Those who know me well will tell you that my understanding of modern art encompasses anything post-Van Dyke. I'm not very good with 'installations' and struggle horribly with 'the abstract'. However, a new exhibition promising a mix of art and my beloved history was too tempting to resist.
Echoes is a fantastic art/history/culture happening created by Friction Arts in Birmingham. It isn't an art gallery or installation, it isn't a museum or theatre but a very sweet spot between them all. This sweet spot carries the memories of the people who lived and worked in Birmingham and, best of all, stimulates and gathers new memories from all the visitors.
Echoes has been created as a series of rooms from homes, workplaces and play-spaces, all from Birmingham 1960-1990. The rooms are decorated and filled with all the domestic detritus that our lives accrue; photos, china, ornaments and books.
Visitors are not just allowed to explore and examine all the 'stuff' but are positively encouraged to and rewarded with choccies! Because all the 'stuff' is so seemingly mundane and common, it stimulates memories from everyone. We all had a vase like that. We all had a grandad with one of those.
As the visitors explore and interact with all the 'stuff' they also hear reminiscences collected by Friction Arts. Some are played on speakers, others are played on old telephones - pick up the handset and hear a voice telling their story.
What is most wonderful about Echoes is that visitors are part of, not viewers of, the happening. Their memories and reactions are the real event; the installation is just the trigger.
The last room to explore is a Birmingham pub, faithfully recreated down to the right kind of darts. I was able to emulate Al Murray as The Landlord and remember songs from long ago.
Our journey through our own memories concluded with tea, biscuits and a conversation with the creative team of Friction Arts. Art galleries, museums, theatre and heritage are rarely this much fun or as welcoming.
I entered Echoes as a sceptic, experienced it with joy and departed as an enthusiastic advocate.
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