Clare Twomey’s installation, Everyman’s Dream, at London’s Sir John Soane’s Museum, will show the aspired legacies of 1,000 men captured on individual bowls. Photograph: Helene Binet
A student wants to be remembered for his definitive chocolate cake recipe, a chauffeur for his splendid new bathroom, and a dying man for his two children. Another hopes to find immortality in a cocktail named Payne’s Ruin in his honour.
“We’ve not proved that as a race we can use what we’ve learned for the greater good: I hope and plan to leave nothing,” Stuart Taylor wrote bleakly.
The hopes of these men for how the world will remember them will join hundreds more, some heroic, some hilarious, in a unique installation being created by the ceramics artist Clare Twomey at the Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Soane’s own legacy was not only his work as a pioneering architect, but the extraordinary London home he left to the nation with contents from an Egyptian sarcophagus to a tomb for his pet dog.
Responses have poured in, but there is still just time for male Guardian readers to contribute their own hopes and aspirations before the last of the bowls are fired at the end of the month.
As she read the submissions, Twomey was moved to snorts of laughter – and tears.
Clive Price wrote: “As a toy inventor with no children of my own, I hope toys which I have created will reach many children and evoke joyful memories of childhood for future generations.”
In striking contrast Bruce Owen, a chauffeur, wrote proudly: “My beautiful new bathroom with white tiles from B&Q, basin and toilet from Homebase, plumbing by Bob.”
The most poignant response came from Ross Hughan: “I am dying of a brain tumour, leaving behind my two best works – my son Alexander, and my daughter, Kathryn.” His wife Jennifer added: “Ross is dying of a brain tumour – he’s already lived a full year beyond the expectancy that he was given when first diagnosed – long enough to see his second child, Kathryn, be born in September.”
Twomey, who herself has a small daughter and a two-year-old son, said: “I read that one in floods of tears. It has been fascinating how varied the responses have been, and how vividly they show what is important to people.”
Richard Hay, a trader, wrote: “A charity for helping vulnerable children.”
One of the youngest respondents, Samuel Will, an 18-year-old art student, hopes to earn immortality through “a recipe of chocolate Guinness cake”, while self-employed David Fenwick wrote, rather grimly: “I would be happy to leave nothing.”
Each sentence, from 1,000 men, will be inscribed in golden letters on a single white bone china bowl, and piled up in the Shakespeare niche which Soane created as a cupboard-sized shrine to one of his own heroes, half way up his main staircase. In the spirit of the combination of the banal and the heroic in Twomey’s project, before its recent restoration the space was a staff lavatory.
“I did like the man who wants to be remembered by the lot – a bench, a memorial plaque, a day in his honour,” she said, “but I’m afraid he just gets a little bowl like everyone else.”
The exhibition, which will also include work by ceramics artists Nicholas Rena, Carina Ciscato and Christie Brown, opens at the Soane in March, and will move on to two other Soane designed houses, Port Eliot in Cornwall in late May, and Pitzhanger Manor in west London from late July.
• Marking the Line: Ceramics and Architecture at Sir John Soane’s Museum 8 March-27 April; Port Eliot, Cornwall 22 May-15 July; Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, London 26 July-8 September
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010