The Wedding



The Wedding is a pair of sculptures: Wedding Crown and  Top Hat. An animation The Wedding records interactions with them. The sculptures were made in response to several sources: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (written in 1859);  traditional wedding crowns in Norway and Sweden (there is an example in the V&A Museum London); historical Scandanavian photographs of couples wearing them, with some very ambivalent feelings expressed on their faces; and the surprising discovery that during the 'Age of Liberty' 1718 - 1771 some women in Sweden had the vote, which was then lost with a new constitution in 1771. In 1862 some women were allowed to vote in municpial elections, but this excluded married women who were under the guardianship of their husbands. In 1919, after a hiatus of 150 years, all women over 21 were allowed to vote in Sweden (see wikipedia). See more in the full interview with Matthew Goodsmith at the bottom of the page.

Top Hat is made of aluminium, brass and silver with words stamped into it using Victorian engineer’s letters. These describe the wearer, with overt characteristics on the outside and hidden ones on the inside, readable in reverse.


Wedding Crown is made of aluminium, zinc, steel and silver. It has many amulets and charms on it with words stamped onto small plates, again there is a duality and ambivalence expressed in those words. These are the things they have yet to discover about each other. Wedding crowns and attire all over the world often had magical symbols to ward off envy, silver was used in particular.

With thanks to Rebecca Boucher Burns and Benjamin Burns and Papalin.

From Occupy My Time Gallery 

Tipping the Line - Interview with Victoria Rance

Matthew Goodsmith interviews Victoria Rance for Occupy My Time Gallery, ‘Tipping the Line’ 2014.
So, let’s start by walking us through the show, without going into significance etc. What type of show is it? What’s there?
This is a group show of five artists working in three dimensions. The show was curated by Sue Cohen, and the artists were all new to each other   ......  My own work “The Wedding” is on the left as you enter the gallery. I am showing two wearable metal sculptures (part of my ‘sculpture to wear’ series) Wedding Crown and Top Hat. They are made of zinc, aluminium, steel and silver. Alongside them on a monitor is a short stop frame animation of two of my friends (musicians Ben Burns and Rebecca Boucher Burns) interacting with the sculptures, performing a ceremony as though meeting, courting and getting married. Also in the gallery is a still photograph of The Groom wearing the Top Hat.
Tell me more about your work, the piece and maybe a little background of your practice.
The Wedding Crown was made after I read the Woman in White, a Wilkie Collins novel in which a woman loses her inheritance after marrying a classic Victoria baddie, who then put her in an asylum. I was thinking about women’s rights, and then discovered, when looking at dates of suffrage around the world, that women in Sweden had the vote for fifty years from 1718 to 1771 (a time called the Age of Liberty). After a change in the constitution the vote was removed. Not all women had been able to vote, it was mostly those associated with guilds, unmarried women or widows. An objection to married women having the vote was that it was felt that married women would be coerced by their husbands into voting their way. Even in England when women got the vote, there were compromises for a while until all women over 21 got the right to vote in 1928.  Women in Switzerland only got voting rights in 1971, and in Saudi Arabia still can’t vote.
I made the Top Hat as a partner to the wedding crown, which is in the style of Scandinavian head dresses borrowed or rented in villages from the church or wealthy landlords. I looked at photos of Scandinavian weddings from the Victorian times, and saw some very ambivalent expressions on their faces, and a real scoundrel in one of the photos who looked so pleased with himself in his top hat, while she looked miserable.  So I was thinking about marriage and the complexity of human behaviour, courtship, men and what is revealed and hidden by the sexes. Both sculptures have words stamped into them with personality traits. I asked two friends (who are a couple) to wear the sculptures for me, and I took photos which worked so well as a narrative I made them into an animation. Then I found a recording of Grieg’s “I met a little maiden” and used that for the music.
I have over the last few years made wearable sculptures, and many come from feminist concerns, my thinking about how women are trapped in a sense by their culture represented by their clothes and how they choose to go along with it. Before making sculptures that are like costumes I was making sculptures you could go into, architectural spaces which offered protection from the outside world, and these often had strong cultural connotations. My ‘sculptures to wear’ also carry an ambivalence between protection and being imprisoned. The body is very important in all of them, and the human being and our behaviour is central.
How have you considered the audience/viewer in relation to this piece?
Yes I did consider the viewer and had wanted there to be a possibility of imagining wearing them. In this show they are lower than head height because they looked odd too high up, and some people are much taller than others (I am about 5 foot and you are about 6 foot something for example) and I imagined the couple sitting down next to each other, as in the start of the animation, which evens it out a bit.
Another aspect of having them higher was the rude words in the Top Hat, which now require adults to stoop down to read them, for children this hasn’t been necessary and they seem to have enjoyed doing this.
Yes, it was quite low, for me especially, but this changes the way you engage (visually and physically) with the objects, which could have been encased behind glass, like a museum, but are much more present and approachable.
Yes I’m glad. I liked it though that the adults have to stoop, like being a bit curious or nosey, and having to physically act on it.
How did you go about choosing the words?
That’s a good question and makes me laugh to remember making it.
I chose them intuitively, tapping into my feelings and observations, and wrote a list keeping the good ones. Some of the rude words are ones we called each other as children (I am from a big family, one of seven, and we had some interesting slanging matches, during which finding words which were both insulting and funny like FUCK WIT and MEAN GIT was important). I wanted a bit of an archaic feel to the Top Hat words too, out-dated virtues and vices for a man, like PROVIDER, but there are contemporary words too like SEXY. For the Wedding Crown I also thought about what might be in a young woman’s head and wanted words like MATHS to throw off some of more typical virtues. Originally there was a lot of LOVE but I took it away, FANCIES replaced a LOVE, but so did SPITE.
Quite poetic, and also adds to the depth of a kind of story…
How do you consider story and narrative in the work, has that been an important aspect, and, following, how has working in new media (photography, music) affected this for you?
This is one of those pieces that keeps moving, with a narrative all of its own which I didn’t plan. The fairy stories which I loved and read as a child often ended with ‘And they lived happily ever after’ and that was the narrative girls grew up with in the past. They weren’t encouraged to think about what rights they lost when they married, these young women and princesses, whose husbands and eldest sons would rule and inherit through them. I was trying to bring a bit of what happens next into it with the words on the hats. They are about emotions and personal relationships yes but sexual politics is personal and emotional too.
But another aspect was that when my friends Ben and Becca posed for me wearing the sculptures they did such a magical performance that it became an animation, a story rather than the still photographs I’d planned. Then I looked for music and found the Edvard Grieg song which was the right length, Scandinavian, and called ‘I Know a Little Maiden’, just right. The Japanese musician Paplin who is playing the song generously responded to my request to use his recording, and it fell into place. I like to make pieces which look attractive with the darker side hidden, like a shadow, and with an ambivalence built in. And that swing between light and dark, attraction and repulsion has a narrative about it. 
Could you tell us a bit about the craft that has gone into the work, and how this has perhaps inspired, informed, or otherwise relates to the theme?
I have worked in metals since my foundation course where I first worked in steel and silver. I have made huge steel sculptures and small delicate ones too, but this is one of the most decorative and delicate I’ve made. I am like a magpie, always picking up bits and pieces. The Victorian letters I used I have had for years. I used aluminium, zinc, silver and coins to make it, hammering and joining them, no welding this time but sewing, scoring, embossing polishing and using chains. Metals and particularly silver are traditionally used in charms and amulets in weddings all over the world. The craft aspect is important in all my work and always has been, in that I am hands-on, making it myself. 
Finally, coming back to the show as a whole, can you expand on the “mysterious coherence”?
Maybe it is the hand made which brings it all together, a sensitivity to placement, or the sensibility of Sue Cohen as curator, I’m not sure. 
What do you have coming-up?
I am showing next at Mine Sanat Gallery Istanbul during April in a group show called Between the Lines. Then I am curating (with David Redfern) and taking part in From David Bomberg to Paula Rego, The London Group in Southampton from June 28th to November 1st at Southampton City Art Gallery where we have selected works from their amazing collection. But first I am off to Romania next week to help on a short  film ангел (Angel) written by Irina Nedelcu for which I have made some zinc wings.

The sculptures and animation were shown in 
Tipping the Line 28 February to 29 March 2014
Occupy My Time Gallery 
9 Resolution Way Deptford SE8 4AL
all works copyright Victoria Rance 2013