Museum of Brisbane

Sophia Macworth is missing

Museum of Brisbane welcomed its first Artist-in-Residence for 2019, Dr Janet Lee. Janet is a local writer who uses a phenomenological approach to examine objects and explore their ability to evoke emotion. In her writing practice, Janet often responds to ‘things’ – objects, places, buildings, clothes, letters, documents, photographs and artworks.

During her residency, Janet created new written narratives that responded to the artworks and objects in our exhibition, Micro Histories. The result was a series of short fiction works that imagine characters and plots inspired by the exhibition.


Sophia Macworth is missing by Dr Janet Lee

Did you hear the news dear? Sophia Macworth is missing.

Oh yes, it’s absolutely true. She has disappeared, gone from right out the front of the display, and her with one of the biggest roles, acting as though she was heading to her car.

The lead role she liked to say. Liked to distinguish herself from us mere extras, that one did.

A super model she was.

Well, she was in her own mind, anyway.


Oh no dear, I didn’t know her personally, I just knew her work, and she was good at acting her role, if you like that sort of thing, hair always perfect, smile always on, she had that striding walk down pat as she pretended to be heading off to the car.

The giants always picked her to be up front of course.

Well now, Sophia Macworth’s gone, just vanished into thin air, apparently.

Betty, you know Betty from the second floor, the one who acts like she runs the tuckshop? She has a lovely view from up there, she can see the whole school, and she is always first with all the news, better than CCTV she is.

Well, Betty said that Sophia Macworth was standing there one minute and gone the next. Of course, it wasn’t really a minute, more like a few hours between looks, because it all happened when the giants were there, and we had all frozen, the way we do when the giants stare at the display with their big eyeballs.

I was under the greenery myself, and I was trying out my contemplative look, something we are learning at acting school. You know I’m going? Oh yes, Tuesday nights, I’m not planning on being an extra forever you know. So, I’m looking contemplative, a little something I have been working on, and I think I have nailed it. I put my hand under my chin and I kind of look up like this … it works doesn’t it? Yes? I think so too, although I do get a terrible sore neck by the end of the day.

Well anyway, Betty from the tuckshop, she has to freeze as though she is looking out the other way, away from the front of the school, so it was hours before she could look back, and when she did, no Sophia Macworth.

And there have been others too dear. Oh yes. Mr Beard disappeared just last Thursday, he was over near the vegetable garden, but then he never did stand up properly. Said it was

something to do with his ears, but I blame the drink myself, although you could never smell it on him.

And Julia has gone, but the rumour is that she has a big role on a new model, although I don’t know for sure, and her agent isn’t talking.

And there is a tree missing.


I mean one minute these actors are standing beside us in the display, playing their part along with the rest of us, and the next time you look, they are gone.

Now, in our model we are supposed to have two people dropping off their children at school and chatting as they head back to their cars, and with Sophia gone, we only have the one actor. I mean it just doesn’t look right does it, two cars and only one person to drive them? The giants have coloured in the windows on the cars, painted them all white, I think to try to create the illusion that there is someone in the vehicle – but they aren’t fooling anybody.

What do I think? Well I’m not one to gossip as you know, dear. But I’m not worried about Julia at all, her agent knows where she is and is just keeping mum. We will probably see her name in lights one day.

And there have been those rumours of Sophia and Mr Beard, and he is handsome, I might have even looked that way myself once, but of course he has that issue with his balance, his ‘ear’ problem.

Personally, I think Sophia and Mr Beard headed over to that new pavilion, in the next room, the one modelling the place they built up north…looks like a beach house and sits on a slab of chocolate cake? Oh yes, gorgeous place.

Well I noticed when that came in, it didn’t have any actors, so I’ll bet they have taken an acting job there. They are probably relaxing there together right now, feet up on sun lounges, little drinks in hand, leaving the rest of us to carry the load at school.

Oh yes, reclining back, smiles on. He could do that with his balance problem couldn’t he?

And who wouldn’t want that sort of work?

One thing I am not sure of though. Why would they take a tree?


Writer’s note:

Visitors really engaged with the detailed model of Mt Alverna College, with many imagining themselves as the people within the model. When I arrived one morning, two model people, and one tree, had been removed from the display and taken for mending.

I imagined what the other model people might think, and what the gossip could be, and these characters emerged.


m3architecture, Anthony Building, Mt Alvernia College (2015). Photograph and architect model: PLA (3D printed), plywood and card. Photo by David Kelly.