Julian Walker


Home | Languages and the First World War | Introduction | Gone Away, 2010 | Births, Chimneys and Lightermen - Collecting Greenwich Peninsula, 2008 | Words and Forgetting, 2007 | Encounters with Objects, EV+A, Limerick 2006 | Art out of place, Norwich, 2005 | Interventionist embroidery | Treat Yourself, 2003 | The Best in Heritage, 2002 | Hygiene, 2002 | Art & Work Award 2002 | Unit 2 Gallery, 2002 | Lies & Belonging, 2001 | Walking On Eggshells, 2000 | In The Picture, 2000 | New Contemporaries 99 | Projects 1995 to 2001 | Mr and Mrs Walker have moved, 1998 | Curriculum Vitae | Smaller Individual Works | Work data: size, date, medium | Writing | Reviews | Catalogue Texts | Current work | Drawing | The British Library | Do Bees Like Van Gogh? | Transmission: Provenance - talk Nov 2004 | Tablets and sculptures | Educational work | Books on language



Book reviews on Amazon are written under the name Bookcase


2009 August publication - Discovering Words, Shire Books: a book of word histories.  Also for 2010 Discovering Words in the Kitchen, Shire Books, a book of histories of words to do with food, cooking and eating.


2007  Essays for Catalogue for Words and Forgetting, on linguistic encounters in the late eighteenth century along the north-west coast of America, and early European encounters with the potlatch ceremony.


2006            “Do Bees Like Van Gogh?” (with Lars Chittka), Optics and Laser Technology     Vol 38/4-6


2004    Guide to the Treasures Gallery, The British Library, London


2003    A New Map, The British Library, London

 "Acquisitions at the British Museum" in Consuming Ancient Egypt, Cavendish Press

2001 Paper at Hastings Rarities Symposium, Hastings Museum

1999 "An Outpouring of Material Objects", Kontura magazine, Zagreb

1998 "Grave-goods and Teddy Bear Thieves", Inventory

1998 "Report on the International Occasional Museum of Collecting", Carry On Collecting, Leicester University Press

1997 "Acquisition, Envy and the Museum Visitor", Experiencing Material Culture in the Western World, Ed. Susan Pearce, Leicester University Press

    1996 "The Real Thing", Museological Review

    1995 "Artists in Museums", Paper at Museums Association Conference, Leicester University

    1991 "Pictures for Eating", Art and Education



    The Art of Dissent

    Following LOCOG's appropriation of a series of words for sponsors' use only during the 2012 Olympics, I wrote an essay on the ethics and management of this, for the publication The Art of Dissent.

    A note about altering


    I’m very aware that the works that use historical or formerly living objects give rise to difficult questions, so this may address them, in part.


    Working on site-specific projects such as Touch (2000) at Wolverhampton, and Mr & Mrs Walker have moved (1998) at Kettle’s Yard, depended on a full engagement with the site/object in order to make work that would say something meaningful and stimulating.  That engagement, the digging into the nature of the subject, necessarily affects the place, and changes it for the artist and the viewer.  For me, the process of living at Kettle’s Yard removed some of the delight, spoiled the idyll if you like.  Touching the surface of the painting in Touch brought to the forefront the “thing” of the painting, as it was meant to, disrupting the illusion of three-dimensionality.


    But these interventions can be undone, forgotten, ignored.  They do not leave a lasting mark that removes and replaces part of the object.  The altered samplers, the engraved, burned, pinned or written-on natural or historical objects do, and the alteration is both the content and the medium of the artwork.  These works are made with a considerable amount of thought beforehand.  One should not undertake lightly the process of carving text onto a 70 million year old fossil; perhaps one should not lightly undertake this on any form of stone, or any other non-regenerating surface.  In the introduction to the Samplers works, and the interview with Lucy Chapman I discussed how acts of creative destruction have been established within the history of western art over the past 100 years, and arguably outside “high art” for millennia before that, in the use of fossils for decoration, the idea of the palimpsest, and the recycling of building materials.


    As an artist I irrevocably change the world with every mark I make, just as I do as a human being every time I switch on a light, or flush my toilet, or buy a chicken sandwich.  My being able to carve text onto a commercially mined fossil, or write on a shop-bought quail’s egg, or alter the text on an auctioned sampler, tells us something about how we have conspired to parcel the world up into commodities of varying status.  But more importantly for me it allows me to raise and discuss questions about what we project onto these objects; this alone for me provides justification for the work.

    "The Language of Encroachment" in Nature & Nation, St Martins/Arts Council, 2003

    This essay in the catalogue of the Arts Council Touring Exhibition, Nature & Nation, considers the use of language surrounding the migrations of species across borders. It looks at the definitions of words such as invasion, introduction, and indigenous, in a variety of contexts, and examines how language is used to demonise such species as Japanese knotweed, Chinese mitten crabs, Canadian pondweed and black woodpeckers. Using various case-studies from the national press and scientific journals, the essay proposes that the natural environment is used as a allegory in which we talk to ourselves about race, nationality and resources.

    "Acquisitions at the British Museum" in Consuming Ancient Egypt, Cavendish Press, 2003

    This essay discusses the project Acquisitions at the British Museum (1998) in the light of the British Museum-going public's fascination with Ancient Egypt. It considers the semiotics of souvenir-photography within the museum, and the purchase of reproduction-souvenirs within the space of the museum. In particular it discusses the nature of the overlapping image and the desire for identity-merging with reference to the Freudian fort-da phenomenon.

    "Grave-goods and Teddy Bear Thieves", Inventory, 1998

    This essay examines the phenomenon of obsessive flower-laying and the leaving of other objects after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Examining the nature of flowers at funerals, and the relationship between childhood and death, the essay goes on to interpret the desire to throw flowers onto the hearse in the light of previously examined notions of relics and touching.

    "Acquisition, Envy and the Museum Visitor", Experiencing Material Culture in the Western World, Ed. Susan Pearce, Leicester University Press, 1997

    This essay discusses the relationship between collectors, visitors, curators and collections, and how it is affected by the presentation of preserved objects in television programmes and the popular press. It proposes that projects like the People's Shows mark a shift away from reverence towards competition.

    "The Real Thing", Museological Review, 1996

    This essay examines the project Four Defining Absences (Museum of Mankind, 1995) in which four objects from the museum's collection are defined in their absence by their histories and the objects and spaces which have surrounded them since collection. It goes on to discuss the nature of realness with reference to the fabrication of relics within the early Christian Church, particularly considering the hierarchy of senses which places touch above sight as satisfying the desire for contact.