Sock Status: artefacts from a recent history cult
This piece was my final work from my semester at the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia (Estonian Academy of Arts) in Tallinn, Estonia.
Sock Status: artefacts from a recent history cult could be walked through to experience and examine the many elements which comprised it. The piece was a fictional display of an exhibition from the discovered remains of a practicing cult.
The first video is a brief walk through of the piece and the second is the video playing inside the piece.
Don't forget to visit the gift shop on your way out.
Sock Status: artefacts from a recent history cult
On the 17th of July 2009 a spectacular discovery was made at 16 Myrtle Street, Clifton Hill. This small suburb in Melbourne, Australia had been housing a secret, undiscovered for 26 years.
What has come to be known as the 'Cult of the Lost Sock' was a group conducting an unobtrusive and clandestine rebellion against the society of the time.
Several recent history artefacts were discovered and are displayed here in the exhibition. Much of the information is gathered from the diary of Charles Taylor. Although it was severely water damaged from repeated flooding of the basement where the artefacts were discovered, it still held traces of a prolific if sporadic writer. Though he rarely added dates and almost never full names to his writings.
This exhibition has been made in an exact replica of the basement which the cult artefacts were discovered.
From his writings on the subject it is evident that Charles had been formulating the ideals and intricacies of the cult's belief structure for some time. He believed that the sock was of great significance as a symbol of modern life. The cult was in part a reaction to the proliferation of consumerist mentalities coming to a head in the 1980's. It glorified a throw away culture and the worship of the constant 'new'.
Charles strove for the sanctifying of the object as individual. That even something mass produced to such global extremes was in itself an individual and sacred object worthy of appreciation. The sock as a matching pair was whole. When one half of the whole was lost the connection to the whole remained. The sock left behind was connected to the sock that had been taken to an 'other' place; a physical key to the boundless mystery of the unknown. The cult used the half pair to help them connect to the 'other' place. It is unclear exactly what this 'other' place was though it appears to have largely been left to individual taste.
The initiation into the group involved the proposed member collecting the remainder of displaced half pairs or 'lost socks' and fashioning them into a mask. They also had to make a donation of lost socks to the leader, some of which were added to his ceremonial cape thereby joining each member to the others. Each initiate also had their own stitching pattern to join the top of the stuffed socks in their mask and to identify their socks within the leader's cape. The stuffed sock masks were not only connections to this 'other' place but often impaired proper repository function and added to the euphoric sense of the meetings. Their ceremonies often consisted of a freeing of the self, aided by the mask as an identity inhibiter and a warm sense of childhood toys and security as it hugged the head.
It appears that the Taylors acquired a video camera at some time in the early second half of 1983 as this video was found in the basement. It appears that it was only for one night coinciding with the initiation of Bill into the cult. Due of water damage much of the footage was lost and only these snippets were able to be saved.
At the end of the initiation ceremony Charles would take a photo of the new member wearing their mask. This provided us with a record of all the members.
Also available as postcards at the gift shop.
The Mask of Sheila Taylor
As a foundering member and the wife of the cult's leader, Sheila played an important role in the development of the group. She supported Charles' ideals and was a fervent proponent of the cult. She worked in the corporate office of a large biscuit manufacturing company and gave birth to their only child, Hugo, two years before the cult began. Sheila died in 2009 leaving their house to her son.
The Mask of John Lee
John Lee was a lifelong friend of Charles Taylor and a founding member of the cult. He and Sheila ranked equally in the cult's hierarchy and were the last two remaining members. It appears that after the disbanding of the cult he gave his mask to Sheila as a sign of respect. He worked as an Accounts Investigator for the Victorian Government for 21 years and died in 1992, the victim of a road traffic accident.
The Mask of Maggie
The first outside member to join the group, it appears likely that this was Sheila's colleague Margaret Walker. Mentioned in affectionate tones in Charles' diary it is never clear if their relationship went beyond anything platonic. However soon after his death Margaret quit her job and moved to South America where she has become untraceable.
The Mask of James
Joining the group with his fiance Joanne he quickly set his sights on power. Later described as 'cunning and quick tempered' by Charles, he tried to engineer a mutiny against John and seize his place in the cult. However Charles saw through this and when his attempts were thwarted James lost his temper and his fiance in one grand display of rage which is detailed sharply in Charles' diary.
The Mask of Joanne 'Jo'
Without reference to a surname the identity of this woman, as with most of the cult's members, remains unknown. From Charles' diary we discover that she was working as a nurse and was engaged to James. They joined the cult together some time at the beginning of 1982. However they separated after James' conflict with John. Jo remained in the cult.
The Mask of William 'Bill'
Described as 'quiet and unassuming' Bill came out of his shell when his mask was on. He joined sometime in the middle of 1983 but his time there was short lived. A letter was discovered outlining how his wife had discovered his activities and had given an ultimatum. He returned his mask but kept his pin.
The Mask of Rebecca
Little is known about Rebecca. She joined the cult towards the end of 1983 and was the last member to do so. It is apparent from her mask that she had children.
Charles Taylor Mask and Ceremonial Cape
Charles was a founding member and the charismatic leader of the cult. His unwavering belief and impressive argument skills meant his followers were kept devout. He answered questions and solved problems pertaining to all matters of life from small household decisions to career changes.
He worked at a large investment firm and was continually passed over for promotion due to his calm demeanour and lack of fierce career chasing. He married his wife Sheila in 1963 when they were both just 20. With an unfulfilling career and the support of his loving wife, Charles began the Cult of Lost Socks in 1981 along with his childhood friend John Lee.
On November 21st, 1983, Charles suffered a massive cerebral aneurysm and died in his wife's arms before the ambulance could arrive. The shock and suddenness of his death sent Sheila into a state of seclusion and meant that John was left to carry on the cult alone.
Within a month the cult had disbanded. Some gave their masks back to Sheila out of respect for their fallen leader. Unable to deal with the pain and left to raise their son alone she packed everything into their basement, which had been their site of worship and sealed it off with concrete.
When she passed away in 2009 the house was left to their only child Hugo. While preparing the house for sale he came across the plans and discovered there was a heretofore unseen basement. Upon cracking open the concrete he discovered the remains of his parent's secret life. Though some pieces were severely water damaged from years of seasonal floods it was clear a modern history had been uncovered. Through a flurry of media attention several research institutes became interested and the result is this exhibition of recent history artefacts.
Upon their initiation to a full member of the group each received a carved wooden pin depicting their mask which could be worn on occasions requiring more subtlety. They were created by Charles himself who held an amateur interest in wood carving. Only three pins were discovered as many of the members retained them as keepsakes. Charles' and Sheila's pins as well as Maggie's were found, though they show signs of wear and water damage.
Armour for a Bridled Nail-Tailed Wallaby