Taking leave of the world.

Manchester Museum Hermitage

Manchester Museum Hermitage.

For two months this summer, an artist will live in the Manchester Museum’s Victorian Gothic tower 24/7, reflecting upon biodiversity, climate change, sustainability and the future of the planet. The chosen performance artist, writer, poet, visual artist, sculptor or musician will reside in a set of rooms accessed by a steep, windy spiral stone staircase, which are not normally open to the public, after a short period of intense engagement with the Museum’s collections. The only means of staying in touch with the outside world during the whole secluded residency will be by digital or audiovisual media, such as blogging or video statements.

According to the artist brief, the project presents a “unique opportunity to explore a tradition, with a long history and extending across many cultures, of men and women who made the decision to flee the company of their fellow humans to dwell alone in retirement and total solitude, often living on islands, in caves, or in the desert.”

Thus the urban hermit might be a modern Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder, who lived on top of a pillar for 37 years

St. Simeon Stylites.

St. Simeon Stylites.

a contemporary Saint Jerome in his study

Albrecht Dürer, Der heilige Hieronymus im Gehäus, 1514.
Albrecht Dürer, Der heilige Hieronymus im Gehäus, 1514.

or a reincarnation of the poor poet.

Carl Spitzweg, Der arme Poet, 1839.
Carl Spitzweg, Der arme Poet, 1839.

Also (the Manchester Museum houses a natural history collection, after all):

Hermit crab.
Hermit crab.

For more information on the project, see artist brief, BBC coverage and Museum website.


2 thoughts on “Taking leave of the world.

  1. Contemporary art has replaced formal religion for many, so it may be appropriate that we now have an art hermit. But if the traditional religious hermit escapes worldly life to dwell on the spiritual, how does the Manchester Museum’s hermit escape visual culture, if still linked by digital & audiovisual media? And what will the museum hermit dwell upon? Logic dictates the museum hermit should abstain from all forms of visual culture, to dwell on the non-visual: the culture of the mind & spirit. So cleave those digital & audiovisual links! The ascetic life is linked with mysticism, a religious movement found in all the world’s religions. What is the contemporary art world’s mystical movement?

  2. How strange – last night I had the overwhelming urge to cover myself in bed with a black umbrella (there’s nothing wrong with our roof) like the picture, ‘Carl Spitzweg, Der arme Poet’.

    Maybe this blog is getting to me….

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