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As a Londoner, you’re probably used to losing things all the time. Less often, you might find something great and take it home. I have a painted plywood cut-out of a rifle, which I found in the street. Someone else might have put it in a skip; I put it in the kitchen (I washed it first). This simple idea is the basis of a new show at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. The Turner Prize-nominated Cornelia Parker has invited more than 60 artists from various fields to respond to the idea of ‘found’. Some have contributed artworks, some objects that they have discovered. Others have looked at finding themselves, or another person. Parker calls the show ‘a collective cacophony’.
There are some big names here – Jeremy Deller, Jarvis Cocker, Mona Hatoum – but what characterises many of the objects on display is their humbleness: worn spoons, an old shoe. This is partly a response to the Foundling Museum’s collection of ‘tokens’: when mothers handed over their unwanted babies to the hospital, they would leave a small personal object so that if they ever came back to reclaim their child, they would be able to identify it with this tragic pawn ticket.
While some of these objects might look like rubbish, the unexpected encounter – being ‘found’ – invests them with the power of the unknown and the untold. ‘The found object is something which already has a history,’ says Parker. ‘Hundreds of thousands of objects pass through our hands in our lifetime. A few we keep.’ I don’t know the story of my rifle. I don’t particularly want to. Its chance arrival in my life is another pin on the map where two lives intersect for a moment, then move apart. Read on for the stories behind some of the objects in the show.