Good Fellows

An intriguing new exhibition at Somerset House combines storytelling and design to reveal a set of fifty different objects which are nothing short of Extra-Ordinary…

Large dadf5e80 5a03 4d4d 8cee 39fdb4523953

Courtesy of Hans Stofer

Next month will see Somerset House's Terrace Rooms taken over by the Learned Society of Extra-Ordinary Objects. Inspired by the real history of Somerset House, this fictional society is the brainchild of curators, furniture designer Carl Clerkin and artist Danny Clarke. The pair have appointed thirty new Fellows to the fictional Society, all of whom are designers artists and makers, and all have been asked to contribute or create an object for the Society's collection. There are some ordinary objects with extra-ordinary stories, as well as some playful takes on familiar objects. The objects will be displayed (along with portraits of the various Fellows) in a recreation of the Society's clubroom, and Sipsmith Gin will be on hand to keep everyone's spirits up. It promises to be an intriguing exhibition, combining design fiction and material culture in an intelligent yet accessible way. We caught up with Carl Clerkin to find out more:

How did the idea for the exhibition first come about?
The exhibition is all about storytelling, it’s something that is important in all the work I do.

Over the last few years I have worked with Danny Clarke on a couple of exhibitions where we try to tell stories through an environment, where the viewer can experience a narrative through a space.

Somerset House is a brilliant venue for this as it provides an environment in which the narrative can be plausible however ridiculous it may seem

How did you go about selecting The Society’s Fellows, and what were the criteria?
I have worked with quite a few of these guys before, half of us worked together on The Thing with Maltasingh exhibition at gallery SO last year. I guess they are all friends, colleagues or heroes of mine. What we all have in common is that we are all object perverts. Maybe that would have been a better title – The Learned Society for Object Perverts...?

Large 515c4927 9b29 4a9c b955 a0c803e09c2a

Courtesy of Carl Clerkin

Large b734ab42 6bb8 4daf 89a2 04781edff673

Courtesy of Richard Slee

Large 983009d5 5393 43dd 90ec b3746528f32e

Courtesy of Richard Slee and Hales Gallery

Large 657b45c5 86f0 4de4 85b1 4d8adc9791a6

Courtesy of Jasleen Kaur

What are your favourite objects from the exhibition?
It has to be Alex Hellum's Dad's pencil really. You look at it and you can see the work it has got through, how many sketches plans and buildings it has drawn. It tells you a lot about a man who worked hard every day of his life, who had a particular routine and a very certain way of doing things, it's all there to see in that pencil.

What was the most surprising or disturbing object?
Surprising: Kathleen Hills' chicken accidentally made from the overflow of molten aluminium in her father’s foundry

Disturbing – Ineke Hans tells a lovely story that starts off with her grandmother's Clogs and ends up with her great grandmother murdering a goat…Have I ruined that story now?

Do you think that objects have taken on a greater or lesser significance in the digital age?
Objects will always be significant regardless of how virtual our world gets, they are how we interact, both physically and emotionally with our environment.

What are your plans for the objects after the exhibition?
I would imagine the objects would be returned to whence they came.

Many of the objects have a sentimental value to their owners.

This was quite a surprise to me at first as I really thought that the New Fellow would offer me more commonplace objects, on reflection, however, it made sense that the extra ordinary story would add value to the everyday object and therefore the object would naturally gain emotional worth.

Large eb35cfd2 b95d 4c8f 9cc2 37a979121266

Courtesy of Carl Clerkin

The Learned Society of Extraordinary Objects
5 July – 3rd September 2017
Terrace Rooms
Somerset House
London WC2R 1LA