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Understanding our world

For my first module at university, the brief has been left incredibley open- we can explore any topic we like, create anything we want- our only instruction is to be inspired by an object found on a mystery trip to Oxford....


'If we were meant to stay in one place, we'd have roots instead of feet'


When the day began, I had no idea where the coach was going to take me. Our tutors simply gave us a number, and the next day that number had been assigned to a coach. As I got on board, I couldn't help but feel nervous- as a person who enjoys feeling a sense of control over things, to suddenly be in a situtation where I had no power or information whatsover on the intended destination was quite a daunting experience. Strapping on my seatbelt, I tried to focus more on the good things about this trip- the fact it was a mystery was surely good for me? Everyone says getting out of your comfort zone is a must every now and then, so this trip definately qualified in that sense! Taking deep breaths, I decided to just look outside and try to note everything I was seeing and hearing- with my mind distracted I could at last settle, and when the coach began to move, I began to feel for the first time a flicker of excitement about the prospect of visiting a place which I may never have been too in the whole of my life!


Two or three hours later, and we had arrived. Clambering somewhat stiffly of the bus, I stood in awe with my friends as we looked on at the dreaming spires of Oxford, on a particularly autumnal morning. With a crisp breeze shaking reddened leaves away from their trees, and the sun just peeking over the incredible architecture which stood littered around us, the fear I had felt before suddenly dissapated. Waving my tutors goodbye, with a sketchbook and two friends in tow, we immediately headed for the Ashmoleon Museum that was directly in front of us- a great, marble monstrosity of culture and art- it was practically begging for us to walk in!


One hour later, and already we were overwhelmed with the breadth of imagery and history we had discovered- from ancient greecian statues to fabrics from the byzantine era, our sketchbooks had become fat with observational sketches, and our phones had become equally full with photographs. We were all just wondering in awe at everything around us- in a world of minimalism and simplistic art, it felt outstanding to suddenly be in a place where detail was crammed into every corner- not a whisker of hair, nor a glint in one eye was forgotton- as one we all said it was kind of sad that this level of dedication had seemed to have lost popularity, in an era when everyone wants everything NOW NOW NOW. No one has the patience anymore to wait for something spectacular- why wait for a portrait when you can take a photograph in a second?


Noting these feelings, we then entered into another exhibit, which stood somewhat apart from the rest. Dark and cold, it felt completely different to the rest of the museum- from the warmth and comfort of old men and women pressing their noses against glass, we had entered another realm entirely- the world of witchcraft. We'd been lucky enough to arrive in Oxford just as they were holding a touring exhibit of items which represented the world of wicca and magic. Within, all manner of terrifying objects awaited- voodoo dolls, love charms, grimoires and engravings of hanged witches- we suddenly were let into a very different version of Britain, where the idea and fear of sorcery was a very real threat against not only yourself, but the people and places you loved as well. People had done all sorts of things to try and defend themselves- kill symbols of a witches familar, such as cats, to represent how unwelcome their magic was within that house- carving symbols onto barn doors to protect your cattle and sheep- it seemed this malevolent force of magic was all over England, and it was this point I think we all found the objects we were going to focus on for the project- not just the instruments of witchcraft, but also exploring the beliefs of people within this period- why was it they felt sorcery was the answer to their cows sudden death? Why did doctors believe that the stars could dictate not only your future, but your general health as well?


In short, we were inspired (and a little bit petrified.) Our explorations into this module had only just begun, but already we had enough inspiration to kick it off with a bang- as it turned out, leaving your comfort zone is sometimes good for you!