The Night Horse - blogged

My solo show at The Cello Factory Waterloo was named after two new sculptures creating a tableau The Night Horse and The Holy Baboon.
Victoria Rance The Night Horse and The Holy Baboon 2017 installation 354cm H

This pair of sculptures was not conceived together, but the creation of one sculpture begged the creation of the other. 

I revisited The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford in January  2017.
I grew up nearby and was taken there as a child by my mother.  She was particularly fascinated by the British objects from the last century which showed that superstitious practice was alive and well despite its association with witchcraft and the suppression of its supposed practitioners during the 17th and 18th Century. I remember the cures for warts, and pins stuck in wax, the love charms. I visited several times while growing up, but hadn't been for several years. 
Victoria Rance The Night Horse and The Holy Baboon model 2017

In 2013 I began I Wish, a project in which people tell me a wish and I make a talismanic object. On January 13th I  started doing the I Wish project at Queen Elizabeth Hospital with children and staff on the paediatric ward. I have steered clear of associations with negativity, this project is about giving hope and positive thinking. But when I visited the Pitt Rivers Museum the world had become darker. Two days earlier Donald Trump was elected president of The United States. The unthinkable had happened. He had been so insulting to women, so utterly dismissive. I had been in The States when he made his 'crying blood' comments to a female TV host in 2015. Some had said that would be the end of his campaign. How had it happened that he was now president? Women I knew were furious, wanted him eliminated. A wisher I had a conversation with expressed a desire to go and kill him. Nearly every woman talked about his assassination. They even asked "What is taking them so long?" There were protests against him in the streets, 100,000 marched in London alone, there was a real sense of almost inexpressible outrage. 

In the quiet of the museum I searched out talismanic objects and thought about their purpose. When we lose control of situations, when reasonable behaviour just can't work anymore, when hope is threatened, then people reach for older behaviours. I found a little leather horse in a drawer. It looked just like a toy. The label said

 "AFRICA - N. NIGERIA BENUE PROVINCE, WUKARI DIVISION, TIV PEOPLE 'Night Horse' By 'mounting' this members of the MBA TSAV secret society can become invisible and travel long distances."
Online the label commentary adds "in order to kill a victim and return unnoticed"
The Night Horse with label in a drawer of The Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford

This little Night Horse looked so innocent, were the collectors from the museum being deceived? Hearing that magic objects were called for, was this child's toy horse given a new story?
But I liked the combination of innocence and spite. I had made a Cloak of Invisibility in 2008, and called a show Invisible in 2012. Invisibility as a source of power was something I had considered. I was captured by this little horse and saw how useful it was as a carrier of dark thoughts which could be transferred into the realm of the imagination. 
The Night Horse and rider 2017

What surprises me now as I look back at the photographic records of my work is that I made the Holy Baboon first. I photographed my model of it (made with a wooden spoon, wool  and felt) on January 24th, two days after the visit to Pitt Rivers. I had already been drawing Hamadryas Baboons and monkeys, fascinated by their terrifying look, and teeth. And I had recently made an animation of myself with a monkey mask. For me the Holy Baboon (or Sacred Baboon), a holy temple guardian, was there to argue with the Night Horse. To tell it that murder is wrong. That life is sacred.
Victoria Rance The Holy Baboon 2017 maquette, felt, wood, wool


The making of my version of The Night Horse followed a few days later. By the middle of February they were a pair.
Victoria Rance Sketchbook and studio January 2017

Victoria Rance The Night Horse maquette in progress January 2017

The Night Horse and The Holy Baboon at The Cello Factory

Sculptures, Drawings, Photographs and Animations 2007-2017 

Catalogue online
23-30 October 2017 

The Cello Factory, 34 Cornwall Road, Waterloo, London SE1 8TJ

Open: Daily 12noon-6pm