Issue 38Audience Development

What do we want - and what have we come to expect - when we visit a museum? Poet Keisha Thompson explored these questions at a special evening event at the Whitworth Gallery.

It was an ordinary day when I happened up a trope, a white-haired man wrapped up in red velvet rope,

I found him suffocating but as I went to clutch it
he pointed to a little sign telling me “Not to Touch It”.

Lucky for him this artist is not a slave to rules,
humanity speaks louder to me than sans serif
so I chose to pull him lose. I said – Eh ya my fellow
Manc, I don’t think it’s your time to go. He screwed
up his face for a split second, deviated from golden
ratio, his lips quivered from blue to pink as he coughed
up a superiority complex, but still I chose to enquire
as to why he was vex.

I took him into a local café and got him a red bush tea.
With the power of a well-stirred brew he began to tell his story.

Do you know what I really want to do – he said.
I leaned in and endearingly shook my head. 

I want to throw a dinner party, I want to drive through the snow
as though I’m off my head, I want take up yoga and dust off the
tools stored up in my garden shed. I want to open a crèche,
take a selfie with an inflatable donkey, see a five year old
running around a revolving door only to leap through it
to hug a Henry Moore. I want people to stop staring at me
and tell me something new, I want to hear laughter from
empty rooms, I don’t want to navel-gaze into the oblivion
of nostalgia, I want you to pull me from Socrates cave,
put my hand near the flame, break bread at the shore of
collective imagination, I want to play a game. I want
to have more Instagram followers than Ai Wei Wei!
I want to give a present to my 500’000th visitor.
Participant? Friend! I want someone to stand at
my side to look out onto nature, finger-paint
dreams made of surrendered hopes and
cumulus love. I want people to reconnect
with themselves, stand on their doorsteps,
rub their eyes and look at all this stuff.
I want to reach out to new communities,
I want something that I can’t Google,
I want people to feel free but I don’t
think there’s anyone who wants
to come with me.

I gave him a hard look then asked – How do you know?
His in-breath was long and slow as I placed my hand on
his sunken shoulder. If you want me to come with you,
then why don’t you say so?

Keisha Thompson

This poem was written and performed at The Whitworth on 4 May 2017 at an event which explored questions raised  in the book Made you look Made you stare.  Performance produced by Poet in the City.


Illustration © Stephanie Sandall for FCBStudios.

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