The Thames Wunderkammer

‘The Thames Wunderkammer: Tales from Victoria Embankment in Two Parts’ is a public art commission created on behalf of Tideway.

London has outgrown its sewerage system. The capacities originally allowed for in the sewer network designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in the 1850s have been extended and now exceeded. The Thames Tideway Tunnel (scheduled for completion in 2022) will upgrade London’s sewerage system to cope with the demands of the city well into the 22nd century.

Tideway launched a new temporary art commission, to be located on the hoarding surrounding the Victoria Embankment Foreshore construction site, in central London; it is close to key central London landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament and Portcullis House, Hungerford Bridge and Whitehall Gardens. Responding to the rich heritage of the site, Roberts created a metaphorical ‘cabinet of curiosities’ along the two 25-metre foreshore hoardings. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art and antiquities.

The work is an aesthetic excavation of the area, creating an artwork that reflects the literal and metaphorical layering of the landscape, in which objects from the past and present are juxtaposed to evoke new meanings. Monumental statues are placed alongside items that are more ordinary; diverse elements, both man-made and natural, co-exist in new ways. All these components symbolise the landscape’s complex history, culture, geology, and development.

To make the work Roberts collaborated with the Museum of London, British Museum, Houses of Parliament – Parliamentary Archives, Wellcome Trust, and Thames 21. It will be displayed until 2022 and can be found here.

Downloads/Links

View installation shots here

Detailed description of the artwork (pdf)

Background information on the ‘Art on the Tideway’ commissions (link)