If you fancy something more outré than the usual chocs and roses to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, then Viktor Wynd, dealer, dilettante, pataphysicist, impresario and proprietor of The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and UnNatural History in London may have just the thing. For this 14 February he has organised a series of online talks dedicated to the wilder shores of romance—ranging from DIY aphrodisiacs to perverse sexual practices—which promise a memorable lockdown Valentine’s.
Wynd’s first Valentine Zoom is devoted to "herbal aphrodisiacs and cures for the heart" with Maria Vlotides, aka The Apothecary’s Daugher, offering instruction on herbal potions for both "lovestruck and the lovesick alike". This is followed by an illustrated lecture on The History of Perverse Sex in which historian Julie Peakman explores the entire gamut of sexual activity that has been viewed as strange, abnormal or deviant over the last 2,000 years.
Using a wealth of original sources, Ms Peakman charts changing attitudes towards sexuality and shifting notions of the normal to demonstrate how almost all sexual behaviours have been both forbidden and accepted throughout history. To round off the evening there is the prospect of inviting a virtual Viktor Wynd into your bedroom to recount a selection of his favourite “most exotic and possibly even erotic” tales from the Arabian Knights. These, he promises, will deliver “genii, treasures, bewitchings and transformations, all in a world of wonder".
Many might already know Mr Wynd’s cabinet of curiosities museum in Hackney, East London, which genuinely merits that often over-used label "wunderkammer". Its rooms overflow with an excess of the weird and wonderful, from shrunken heads and natural phenomena (hairballs from a cow’s stomach, anyone?) to the darker sides of Surrealism, the occult and contemporary art, whether the works of Hans Bellmer, artist Austin Osman Spare, the deceased dandy Sebastien Horsley or Tessa Farmer’s miniature fairies fashioned from dead flies and moths.
But now that Covid-19 is preventing any physical encounters with this repository of bizarre delights or attendance at the many events it used to host, the ever-versatile Wynd has taken the digital plunge.
Following on from his trio of Valentine treats is a full online events programme that stretches far into the year, dedicated to “all things magical and otherworldly”. There are lessons in taxidermy, the Tarot, morbid anatomy and making your own memento mori, as well as ghost stories, seances and workshops in chaos magic.
Wide ranging lectures often combine the eminent and the arcane: Dame Marina Warner on "Mary Magdalene and her jar: fragrant oils, luxury and sin"; veteran artist Deanna Petherbridge talking about "Witches and Wicked Bodies" and Dr Alyce Mahon, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge giving a talk about the Marquis de Sade & the Avant-Garde. Suddenly lockdown seems rather more interesting…