A Natural History of Witchcraft

The Curios Society

  • Grant_Museum_-_Owl

    Photo: Grant Museum of Zoology.

Past Event

This event was on Sat 10 Mar, 6pm

Assembling on the first three Saturdays of Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World, The Curios Society meets to investigate the weird and wonderful, the unlikely and impossible. 

What is the relationship between witchcraft and a collection of natural history?

Join us for a special off-site event at the Grant Museum of Zoology. From taxidermy to dried plants, speakers expose the different readings we might have of specimens when considered from a magical perspective. Art historian Petra Lange-Berndt is joined by Director of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic Simon Costin, artist and writer Jane Wildgoose and art historian Sarah Wade as they discuss strange and familiar interpretations of the natural world, using objects from the collection.

In collaboration with the Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London.

About the Speakers

Petra Lange-Berndt is chair for Modern and Contemporary Art at the Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar, Universität Hamburg and the curator of numerous exhibitions. She published on the nonhuman and taxidermy (Animal Art, Silke Schreiber 2009), psychedelia and intermedia (Sigmar Polke: We Petty Bourgeois! Comrades and Contemporaries. The 1970s, Walther König 2009/2011), materiality (Materiality: Documents of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery / MIT Press, 2015), as well as concept art (Hanne Darboven: Korrespondenz. Briefe / Letters 1967—1975, Cologne: Walther König 2015, 10 volumes in a box). Her current research investigates collectivities and communal living in contemporary art.

Sarah Wade’s research interrogates human-animal relations and representations of animals in contemporary art and visual culture, particularly with regards to ecological concerns. She is currently a PhD candidate in the department of History of Art at University College London where her thesis explores the ethical and political potential of wonder in relation to artistic encounters with wildlife. Sarah has taught modern and contemporary art, been a co-curator of the exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals at The Grant Museum of Zoology and has recently written a chapter for In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children – Narratives of Sociality and Animality, forthcoming with Manchester University Press.

Jane Wildgoose is an artist and writer who investigates the history of collecting while reflecting on the emotional charge that may linger in objects in collections. She has exhibited at Yale Center for British Art in the USA and Sir John Soane’s Museum in London (Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship & the Order of Things, 2009-2010), and at Waddesdon Manor (Rothschild Collection/National Trust, Beyond All Price, 2015). She is also Keeper of her own collection, The Wildgoose Memorial Library, which is dedicated to memory and remembrance. In 2015 Jane was awarded a PhD from Kingston University London, where her research investigated the ‘unique status’ of human remains in museums.

Simon Costin studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Art and since leaving in the mid 80’s, Simon has grown to become an internationally respected art director, set designer and curator. Costin’s artwork has been displayed in many exhibitions worldwide, at venues as diverse as a forest in Argyll, the ICA in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His lifelong passion for Folklore and Myth has resulted in the launch of the Museum of British Folklore, a long-term project which aims to establish the UK’s first ever centre devoted to celebrating and researching the UK’s rich folkloric cultural heritage. Since 2013 he has also been the owner and director of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall.

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