Collections

Writer Leo Cookman blogs for us on the theme ‘Collections’ in the lead up to our VAULTS event at The John Rylands Library.

Leo Cookman

Leo Cookman

When I was asked to write something for the First Draft blog regarding the upcoming VAULTS event about ‘collections’, I started to think about things I collect but I’m not really a collector. I have a lot of musical equipment I suppose, quite a few records and DVDs, I certainly have quite a book collection and even have a few rare and 1st editions but, to be honest, none of these are out of a desire to collect but desire to use. I perceive ‘Collectors’ as people who mount their spoils and merely peruse them occasionally or have them on display, not often using them for their intended purpose. I have nothing in my life I could say I physically ‘collect’.

So I thought about why we collect and what happens when we do, and how the objects that are collected develop their own connotations, or if those connotations are precisely the reason why we collected them in the first place: love letters, ticket stubs, photographs, etc. We can imbue typically boring or innocuous objects with a profound sense of meaning and importance just by looking at when they were made, who they belonged to or where they have been placed. This is something I know the VAULTS project is looking at.

But, equally, there is also a pretty common understanding that it is the actual objects and their stories that are interesting. So as I ‘collect’ nothing this is not so interesting to write about. Then I realised there is something everyone collects, that has profound importance to people and are rarely used merely looked at or perused.

I recently had a run in with an ex-girlfriend who seemed to take great delight in ripping apart my writing. Whether or not she was right is relatively unimportant, what amazed me was its effect on me. We have been apart for 5 years now, but I suddenly felt right back when we had broken up and all the horrible doubt and self-loathing resurfaced. I was focussing on and going over all her previous criticisms and then by extension everyone else’s criticisms of me and my work based on one incredibly biased diatribe.

Humans collect insults; we collect negative sentiments and embarrassing moments. We never have photographs or videos or ticket stubs or hate mail sitting in a box because we don’t need the memorial aid. Every negative thought and feeling beats us about the head whenever we start something new: old relationships haunt new ones, previous exam failures appear as we enter the room for a new one, former loathed creative works rear their head when embarking on a new one. All these stored in the infinite museum of memory.

This is where I think a physical object maybe useful, attach that negative memory to an object and it will only appear (and in context) when you look at it, like those love letters. A writer friend collects his rejection letters to remind him to do better and keep trying. If we all tried a little harder to remember those bad memories were products of the moment the same as the good memories, we may produce a better gallery with a broader constellation of objects. The best museums have the widest range of exhibits in the most refined collections.

Vaults poster

Bits and bobs

Make sure you join us for our very special VAULTS event at The John Rylands Library on Thursday 19 March. Find out more and see the full line up

Read our other blogs so far about this event: from Harry Jelley and Dave Hartley

Sign up to perform at our next cabaret night: Nothing Up Our Sleeves

Read more from Leo on the First Draft blog

Follow Leo and First Draft on twitter

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