On February 1st we will be launching our second exhibition, Once Upon a Time in a Gallery, a fantastic reexamination of the fairytale through the eyes of 26 writers, musicians, and artists. And we will be launching the show on January 27th with a bonanza of readings, music, and art at the, er, fairytale setting of Oxford Castle.
I love fairytales, and I argued in The New Libertines that we are, culturally, ripe for the kind of rich, layered storytelling that fairytales provide. But there is an even more pertinent reason why now is a great time to be blowing away the dust from those old grimoires.
Fairytales are our foundation myths, reflections not just the manifestation of our own Freudian psychosexual neuroses but of the fears and aspirations of our communities. For diasporas everywhere they provide roots that creep back in time and place to a utopian or dystopian ancestral home. As the digital age pulls us increasingly into communities not just geographically dispersed but born in diaspora (and often, ironically, subsequently drawn together physically), fairytales will inevitably be recycled and refreshed to form the foundation myths of these new societies – ones that have no physical homeland, whose communal roots lie lodged in the internal, not the external, lives of their members. What better time to re-examine the way fairytales relate our individual psyches to our social networks, and ask: Have we reached a tipping point in the evolution of collective cultural consciousness, where we can opt freely in and out of communities, picking up and leaving behind their roots as we go? Are there any universal archetypes left?
Once Upon a Time in a Gallery is a two month exhibition featuring words, art, and music by more than twenty international artists. The hyperlinked, flitting, rootless style of curation of this exhibition invites the audience to reflect on this rootlessness, and whether, when they find themselves lost in today’s dark forest, there is any gingerbread trail to lead them to safety.
You can find more of Sarah Spencer’s stunning pictures of injured and dismembered cyborgs, fragile, heartbreaking images of our relationship with technology, on her website.