The Lost and the Found: Stories for the After-Life (of Objects)

Chambers, Paula ORCID logoORCID: (2022) The Lost and the Found: Stories for the After-Life (of Objects). The Journal for Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, 27. pp. 136-144.


In 2004 Liverpool-based artist Tabitha Moses undertook a residency at Bolton Museum and Art Gallery in Greater Manchester. Responding to the small mummy of a young girl in the museum’s Egyptology collection, Moses created a series of nine carefully wrapped and bound dolls that she had previously found in charity shops. She exhibited The Dolls in the museum display cases alongside the Egyptian artefacts already in residence "for the girl to take with her to the after-life" (Moses, 2004). This museum intervention titled The Lost and The Found, is analysed as uncanny in the Jentschian sense, for dolls are anxiety provoking; they are neither dead nor alive, yet both dead and alive simultaneously. X-ray images of The Dolls, where the pins with which Moses had held the swaddling fabric in place are visible, are considered here within the context of Steryerl’s (2010) identification of object forensics as a practice whereby ‘the bruises of things are deciphered, and then subjected to interpretation’ (Steyerl, 2010). Conceptual links are made between The Dolls as x-rayed images and the bodily fragility of the original mummified girl whose desiccated remains have undergone forensic investigation by Egyptology specialists in their quest for heuristic interpretation. The Dolls as museum intervention tell multiple stories; they have become witnesses to their former lives as little girls’ toys, and of their journey from desired object to disposal and reclamation by Moses. As objects for the after-life for the mummified Egyptian girl Moses’ artwork prompts questions as to the identity of the girl, of how she died, and of how she ultimately came to rest in Bolton.

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