“The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides ~ A Review 

Well. Where to begin. I don’t think any book has ever taken me on a journey with as many swings between loving it and hating it. At no point did I think the book was average. It was essentially literary Marmite.

Jeffrey Eugenides has taken it upon himself to rewrite the marriage plot, and thus where the book starts is with Madeline Hanna, a soon to be graduated English Literature major. There are 2 men in Madeline’s life; Leo a brilliant scientist who suffers from Bipolar disorder, and Mitchell, a theology major whose obsession with religion dominates his life. Mitchell has been in love with Madeline since he first met her, Madeline is in love with Leo, and Leo’s love for Madeline seems highly dependent on the state of his mental health.

The first main thing I would say is you can tell the book has been written by a man. The dialogue is always in 3rd person, although is written from the point of view of Madeline, Leo or Mitchell. Eugenides masterfully carries all 3 unique voices throughout the book, however the overarching misogyny continues throughout, and I think this is where the narrative and I came to mental blows.

Mitchell is highly obsessive. His love for Madeline and his passion for religion are so intense they border on toxic, occasionally leaping a good mile into toxic territory. The language used in Mitchell’s internal monologue is scarily sexually aggressive! Set in the 1980s, far before the term friendzoned came into common use, Mitchell displays all the signs of the butt-hurt white man, who is so determined to make Madeline his he forgets she is her own person. He has decided in his mind that he will marry Madeline, and he doesn’t seem to care that she has made it quite obvious that she has absolutely no interest in him in that way. That is what makes his head such a disturbing, terrifying place to be.

The privileged white male with a bruised ego is a dangerous beast. The number of women sent to an early grave by men who couldn’t stand their sexual prowess or self image being called into question is staggering. As a young female, the idea that any man has an internal monologue similar to Mitchell’s is disturbing, and reading other reviews put forward by male critics, their refusal to separate themselves from this, or even simply acknowledge this seems to be indicative of the institutionalised male entitlement that is rife in our society.

Leo’s voice is calmer, and mainly deals with his struggles with mental health, and balancing his swings between mania and depression with his love and work life. Eugenides is masterful in his ability to portray and describe the daily life of a manic depressive, against the backdrop of the ’80s, where the stigma surrounding mental health was even greater than it is today.

Everything else I have to say about the book contains spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book stop now, below the asterixes lie spoilers, and you continue at your peril, so here’s my mini conclusion!

Overall I didn’t like the book, personally it rubbed me the wrong way. It is entirely possible that was what Eugenides was aiming to do! I would however encourage you to read it, and I would be interested to hear what you thought of it, maybe I’m becoming too feminist if such a thing exists, or being hyper-sensitive! Either way, leave a comment, or drop me a message!



So, if you’re here, you’ve either read the book already, or you’re not planning to read the book at all and subsequently don’t mind finding out the ending.

There’s one scene that made my blood boil. It isn’t even a whole dialogue, or theme, it’s less than 10 words, but it makes me doubt Eugenides supposed feminism. When Leonard has stopped taking his lithium and he starts becoming manic, Madeline describes the return of his ability to perform in the bedroom and the dramatic increase in love making. Madeline describes an occassion when Leo is trying something new, and she starts begging him to stop. He doesn’t. Eugenides goes on to applaud Leo for this, claiming it satisfied her as she’d never been satisfied before.

I don’t know what Eugenides describes as consent, but here, his understanding of it is severely at a loss. This is not a sexy moment, this is not Leo knowing Madeline’s body better than she herself knows it, as she uses for her justification, it is rape. Clear and simple. Consent was withdrawn, the act was no longer voluntary, it was rape. And Eugenides glorifies this, puts in on a mental pedestal, and this is not acceptable. It’s not a literary device, nowhere is it even hinted that either he, or Leo believes this was assault. It is portrayed normal, and it is clearly a male view of what a woman should think, not what is actually felt.

Over the course of the past few months, a devastatingly large number of women have come forward to share their experiences of sexual assault, both by celebrities and other members of the public, and for once society seems to be on their side. We have come leaps and bounds since the ’80s at tackling sexual assault, and perhaps this is a vivid example of how views have changed, but as a 2017 reader it made for uncomfortable reading.


Open House London 2017 ~ That History Girl’s Guide!

Open House London celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! That’s 25 years of making architecture free and accessible to Londoners and the 19 million tourists who visit this beautiful city every year.

The first Open House London was organised by Victoria Thornton on 7th November 1992. It comprised of just 20 buildings. This weekend over 800 homes, museums, schools, palaces, embassies, and many more will open their doors to the public for free! The range of buildings available is simply astounding, and a little daunting when it comes to choosing where to go first, so I’ve made a list of some of my favourites, some of the essentials and some more unusual buildings slightly off the beaten track!

My top tip for the weekend is to volunteer! You get to explore a new building that you might not have chosen otherwise, and to contribute to such a wonderful, educational two days of fun! When you volunteer you also get a badge that lets you queue jump at other sites (except those with pre-booked tours, or public ballots). Trust me, it’s worth it, especially when venues such as The Foreign and Commonwealth Office can have queues going around the block! Oh, and did I mention the volunteers party, where you can meet other like-minded architecture nerds! Sign up here!


The Durbar Court at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Open both Saturday and Sunday from 11am-4pm The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a must-see! Built in 1861 by Sir George Gilbert Scott and Matthew Digby Wyatt the gorgeous Durbar Court will have you gazing around in awe (it’s also highly instagrammable, for those of you that way inclined). The Grade I listed Victorian building has plenty to see and do, see if you can spot all 12 signs of the Zodiac in one of the ceilings! It’s a fantastic insight into the running of our government, and not usually open to the public, so don’t miss out!




The Ceiling of the Grand Staircase at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Crystal Palace Subway


The Crystal Palace Subway in Bromley was originally built as a passageway leading directly from High Level Station to the Crystal Palace, which burnt down in 1936, designed by Joseph Paxton in 1854. The subway itself was constructed in 1865 under architect Charles Barry Junior. Not normally open to the public you can step into Victorian life! The subway is open all weekend from 11am-4pm, however a capacity of 80 means queues are likely!

Lloyd’s Register Group

Perhaps one of the most photographed and shared buildings in the City, although I swear there’s a new building popping up every week! The original late Victorian building, designed by Thomas Collcutt, was extended by Richard Rogers Partnership, winning a RIBA award! Although only limited areas are open to the public you can hear a lecture about Richard Rogers’ expansion every half hour. Download the Open House app to see all the other buildings nearby to visit while you’re there! N.B. Lloyd’s Building is only open Saturday 10am-5pm.



A view of The Hackney Empire from the stage. 

Hackney Empire


Hackney Empire was somewhat of an accidental discovery! I signed up to volunteer late last year, and figured as a somewhat of a theatre-holic it would be interesting to see it behind the scenes! What a wonderful surprise! Built the same year as the original Lloyd’s building (1901) Frank Matcham’s Hackney Empire is considerably different inside, see how many Art Deco features you can spot! The Hackney Empire was built and used as a Variety Theatre before falling into disrepair. Only 1 tour is running this year, at 9am on Saturday. Book here.



A Hall from a 1630s Middle Class Home at the Geffrye Museum.

Geffrye Museum


The Geffrye Museum is situated in Hackney, and open Saturday 10am-4:30pm, a perfect secondary location to visit after a tour of the Hackney Empire! The Geffrey Museum is situated in an old Alms house, and currently houses a museum dedicated to the history of the middling class, and how their homes have changed over the past couple of centuries. Usually free to enter, the staff are running object handling sessions.





Roof of the Sukkot Shalom Reform Synagogue, the shape was inspired by the hull of a ship.

Sukkot Shalom Reform Synagogue Wanstead


The Sukkot Shalom Reform Synagogue is open Sunday from 10am-4pm. The Synagogue building was originally part of the Merchant Seaman’s Orphan Asylum, designed by Somers Clarke, dating back to the 19th century. The rest of the Asylum has since been converted to flats. The building used to house the chapel, and the signs are evident in the architecture and embellishments around the walls. It was converted into a synagogue in 1995. The volunteers here are extremely knowledgeable, and it’s a nice, unusual building.


The Battle of Britain Bunker, Uxbridge.

Another slightly out-of-the-way building, but a must-see for any 20th century history enthusiasts! It was built in 1939, and was part of the main control centre coordinating one of the greatest aerial battles in history! Open both days, 10am-5pm pre-booking is required so check out the Open House website for more details!


Inside Crossrail Place Roof Garden

Crossrail Place Roof Garden

This year Foster + Partners are celebrating their 50th birthday this year, and the Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a shining example of their beautiful architecture! Situated in Canary Wharf, atop the new station, it is a beautiful partnership of architecture and nature. The garden was a collaboration between Foster+ Partners and landscape designer Gillespies Landscape Architects. Gillespies are hosting hourly tours between 10am and 4pm on Saturday.



Trellick Tower

Designed by Erno Goldfinger in 1972, Trellick Tower has become a sacred site for Brutalism enthusiasts! Now a Grade II listed property it encompasses exhibition and education, housing a woodworking workshop, as well as a furniture showcase. Trellick Tower is open Saturday 10:30am – 6pm, and Sunday 11am – 5pm. If you’re a fan of Brutalism you could also check out the Embassy of Slovakia, a RIBA Award winning Modern Brutalist building also situated in Kensington and Chelsea.

I hope you found this mini guide helpful! Let me know what your favourite buildings were this weekend, and any I should add to my list for next year!

Happy Architecture Hunting!!

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That History Girl Travels ~ Oslo Day 3

Our third day in Oslo marked our excursion out of the city center and to Bygdoy on the other side of the quay. This area houses all the museums related to Norway’s seafaring past. The Oslo pass includes free travel within zones 1 and 2, which includes Bygdoy. A door to door bus ran from just outside Anker Hostel, taking around 30 minutes to get us from A to B.

2016-12-19-20.43.37.jpg.jpegThe Viking Ship Museum houses 3 restored Viking Ships, as well as the items found within various Viking Burial sites unearthed by archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson. The ships are beautiful and striking, and housed within what appears to be an old church, any noise echoes throughout the whole building; it creates a peaceful atmosphere.

The three ships (Gokstad, Oseburg and Tune) each represent an important aspect of Viking archaeology; Tune was the first viking ship ever to be excavated whole in just two weeks, the dig headed by Oluf Rygh. Oseburg was used as a burial ship for 2 noble women in the 9th Century, and its excavation provided crucial information into Viking Death. Filled with weapons, clothes, shoes, carved animal heads, and several animals. Gokstad was also used as a burial ship for a young man killed in battle. His grave contained 12 horses,  8 dogs, 3 small boats, ornate game boards and 2 peacocks.

Although a small museum it is definitely worth a visit, particularly if you’re interested in history or archaeology!

2016-12-19-20.40.38.jpg.jpegThe Folk Museum lies about a 10 minute walk down the road from the Viking Ship Museum. It was by far the largest museum we had visited! The interior museum was split over 2 floors and 2 building, taking visitors on a long journey through a history of crafts, furniture, weapons and Christmas.

The majority of the museum is outside, so make sure to bring lots of layers, it can be quite biting! The outside portion of the museum houses an imitation of a traditional Norwegian village, with thatched outhouses, some open to the public to show an example of guest houses, kitchens, stables and living rooms. Also within the grounds are a beautiful wooden church (pictured right), and a large house showing the living standards of Norwegians from the 60-90s in the form of model flats.


A short way down the road 3 museums exist on the same lot; The Kon-Tiki Museum, Maritime Museum and the Fram Polar Expedition museum. Unfortunately when we went to visit the Maritime Museum was closed.

2016-12-19-20.35.49.jpg.jpegThe Kon-Tiki Museum was Emily’s favorite! It followed the 2 expeditions of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) and his voyage across the sea on the Kon-Tiki balsalwood raft (pictured right), and his subsequent trips on Ra and Tigris, boats formed from reeds, based on an Egyptian design. For a man with a phobia of open water, he spent an awful lot of time sailing the oceans on vessels scientists promised would not be seaworthy. The museum houses both Kon-Tiki and Tigris, and also has model Easter Island caves, and shows the Oscar winning Kon-Tiki documentary. For a relatively small museum there is plenty to do!

20161219_152813.jpgOur final stop for the day was the Fram Polar Expedition Museum. Billed as the ‘Best Museum in Norway’ we left it till last so we could spend as long as we wanted there. Like Moulin Rouge, we discovered it was grossly oversold. I’m sure if you’re doing a PhD in Polar Expeditions it would be highly engrossing, but given neither of has a particularly deep interest the pages and pages of 20pt type wasn’t particularly gripping. Positives now though! The museum is gigantic, and housed across two buildings, the main attraction in each is a huge polar expedition ship. The larger ship, Fram can be boarded, and a small number of the rooms / cabins / galleys explored. Every 20 minutes, from the deck of Fram a Northern Lights show can be watched, projected onto the white roof of the museum, and a sail, fashioned into a screen.

Visitors can also try out the arctic simulator room, which exposes you to sub zero temperatures. I’m sure in summer this is more enjoyable than winter, when outside temperatures were around -3 degrees to begin with, tho it’s novel none-the-less. Our favorite part of the museum was the kids section, where you could try and navigate using only the stars, and a fake duck shooting range to try your arm at shooting.

The gift shop here is vast, and fairly reasonably priced, a perfect place to pick up your last minute souvenirs, postcards and trinkets.

That History Girl Travels ~ Oslo Day 2

After a pretty decent nights sleep (we were out like lights at 10pm) and despite a rather noisy dorm mate, woke up refreshed and ready for our 8am start.

Having bought an Oslo 72 hour pass (£50 for students) we were keen to visit as many museums as possible.

We arrived at the Munch Museum bright and early for its 10am opening time, hoping to see Munch’s famous painting The Scream. Unfortunately, having been stolen in 2004 and sadly damaged before its 2006 return it wasn’t on show, rather disappointing given every poster bore it’s unmistakable features. Nevertheless, an exhibition on Munch and his contemporary, Jorn, provided an interesting hour.

The highlight for myself and Emily was the colour by numbers section of the exhibit; we had a competition on FB to decide the best one. Emily won. I’m not bitter. 

After the Munch Museum, Emily and I parted ways, she went to the Natural History Museum, whilst I headed to the Astrup Fearnley Modern Art Gallery, which focused on both art and Architecture.


The building itself is a beautiful work of architecture, divided into two halves, one containing the permanent collection, the other housing temporary exhibits. The temporary exhibition “Los Angeles – A Fiction” was by far my favorite,  featuring many American artists including Alexis Smith, David Hockney and Charles Ray.

The permanent collection was much larger, with a wider range of mediums, however I found it rather bland. Bisected baby cows in preservative, and crucified sheep are not art. They are simply cruel, hideous and unnecessary. The highlight of this half was a 10ft high bookshelf sporting large grey lead books, by artist Anselm Kiefer.

After my brief trip to the modern era it was time to go back to ancient times and visit the castle or Akershus Fortress.

Within the fortress walls also lies the Resistance Museum which catalogs the struggles of the Norwegian Resistance throughout the 2nd world war, through continued fighting, underground publications and refusal to fight. Whilst not the largest museum, and mostly in Norwegian (although there is a good guide English guide book) it tells the stories through the medium of models.

A20161218_143301.jpgs with all or Norway, it seems, the castle itself was closed for the winter. Ordinarily the interior of the castle, as well as the Mausoleum and Chapel are open to the public, however when we went only the visitors center was available.  The visitors center itself was essentially a museum, with 2 rooms focusing on the history of the castle and relations between Norway-Denmark and its battles with surrounding countries, and another room on the castle’s previous function as a prison.

Still an active government / military base, visitors can watch the changing of the guard, raising and lowering of the flag at sunrise and sunset (about 3pm in December), as well as enjoy a beautiful walk around the castle grounds.

Our final stop was an evening visit to the Film Museum, housed on the ground floor of a large cinema complex. With late opening hours, and free entry, we tacked it on to our itinerary. The museum is small, and whilst an English information sheet is provided, it rarely matched up to the pieces on show.  It’s a quaint museum fairly close to the castle, so a good one to visit if you find yourself nearby with half an hour to kill.

After another dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (yes it’s the only place that serves vegetarian food) we were back at the hostel to read and relax (and enjoy the US netflix options Norway gets) it was sleep time again!

You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 at the V&A

Who doesn’t love the Swinging Sixties? Great music, outrageous fashion, social reform and the constant threat of nuclear warfare! If I could have lived at any time, I’d probably have chosen the 60s; That or the 80s.

Records and Rebels is a new exhibition running from September 2016 – February 2017 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. Housed in the temporary exhibition space, its an amazing set up, with plenty of content to keep you entertained for hours!

Upon entering you’re handed an audio guide and some very good quality headphones. There’s no need to search for headphone signs around the exhibition, or fumble with badly-calibrated touch screens, this audio guide knows your location, and adjusts its track accordingly. It is a truly genius system.

Walking through a succession of 8 rooms you find yourselves immersed in the art, fashion, literature, media and of course music of the age. The 60s were a huge time for political and social change, and this was reflected throughout the exhibition, with each room focusing on one or two topics. From feminism, mini-skirts, LSD, police violence, the Vietnam war and the Beatles you gain a comprehensive understanding of what it was to be alive in the late 60s.

My favourite room was a celebration of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. 3 sides of the room are covered in 10 foot high, 30 foot wide screens showing intimate footage of Jim Hendrix famous set, closing Woodstock. Guests are invited to lie on bean bags on the floor and utterly immerse themselves in the sublime music.


The exhibition would have taken us about 2 hours, had we been allowed to finish it. We were in the 1600 time slot, and we weren’t warned that the exhibition would take more than the 1hr45 we would have there. What we saw of the exhibition was fantastic, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to do the final 2 rooms, and when the announcement went up to tell us 30mins left, it knocked out the audioguides for about 15 minutes. At nearly £20 a ticket, it’s not exactly something we can pop back to finish, and by no means did we linger in each room. It’s such a shame, as it meant we left on a sour note. It would be worth the museum pointing out you may not finish the exhibition, if you go in past 1530.

Despite the timing issue, this was a fantastic exhibition, which I would wholeheartedly recommend, although make sure you’re early enough!

You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is on at the V&A until 26 February 2o17. Ticket prices are £17.60 or £13.50 for students.

Decoding the Bombe ~ Bletchley Park

At 9am on a crisp Saturday morning, QMUL History Society met outside Mile End Station to begin our 1st trip of the year to the home of modern computing security.

Bletchley Park, most well-known for its involvement in the Second World War, was developed to its present state by Sir Herbert Samuel Leon who bought the site in 1883. Later bought by Admiral Henry Sinclair, the head of MI6 in 1938, it became the designated home for code-breakers, in the case of war being declared.

Following the release of 2014 film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly, the work of mathematician Alan Turing has been thrust into the spotlight. Turing is most revered for his work in inventing the Bombe, a decoding machine, designed to break the Enigma code in WWII. The Enigma machine, designed by German Arthur Scheribus, provided German officials with triple level encryption for their messages, and they never doubted its security.

The Enigma machine worked by initially swapping two letters, before feeding the letter through to 3 spinning wheels, which would change the letter 3 times. The letter then traveled backwards through the 3 drums, before revealing the letter on a lit keyboard. The catch? Each machine used 3 drums at a time (of a possible 5) set to 1 of 26 positions each. When a letter was fed through, the 1st drum would rotate 1/26 of a rotation; when this drum had completed 1 revolution the next drum would turn 1/26 of a turn and so on. In this way, the set up of the machine changed with every letter typed.

The flaw in the Enigma machine, which the code-breakers at BP exploited, was that Enigma could never code a letter as itself. That is to say A could be coded as B-Z, but never A. This allowed codebreakers, before the Bombe was invented, to estimate codes, whilst looking for frequently used phrases such as ‘wettervorhersage’ meaning weather forecast.


Using this knowledge Alan Turing designed his Bombe, which was later modified by Gordon Welchman to vastly improve its efficiency.

Today, Bletchley Park is no longer a hub of military intelligence, having moved to GCHQ and NSA once the war was over. The work at Bletchley remained classified long after the war had ended. The Germans never found out their enigma code had been broken; Only the British and Americans were privy to this information, so when Russia looted their way through Eastern Europe and found a large quantity of Enigma Machines, they didn’t think twice about using them during the Cold War.

When Gordon Welchman was brought in by the NSA during the Cold War to crack Russian codes, he found the work surprisingly similar to his work at Bletchley. Luckily, even after Bletchley had been stripped of any clues to its existence in 1945, several Bombes had been kept, by GCHQ and the NSA, giving the USA a key advantage.

Bletchley Park today highlights and celebrates the works of the code-breakers who worked tirelessly throughout the war, with little to no recognition, to thwart the Germans in a battle of wits.

Initially you’re given a brief introduction to the history of Bletchley and code-breaking before you’re given an audio guide and allowed to explore the grounds at your own pace.

The beautiful, famous manor house (above) shows visitors the scale of the operations at Bletchley before they were upscaled. The initiator of the increase in workforce, Gordon Welchman, is celebrated here too, his work so frequently overshadowed by Turing.

Various huts are open to the public. Hut 9 contains information about the redevelopment of Bletchley, having been left in a state of disrepair when it closed in 1945. This hut explores the archaeological techniques used to understand it’s original appearance, and allow developers to recreate this as accurately as possible.

The other huts take visitors through the various stages of code-breaking,  with interactive activities in various rooms giving people of all ages the chance to try their hand at cracking the Enigma code. All the huts have been restored to their original condition, and some contain audio-visual effects to recreate conditions just over 70 years ago.

Visitors are also able to see the cottages inhabited by the code-breakers, although the interiors aren’t open to the public.


In 1995 a group of scientists and enthusiasts headed up by John Harper decided to try and rebuild the Bombe. When Bletchley was decommissioned all traces of the work that had dominated the lives of up to 3000 people for the past 6 years was burned or destroyed, so finding plans for the Bombe seemed impossible. 10 years later, after a decade of hard work, trial and error and sourcing now discontinued materials such as Bakelite they had a working Bombe. Today you can see this in action with demonstrations every half an hour.


Beside the rebuilt Bombe sits a beautiful graphite statue of Alan Turing, and the letter of apology from Gordon Brown for his conviction of “debauchery” when it was discovered he was a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Having chosen chemical castration over imprisonment, Turing tragically took his own life in 1954. Given that Turing’s work is said to have shortened the war by up to 2 years, saving potentially hundreds of thousands of lives, the fact it took nearly 50 years to pardon him is downright disgusting. Furthermore Parliament’s decision to overturn a bill which would pardon all those convicted of “debauchery” a few weeks ago shows just how static societies views on the LGBTQ+ community are, despite politicians constantly self-congratulating themselves on how progressive they think they are.

Today a memorial to all those who worked at Bletchley stands outside hut 2 bearing the inscription “We Also Served”. When Bletchley closed all those who worked there were sent away with strict instructions never to speak of their work, and for this reason so many achievements went uncelebrated. Since the Enigma code was declassified many of the men and women who worked there have released memoirs of their time at Bletchley. Most speak of fond memories, and many found love there.

Without the work of the Code breakers, WWII could have had a very different conclusion, with millions more innocent lives lost. It is thanks to their work that we live in the world we do today, and for that we salute them.

Admission to Bletchley Park costs between £14.00 and £17.25 for adults which includes unlimited access to the site for 1 calendar year. English Heritage members also enjoy a further discount.


Pennys,  Trains and Butts – The Turner Prize 2016

The Turner Prize for modern art, first awarded in 1984 is a celebration of modern, innovative, British art. Awarded annually to an artist born, living or working in the UK, aged 40 or under, the prize has caused much controversy over its 32 year history.

In 2016 Helen Marten,  Anthea Hamilton, Josephine Pryde and Michael Dean all vie for the £25,000 prize, and the critical acclaim that accompanies it.

The Turner Prize Installations, housed at the Tate Britain, comprise of 4 rooms, one per artist. The £9.50 Student concession price does seem rather steep,  particularly if the prize is designed, at least partially, to inspire a new generation of British artists!

The first room, belonging to Helen Marten was probably my least favourite, and left me feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Whilst the ornate, multisegmented insects hanging from the walls were visually appealing, striking they were not! I may be vaguely biased on this matter; the incessant screeching of the alarm signalled that, yet again, a small child in clumsy Lelly Kellys, playing hopscotch over the “Do Not Cross” line had narrowly avoided damaging the artwork, as her mother gazed on, disinterested.

Anthea Hamilton’s exhibition was the space I knew the most about before arriving. Based on her New York exhibition Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity! for which she was nominated, her Tate installation has attracted huge public attention, particularly for the ginormous butt pictured above. Countless selfies and photos flood the instagram hashtag with Project for a Door (the official name for the derriere in question) which was inspired by designer Gaetano Pesce’s plan for a New York doorway. Reactions from my fellow museum goers ranged from the very British embarrassment,  to mildly amused through to 3 gleeful children, excited about this rather large ‘taboo’ presented before them. I found it oddly entrancing, and almost hard to look away.

The other half of Hamilton’s room is dominated by a floor to ceiling photo of the June London sky. In front of it hangs several silver chastity belts, decorated with rosemary, or with ornate carvings.

Room number 3; Designed by Josephine Pryde, this room is probably the simplest design, but in no way does this detract from the effectiveness. A Class 65 diesel train, decorated with graffiti, sits on tracks that span the length of the room, almost inviting the viewer to clamber aboard.

Around the room photographs adorn the wall, part of Josephine Pryde’s Hands “Für Mich”, mainly focused on, as the name would suggest, hands, sporting immaculate nail varnish. After the more explicit nature of Anthea Hamilton’s room Pryde’s room felt all together more soporific. The photos on the wall all contain a message about society and/or feminism, however they aren’t thrust into the face of the viewer, she simply allows you to seek the message if you wish.

The final room was arranged by Michael Dean. Probably my favourite room, the majority of floor space was taken up by a huge mound of pennies, £20,435.99 worth to be exact. Out of the pennies sprung a corregated steel family of 4, they gaze over the money that represents their poverty line. On completing the room Dean removed a single penny, effectively putting the family below the poverty line. Coming together with concrete sculptures, ink-died books, and seemingly random models of fists, this piece of art is a beautifully jumbled commentary on modern society, strongly influenced by Dean’s Newcastle upbringing.

Michael Dean’s art was definately the most disordered, and least ‘readable’ beyond the poignant carpet of coins; Ironic, as the starting point for his work is usually writing. The room was increadibly busy, with artwork popping up in unexpected locations on the floor, and narrow spaces for visitors to pass through, it certainly kept you on your toes!

Overall this was a great afternoon out, albeit fairly busy with limited space for people to move around between the pieces of artwork in some rooms.

Having spent £10 on the exhibition, being the cheap student I am, I obviously wanted to get the most out of my money, so I watched every film at the end, flicked through every book, and read every comment on the comment board. Whilst doing this I discovered that the artists had envisioned, or produced far more tactile pieces of work than we were allowed to engage in.

Anthea Hamilton had designed her suit and boots to be handled and felt, and yet we couldn’t enjoy this aspect of this exhibition. Josephine Pryde had intended visitors to her exhibition to ride on the train and from here enjoy the photos on the wall, and yet we just admired. Finally, Michael Dean initially allowed visitors to walk over his mound of coins, to feel the sea-like movement, and hear the metallic clatter.We could only observe, transfixed by the gleaming mass before us.

For modern art, tactility can often form a large dimension of the experience, and yet this was taken away from us; how then can we truly judge the art work? Isn’t it unfair, too, for the artists who worked and laboured, only to have their greatest works admired only in 3D, instead of its full 4D glory?

I really hope in future the Tate will allow artists, and visitors to produce,  and engage in more immersive pieces, and truly allow us to connect.  Especially if they’re gonna charge us a tenner for it.

The Turner Prize Installations are running at the Tate Britain until 2 January 2017 . Price range from £9.50 to £12


Hello all!! Welcome to That History Girl!!

Any one who knows me, knows I’m a massive history nerd. Any excuse to visit a castle, or go to a museum I’m there!

As a medical student I have a special interest in medical history, but I’m hoping to use this blog to share my experiences of any museums / exhibitions / galleries / historical sites. Any requests just let me know 🙂

So a bit about me; As I mentioned I’m a medical student in London, not that you could tell…I spend far more of my time wandering round museums and dabbling in acting/directing at a local drama group. Having only really studied the sciences, maths and music in any great detail at school and university, I’m a bit of an uneducated swine when it comes to the arts so please forgive me if I err in anyway, and do correct me, I won’t be offended!

Onto the blog! Prepare to find history (of course), architecture, art, and random ramblings, I hope you enjoy the blog!!



That History Girl (aka Stasia) xxx

(p.s. <– That’s me, sitting in Queen Victoria’s Chair in the Red Saloon at Kensington Palace, where she sat as she held her 1st privy council, on the day she found out she was now Queen of England! Yes I totally fan-girled!!)