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Curiouser and curiouser…..as I type, I am looking around my desk for things that are no larger than my head. Not for the purpose of some brain-circumference-related ego boost, I assure you – I’ve got something much better lined up.

Between the 12th and the 19th October this year (most probably the 12th – I’m really very excited about this one), I’ll be heading down to the Wellcome Collection with my ‘thing.’ Artist Keith Wilson, creating and anthropology of the here and now, is inviting the public (that’s you) to donate an object (any object, rare or mundane, as long as it’s 1) no bigger than your head, 2) not wet, 3) not explosive and 4) not containing any human remains) to be part of a temporary exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, titled, aptly, Things.

It has to be said, collectors can get a bad name – across the spectrum from stamps and miniature eggs to McDonalds toys and Spice Girls memorabilia, there’s an assumed owner behind the scenes….one who is weirdly obsessive and unnervingly introvert. But there’s a different kind of obsession that Keith Wilson talks about in conjunction with this exhibition – a fixation with other people’s things. This isn’t some form of kleptomania, but instead an intrigue concerning stories, connotations, and links between an object and a thought, and what happens once an object is taken out of its natural context. If I take this beautiful cup and saucer in front of me, which is filled with wax and made into a candle, from my desk and give it to be placed in the Wellcome Collection, it could be put in a glass case beside a trainer, a ring, or a book on English hedgerows. Who’s to say where that teacup came from, or why it became a candle? It will be removed from its contextual anchor and completely reconsidered, most probably inaccurately, but that’s no bad thing in this case.

When contributors come and deposit their chosen object, behind the scenes each object will be catalogued, photographed and labelled, allocated a specific date out of 365 days in 2011 and placed on public display in a system of metal shelving and museum display cabinets. On the 19th October, people can reclaim their loaned objects or leave them as gifts. Those objects that have been gifted, rather than loaned, will be kept by the artist, and may become part of a future artwork, ‘Calendar’, to be shown as part of The British Art Show in 2011.

Things is a pioneering project reflecting Henry Wellcome’s own position as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and compulsive collector, and it’s something everyone – and (almost) everything – can be part of. I can think of only one question: why not?

Top image: Periodic Table (c) Keith Wilson

Bottom image: Skull Mask, Bhutan (c) Rama Knight (from the Wellcome Collection’s Medicine Man gallery)

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