Janetka Platun: Saffron Walden Museum

In 2022-23 Janetka Platun was the commissioned artist for Saffron Walden Museum, as part of the museum’s Lost Language of Nature project.

For her project Janetka creatively responded to the taxidermy collection of birds at the Museum, exploring global migration and the emotional significance of what it means to migrate, cope with the loss of home, and how we make ‘home’ elsewhere.

Birds represent movement across borderless skies, symbolising the local and global on a micro and macro scale. But as taxidermy objects their mobility is freeze-framed; like the birds, our body might be in one place, but culturally, historically and emotionally we are connected to multiple locations, people and places.

Taking the global taxidermy collection as a starting point for creative workshops, encounters and discussions, Janetka worked with students at Joyce Frankland Academy to share and explore stories of migration. With a strong focus on migrant communities and under-represented voices in the museum’s collections, the project sought to empower participants to make connections and explore their own heritage.

Janetka created a limited edition hand made book as part of the museum, to be displayed alongside the taxidermy collection, and as part of the museum’s Lost Language of Nature exhibition tour.

Nest: The Lost Language of Nature

Pictured below: Video stills – Dawn chorus musical chairs, Lost Language of Nature Project, courtesy the Artist

This commission is made possible through a commission from Essex Cultural Diversity Project supported by Arts Council England, in partnership with Saffron Walden Museum and Saffron Walden Museum Society.

Janetka Platun, commissioned artist said: “I’m delighted to be working on the Lost language of Nature Project at Saffron Walden Museum. Some of the most interesting experiences in my career have involved the opportunity to view extraordinary museum objects that trigger surprising and unexpected creative responses with the public and in my own work.”

“The Lost Language of Nature project is a brand new way of working for the Museum, and we are thrilled that Janetka is joining us for the project. We are really looking forward to working with her to creatively form new relationships with communities across the district, discover and share new stories and to help transform the way the Museum thinks about the items in its collections.” Charlotte Pratt, Learning and Outreach Officer.

About the artist

Janetka’s practice incorporates sculpture, film and installation. Her art is shaped by phenomenological ideas, posing questions about our existential and moral relationship to our surroundings. These reveal deeper meanings of home, belonging and loss. Her work attends to the inter-relational complexities of people, place, time, memory and desire.

Janetka is an Artist Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. She has exhibited extensively and received awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, British Council, Leverhulme Trust and Arts Council England. She was shortlisted for the new St Pancras Wires commission in 2021, one of the country’s most ambitious public art programmes.

As with much of her previous work, this project will engage groups who are under-represented in the arts and who may not have previous experience of working with museum collections. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and a child of migrant parents, her outlook is inclusive and alive to different perspectives and experiences.

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