My dear friend, Steve Hornibrook died from HIV Aids at the Middlesex hospital twenty-one years ago next month. He was ambitious and brilliant, a promising philosopher, he was 28 years old. Steve's image hit the front pages when he met Princess Diana. He loved the publicity and the opportunity to share in Diana's stand against the 'Gay Plague' hysteria of early 90's Britain. Yet the experience was bittersweet, 15 minutes of fame was a poor exchange for the work he would never make.
Just before his death, Steve remarked that if 100 people came to his funeral, they would bury 100 Steves. It is an idea that has intrigued me ever since. Can we be objective about the past or do we always have our own subjective present tense agendas that we impose upon it?
Picturing the past is the theme of my largest project to date, the installation REVISIONS which plays with traces of my own family handed down in both stories and objects. My Mum now owns two cups and two saucers that belonged to my great grandmother (sharing a woman's wedding china among the daughters is a Scots tradition). I wonder what happens once all the whole pieces of china have been shared. Will cups and saucers sub-divide like cells? Or is the sharing altogether more brutal, the china smashed down into smaller and smaller pieces so that in a hundred generations the baby girl inherits a crumb, a speck of porcelain, traces of her great, great, great, great, great, grandmother, too small to see but there all the same?
So, since you are to be retold and remembered in objects or anecdotes, what do you think they might they be? As far as I am concerned, my descendants have carte blanche to make of me what they will. This is a process of invention and I am all for creativity!
I finish with a favourite example of the beautiful unreliability of family folklore, the inspiration for my artwork Crossing the Wall. I was told that whenever a Communist Party comrade travelled to Moscow in the '20s, they took Agatha Christies and Alka Seltzers for Great Aunt Lillian (Lillian and her husband had moved to the USSR after the revolution). My Aunt Judith declares it was Milk of Magnesia, while Auntie Ruth says Dr. J Collis Browne's Chlorodyne and neither remember any mention of crime fiction. However I am the teller of this tale and the comrade in my etching is taking Agatha Christies and Alka-Seltzers to Lillian. Firstly because I love the alliteration and secondly because the irony of young Lillian taking time out from building the new Soviet State to read about country house murders is just too good not to pass on...
1. Steve Hornibrook with Princess Diana, 1990
2. Shared Among the Daughters, Photo-Etching 325mm x 540mm, 2012
3. Crossing The Wall, Photo-Etching & Spitbite 450mm x 560mm, 2011
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'Entering into Natalie Sirett's world is like meeting oneself in a universe subject to completely different rules of recollection. The work is delicate and brutal, sensitive with a bite. Subsequently, one's memory of her storytelling is always full of colour.'
Libby Anson Editor, Arts Writer, Author The A to Z of Art