Now open at LEA 8 is Tahiti Rae’s Love, Henry. Created with the assistance of Sonic Costello, Augurer Resident, Caryl Meredith, Annu Pap, Mitsuko Kytori, Abel Dreamscape, this is an interactive examination of the relationship between King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn, from their courtship to her becoming his wife and Queen Consort, through to events immediately prior to her death just 1,000 days later.
An outline sketch of events would be to say that Henry was bound in childless wedlock to Catherine of Aragon when Anne caught his eye (having in earlier years taken Anne’s older sister, Mary, as one of his mistresses), causing him to desire her to the point of having his marriage annulled so that he might wed her. Thereafter, and unable to provide him with a son and heir, she also suffered a fall from grace, largely engineered, to suffer execution in the Tower of London.
Obviously, the full story is far more complex, involving as it does several figures key to England’s unfolding political and religious landscape, including Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer, and the upheavals of the English Reformation; however, part of the intent of Love, Henry is to encourage people to explore Tudor history for themselves, so I’ll leave it at that.
As a love story, Love, Henry focuses on two things: a letter said to have been written or dictated by Anne Boleyn following her incarceration in the Tower of London, and a “new discovery” author Sandra Vasoli claims to have made. The provenance of the letter has been hotly debated over the years, and is believed to have never come before the eyes of the King, having been withheld and hidden by Cromwell. However, Vasoli claims to have found evidence that on his deathbed, Henry expressed remorse for his actions towards Anne. Thus Tahiti poses her question to visitors and invites their thoughts and feedback: did Henry come to regret his decision to have Anne executed?
The installation itself is split into three parts, which visitors are guided through in turn, from the welcome area, which offers information necessary to fully enjoy the experience together period costumes which can be optionally worn during the rest of the visit; through the Tudor Library, which forms the main interactive element of the installation, and is built around Anne’s letter from the Tower, together with notes on Sandra Vasoli’s “new discovery”; to a ground level build focused on a grand Norman-style cathedral set within a beautiful garden space, in which there are secrets to be uncovered.
Love, Henry, deserves to be explored carefully. Not only because of the wealth of information it contains and opportunities to provide input and feedback of your own (which aren’t restricted just to the Library, which really does offer a lot), but because it is beautifully put together. For example, the garden contains a loggia which appears to have been inspired by the one at Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s home. Further, the cathedral the garden surround may be an imposing centrepiece, but it is also very symbolic, representing marriage and death, both of which have obvious significance where Henry and Anne are concerned, while simultaneously also reminding us of the religious strife their relationship caused. Nor are these the only touches to be found as one explores; hints of Anne’s fate might be seen, together with reminders of the brutality of the age.
The slant to the installation might be a little romanticised – the relationship between Henry and Anne was born as much out of ambition on both sides as out of love; but that doesn’t matter. This is supposed to be a romantic “what if”, one which encourages the visitor to explore one of England’s important periods of history, both through the information presented here and for themselves.
As mentioned above, do keep in mind when exploring that there are secrets to be found – including the gateway to the “final chapter” of Henry and Anne’s story. However, as bloggers have been asked not to reveal too much about these, I’ll say no more here. Also, do make sure you have the audio stream enabled with exploring. Excellent and considered use is made of music by Canadian composer Trevor Morris, which adds further depth to Love, Henry.
Tahiti says that contributions from those willing to provide their thoughts and feedback will be incorporated into the installation, and she welcomes requests to bring in student or group tours to visit Love Henry.
Very definitely recommended.
- Love, Henry, LEA 8 (Rated: Moderate)