The Horniman Residency

Past Project 2016 2017 2018

Annual research residency from Artquest in partnership with the Horniman Museum and Gardens. The artist selected for the 2018 Horniman Residency was Helena Hunter who worked with the Natural History and Music Collections at the Museum.

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Exhibit – Falling Birds

Date: 19 September 2020 – 10 October 2021
Venue: Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
Booking: Free Entry. Pre-booking essential. Pre-book your time slot here.

A series of X-ray photographs and poetic texts go on display at the Horniman Museum and Gardens from 19 September 2020 highlighting extinction and the alarming decline in bird species around the world. The display, Falling Birds, was developed by Helena Hunter during her Artquest Research Residency at the Horniman.

Falling Birds includes artworks that blend larger-than-life X-ray images of extinct and endangered bird specimens from the Horniman’s Natural History collection with fragments of poetic text. These sit alongside taxidermy mounts of birds that Hunter worked with during her residency – Passenger Pigeon, Snowy Owl, Kakapo and Huia. X-ray images of the birds are further illuminated on a series of lightboxes as part of the display.

Helena’s work asks what songs extinct and endangered birds might sing? How might  their stories be heard and what their representation in the Museum may hide and reveal? The forensic nature of the artworks make visible internal wire structures inside the taxidermy specimens, which reveal the illusion of the ‘life-like’ birds on display. This alternative view speaks to the process of taxidermy imposed upon the bird by human hands that Hunter addresses in her accompanying text. For example, the Kakapo bird’s story begins: ‘I am full of straw, I am full of the rough hands that made me.’

Visit the Horniman website for more information.

Helen Hunter has made a short film with some of the poems and images featured in the Horniman Exhibition that came out of the Artquest Residency. The film’s soundtrack is by sound artist Mark Peter Wright, it is part of the 2020 Aerial Festival program.

Residency Interviews

Over the course of the residency period Helena Hunter and Artquest will be in conversation about her experiences on the residency. In the first of the interviews below, Helena talks about her practice, interdisciplinary collaboration and her project “Falling Birds” which is leading her in explorations of the Horniman Natural History and Musical Instrument collections.

Artist Biography

Helena Hunter works with methods of fictioning and performativity as critical, creative and speculative tools in her art practice. Combining visual-poetic text, performance and assemblage her practice seeks to reimagine cultural narratives in relation to objects and forms of materiality.

Her ongoing project The Institute of Speculative Subjectivities investigates the perceived ‘silence’ or gap in forms of language and representation that occur within human-non-human relations. This work blends languages of science with art and fiction to reimagine material agency and forms of ecological knowing. This has resulted in a series of artworks with minerals, algae and organisms in a range of settings: from environmental site-based work to natural historical museum collections. Helena has a collaborative practice Matterlurgy, with artist Mark Peter Wright and is a member of the international collective Dorio-O.

During her residency at the Horniman Museum Helena will be working on her research project: Falling Birds that asks what songs do extinct and endangered birds sing us? How can we hear their stories and what do their representations hide and reveal? She will be working in the Natural History and Musical Instruments Collections, experimenting with poetic form and the notion/notation of bird song, to engage with the alarming decline in bird species globally.

2018 Residency Key Dates

  • Residency research period: October 2018 – January 2019
  • Residency closing event: Spring 2019

For the 2018 residency The Horniman Museum and Gardens invites applicants to engage with any of its of collections (Anthropology, Aquarium, Archive, Gardens or Musical Instruments) and particularly welcomes applications from artists with a participatory / socially engaged practice.

The Award

The selected artists receives

  • An award of £3000 to engage with the work and collections of the museum
  • An additional award of £850 towards a public facing event showcasing the thinking and research undertaken during the residency
  • Privileged access to museum’s music collection objects and curators

Please note this a research residency and not a studio residency. No studio is provided as part of the award. Applicants are expected to have their own work space in which to develop their work.

Residency outcomes

The awarded artist is expected to:

  • Visit the museum and engage with the museum’s collections at least one day a week over the research period (October 2018 – December 2019)
  • Participate in x 3 interviews over the residency period which will be recorded and hosted on Artquest and partner websites.
  • Produce online content (articles, video, interviews, blog etc) about their experiences on the residency (Details to be decided in conversation with Artquest)
  • Work with Artquest and the Horniman Museum and Gardens to organise a closing event to showcase their thinking, research and work over the period of the residency


The Horniman Museum and Gardens was established by Tea Trader and philanthropist Frederick John Horniman, who  began collecting objects, specimens and artefacts ‘illustrating natural history and the arts and handicrafts of various peoples of the world’ from around 1860. His overarching mission was to ‘bring the world to Forest Hill’ and educate and enrich the lives of the local community.

The Museum began life in the Horniman Family’s London Road Residency which became known as the Surrey House Museum. In 1898, Mr Horniman decided to erect a more suitable public museum in which the collections could be adequately displayed and appreciated. The architect Charles Harrison Townsend was commissioned to design the new museum. The Museum and Gardens were formally opened to the public on 29 June 1901. The Horniman family continued to take an active interest in the museum donating objects and large collections of books to the library.

Previous Horniman Residency Recipients


Alex Julyan bases her practice in London. Her work is about the ways we encounter the everyday, collectively and individually. Her aim is to disrupt and reconfigure that experience. Working with poor materials and in public spaces she makes objects, drawings, films and live events that provoke conversation, laughter and intrigue. Many of her projects are collaborative and defined by interactions and exchanges across other disciplines and with the public. For the last three years her work as a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow has focused on the built environment, culminating in a 5-month construction project: The Poplar Pavilion.

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Alex has worked closely with galleries and museums throughout her career. During her residency at the Horniman she will create a public conversation between musical instruments in the collection and the musical experiences of visitors.

In these interviews Alex talks about the discoveries she made in the music collection and her closing event, Harmony and Hullaballoo that took place on 19th July 2017, as part of the Horniman Museum and Garden’s Wonderful World Late evening.  Hosted in the Horniman Museum and Garden’s stunning conservatory, this event included a handling display of musical instruments and maquettes, live accordion performances and a talk that took the audience through Julyan’s explorations of the museum’s world class musical Instruments collection.


The 2016 Residency was awarded to Joshua Sofaer (b. 1972 Cambridge, England), an artist who is centrally concerned with modes of collaboration and participation, which he explores through social sculpture, performance, installation, exhibition and publication. After a BA in Drama & English at Bristol University, Joshua went on to complete an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design and was subsequently awarded a PhD from Dartington College of Arts. Sofaer was a winner of the first Bank of America CREATE Art Award and was the first Artist Fellow on the 2010/11 Clore Leadership Programme.

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Equally as comfortable in the clean white gallery, the dramatic curtained stage of the opera house, the carefully positioned vitrine of the museum, the shared areas of public space, and the domestic personalised rooms of private homes, what draws Sofaer’s diverse practices together is a concern with how audiences engage with the world as a place of potentiality. People’s experience is key, as are the material cultures they choose to surround themselves with. Recurring themes of his work include ‘rubbish’: what we choose to throw away; ‘collections’: what we choose to keep; and, ‘names’: how what we are called becomes who we are.

Joshua  produced a blog about his experiences on the residency that you can read here.

In this  series of  interviews, artist Joshua Sofaer introduces his practice and talks with Horniman Museum and Artquest about his discoveries during the residency.