exhibited it inside a larger glass cabinet, cordoned off from the rest of the concourse by red ropes.
In his words:
"At first I thought it was an old taxidermy cabinet that perhaps used to contain a preserved shrew or magpie. It was positioned at the back of the archive room, with various other curios, and seemed to reside somewhere between being an artefact itself and being merely a redundant container for an artefact now lost. With the cabinet were three sheets of rolled up paper, A4 in size and yellowed with age. They described in an unusual script the one time inhabitant of the cabinet - not a deceased animal, but a casket, which in turn contained ‘The Freedom of the City’. It struck me as ironic that the ‘Freedom of the City’ had been so thoroughly contained inside its own casket and this again inside its own cabinet. And more ironic that it was now lost, perhaps now actually free.
This led me to think about freedom in a more general context, both its intangibility as a concept, and our constant efforts to possess and protect it. What ‘freedom’ is, whether it exists and, if it does, whether we want it, is a constant source of debate. The search for freedom has played its part in most conflicts of recent times. From slavery to complex wars of ideals – the need for or the need to protect freedom resonates. The current climate of fear of terrorism sees our individual freedoms reduced, in order to preserve them. In the West where freedom is totemic it seems increasingly important to protect it, to build walls around it, and to place it on its pedestal where no-one can endanger it by imposing their freedom on ours. At this point the thing in the cabinet has gone."
Alongside the cabinet, David presented a slide show of quotes on freedom by prominent thinkers within the last two hundred years.
Along the corridor leading from the concourse to the Archives, he displayed a series of framed photograms showing different images of the Freedom Cabinet, each looking as if they might dissolve and fade.
To see more of David’s work please visit his website
Natalia took her inspiration from some of the 3D geometrical wooden shapes used to teach nineteenth-century art students to draw outlines and shade them to create a sense of solid three-dimensional forms. She created a short film piece, lighting the shapes in such a way as to create a sense of walking through a menacing space in a deserted city.