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The Manchester Hermit


Artist Ansuman Biswas will become the Manchester Hermit, living in the Museum’s Gothic tower for forty days and forty nights

The Manchester Museum at The University of Manchester holds a collection of over 4 million specimens and objects.

Like many museums, only a small proportion of the collection is on public display.

Artist Ansuman Biswas will ask you, the public, to reassess the value of the Museum’s hidden collections, casting light on a different object from the stores for each day of his residency.

Through this Blog, he hopes to engage you in debate about why museums collect and preserve objects, whilst  species and cultures become forgotten and extinct.

He will also question the relationship of human beings to the natural world, hinting at the inevitable extinction of the human race itself.

Follow Manchester Hermit on Twitter to keep up with what’s going on.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. dpf permalink
    26/06/2009 9:38 am

    This sounds an interesting project – I will be looking in whenever I can to see how things develop – good luck with the relative solitude Ansuman – David

  2. 27/06/2009 8:19 am

    HI Ansuman, looking forward to reading more as your time progresses, happy to be involved with your discussions and provocations. My work looks particularly at personal stories and their presence in seemingly mundane objects so this will be great for my own development. Good luck and keep in touch Julia

  3. 30/06/2009 6:31 pm

    Hi Ansuman, thanks for letting me know. I enjoyed your rhetoric about unseen objects in museums. My father used to tours in the Met in New York calling peoples’ attention to 25 unknown and easily-missed exquisit objects.

    But hey man – 40 days and 40 nights! Why is it such a big deal to be alone for so long? Well, I gess if you’re normally compulsively sociable. But anyone who has seriously practised Indian classical music – shouldn’t find this difficult or particularly extra-ordinary. And you will be connected to the world via the net – so basically experiencing the same alienated isolation and illusion of multi-lateral connectedness that the rest of the planet is now experiencing. Cool.

    Then there is the suggestion of sacrality. Here is the 1856 text of 40 Days and 40 Nights. Was the museum tower full-up at the time of Lent?

    Forty days and forty nights
    Thou wast fasting in the wild;
    Forty days and forty nights
    Tempted, and yet undefiled.

    Sunbeams scorching all the day;
    Chilly dew-drops nightly shed;
    Prowling beasts about Thy way;
    Stones Thy pillow; earth Thy bed.

    Should not we Thy sorrow share
    And from worldly joys abstain,
    Fasting with unceasing prayer,
    Strong with Thee to suffer pain?

    Then if Satan on us press,
    Jesus, Savior, hear our call!
    Victor in the wilderness,
    Grant we may not faint nor fall!

    So shall we have peace divine:
    Holier gladness ours shall be;
    Round us, too, shall angels shine,
    Such as ministered to Thee.

    Keep, O keep us, Savior dear,
    Ever constant by Thy side;
    That with Thee we may appear
    At the eternal Eastertide.

    • 10/07/2009 5:28 pm

      Hey Nicolas,
      Thanks for that hymn.
      You’re right it’s no big deal for an Indian Classical Musician. In fact one of my reasons for choosing 40 days was the association with the chilla, but I’ve had hardly found time to practice any music!
      Lent would have been a cool time to do it I know, but it didn’t work out. Actually a major reason for choosing 40 days was because I was originally going to fast for the duration. I wanted to use up what was stored in my body in the same way as what was stored in the museum. I figured a 40 day fast was quite feasible. Unfortunately the University authorities didn’t agree. Many people in this culture are frightened by the idea of isolation and asceticsm.

      Nevertheless the idea of 40 days remained for me because of resonances with Moses, Jesus, Elijah, Hafez of Shiraz, Saint Patrick and others. Apart from the Hindustani musicians chilla the Sufis have a practice called khalwa, which is an intense 40 day period of solitude. And in Persian folklore the Chilla-nashini is a form of severe penance during which a person draws a circle around themselves and remains within it without food, water or sleep for 40 days.

      Of course my experience here is very far from those serious, rigorous situations. I’m presenting a kind of game, a performance. Nevertheless many people seem to be challenged by it, which is interesting.

      Yes for me it is partly an exploration of the ‘alienated isolation and illusion of multi-lateral connectedness’ as you put it.
      This blog takes up a lot of time and adds to mental chatter. But I hope it’s in a good cause.

  4. 05/07/2009 7:04 am


  5. Lucas permalink
    11/07/2009 9:38 am

    Dear Hermit
    I have a question for you which is

    Does it feel lonely in the tower?

    p.s You are very brave ( I would never of wanted to go in a tower alone for 40 days and 40 nights )

    Lucas aged 8

  6. 11/07/2009 10:36 am

    It’s not lonely at all Lucas. I’m too busy here to feel lonely.
    And just think if i wasn’t here I would never have met you!

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