Moving On

Artists Statement: Jenni Dutton
Moving On Project: Artists on Trains

This project has been about concealing and revealing the intimacies of our daily lives. It has made me into something of a 'voyeur', exposing my shadow side as I explored issues raised during the research and the making of the pieces. My work is about working with discarded objects and materials, about memory, displacement and loss. I have considered the audience probably more than I would normally, inviting them to participate by questioning the issues around privacy, security and identity stereotyping.

Firstly it was very tricky to obtain any abondoned left luggage, the bags went to auction or charity. I eventually tracked down two from Paignton left luggage office and another from Weston Super Mare and then the expectation surrounding the contents of the bags was activated.

To ensure authenticity, I filmed myself opening the bags for the first time, holding out th the camera each item without comment. I set myself the task of making an assemblage from the contents, revealing only a limited amount and then abandoning this bagMany questions were raised. Why was the luggage not claimed? Would the owner mind me using their belongings in this rather public way? Was I exposing the contents or the owner by the choices I made when making the work? Did I have any responsibility to them, or was I the owner now? With heightened security issues surrounding public journeys, do travellers have an obligation to reveal the contents of their luggage? I also wanted to provoke the viewer to consider the contents of their own baggage, how much would it reveal about themselves? Would I be embarrassed or curious if I met the owners of the bags? Would my preconceived ideas as to their personality and way of life from the clues they left behind, be anywhere near accurate? How much was I indulging a personal voyeuristic tendency during this project? Did I really think that I was going to find something valuable in the cases, would it be stealing if I kept it? Was it a bit wicked to render these mostly good quality clothes useless by painting them?

It felt hard to have had no choice about the contents to be included in the final sculpture. Authenticity had been a principle that I had put in place at the outset and to be honest some of the items were rather revolting. I had to transform the contents into something aesthetically pleasing, that made a whole, while keeping a sense of mystery and curiosity about the story if the things. Practically, it was difficult to take risks as I had only one stab at interpreting the objects, so I had to proceed cautiously.

Asking a selection of people to pack a bag for a 'journey' that would then be x-rayed was a way of focusing on the actual objects that we may choose to travel with. The contents were revealed only by x-ray, the unposed, randomness of the resulting image being testament to the mystery surrounding other people's personal possessions, their 'things'.

Jenni Dutton January 2006


To learn more about this project and all the artists involved by visiting