Falcon Bride installation


I wrote this at the time, to introduce the Falcon Bride installation:

“The Falcon Bride is an experimental installation – a room-sized book – which I set up in Lewes, Sussex during the local Arts Festival. I deliberately wrote no introductory explanations of the piece other than that it is based on a visit to the Polish city of Krakow, where we visited the small museum containing Leonardo’s painting ‘Lady with Ermine’ and a small Egyptian Department containing some mummified falcons; the Polish Ethnographic Museum; and the old Jewish Quarter.

It is a ‘book’ in that you are entering a world and a story which it takes time to absorb; there is a web of references and cross-references of images in different forms – prints on the walls, hand-made objects and models, and a table full of hand-painted books.

The idea of making the room look like a Polish Café (a setting which re-appears within the images) is to make people feel comfortable, both psychologically and physically, as they sit to look into what can be a slightly disturbing journey -in that it asks questions without giving answers. The images and objects, deliberately made to be ‘on the point of becoming’ are proving quite powerful.

I am always there invigilating so it becomes almost a performance piece as I am asked questions and enter into a dialogue about our perceptions of what we are seeing; but the main idea is always to encourage people to allow the exhibits to speak for themselves and to trust and listen to their gut reactions.

Each person opens up their own story.


All the exhibits are constructed from basic organic materials such as feather, bone, wax, wood, or recycled paper, card and scrim, and are fragile, but the books are designed to be handled and read. Elements such as the furniture (in Lewes I hired it from our local recycling organisation ) could change from venue to venue.

There is nothing to buy or sell and part of the idea has been to try and restructure the way people look at

Art-works, how long they spend doing it, and what they expect from them. It is trying to restore the delicate interaction between maker and viewer which became interesting at the beginning of the Open Studios movement but has now become over-commodified again.”


The exhibition was then taken up by a wonderful curator at West Dean, the former home of the surrealist Edward James, and became much larger in scale. The boats were re-made bigger and the boat images blown up digitally on 2xmetre panels and hung from the sides of the mezzanine walls, almost like a processional way into a megalithic tomb. It was a less intimate and personal experience but it was seen by thousands of people attending an apple festival and over the month long exhibition, some of whom left messages in the visitors book.

This is how West Dean curator, Sharon-Michi Kusunoki described it in her introduction:

Artist’s books are a unique genre and by their nature, difficult to define. they not only challenge the definition itself, but, in actuality, defy categorisation altogether. In the installation, the Falcon Bride, Carolyn Trant examines how critical issues such as memory, text, history and myth can be constructed in a way that expands the confines of a book into something in which active participation is not only recommended, but is a necessity. Here the gallery acts as a vessel binding together the narratives provided by the viewer’s own personal and/or collective memories…

… In the installation, Trant sets the scene in what appears at first glance to be a Polish cafe with haunting prints on the wall, hand painted books arranged on a table, and an array of fascinating hand-made objects and reconstructed cultural artefacts – some conceptual, some fetishistic. What is important here is not merely what is shown, but what is experienced… in essence, the experience of a book…”


“…we have taken the obligation to preserve memory as sacred – as indeed when rightly understood, it is. But if they are merely recited or heeded without active understanding, the injunctions never to forget can be formulaic, an invitation to ritual rather than a moral act. How we remember, how much effort and pressure of intelligence and imagination we bring to the process, also matters…

At this point, the task is not only to remember but to remember strenuously – to explore, decode, and deepen the terrain of memory… what is at stake is not only the past but the present…”

Eva Hoffman – ‘Shtetl’

… let materials speak, they are their own mythology; they speak to us of what is… “

Anselm Kiefer, speaking on the radio

“… Obstructing access to a darkness never yet penetrated… a darkness in which… the utmost need to communicate comes together with the ultimate speechlessness… myth in which fact and fiction are, so to speak, inseparably linked together… All symbolism harbours the curse of mediacy… and it is bound to obscure what it seeks to reveal… ”

W.G Sebald