Review: What are you to me?
What: What are you to me? art installation
Where: Centrespace Gallery, Bristol
When: 9th- 20th November 2013
What are you to me? is an interactive multimedia installation that channels the idea that memories can be triggered through our senses, particularly those that remind of us of our grandparents.
Cultivated by Jenny Lewis and her two friends Sophia Pervilhac and Stephanie Jack, the idea for the exhibition first came about when Jenny found some old Super 8 films her grandfather had left behind when he died. She discovered that he and her grandmother had travelled the world with the RAF.
Jenny said, “This footage was so amazing… he shot in a really narrative way, and people don’t tend to do that anymore with home footage.”
The raw material is projected onto a wall and has such a nostalgic, vintage feel to it that you can really engage with the images and the fact that these are someone’s parents, grandparents, and these are their memories that are being shared with us.
“I spoke to my two friends who I collaborate with and it turns out that my friend Soph is half French, half German and Steph is half Singaporean and half Australian and we were talking about where our grandparents came from and it turns out that they’d lived in similar places. We really wanted to explore where we came from and where these links were.” Jenny explains, “My grandfather had dementia and so his memory was deteriorating quite rapidly and so I was really interested in the way that people remember things and how we access memory through senses.”
The participatory nature of the exhibition encourages people to really engage with it and think about their own lives and loved ones. The note by the entrance encourages people to ‘pick up, open, smell, touch, listen to, taste, view and explore the objects and documents’ in the intimate space that illustrates the artists’ memories and the experiences and evidence left behind by her grandparents.
There is an archive of personal memories from Davies’ own grandparents, which invites others to share their memories by writing on small paper tags and attaching them to objects within the installation.
The idea evokes an emotional response as we relate our own personal experience to those of others and of the artist herself. Indeed, the space is so full of history that it overwhelms us; we imagine members of our own family in the photographs that are scattered on the desk in the room or in the smells generated by other items of nostalgia.
Not all installations are as successful. Davies’ has a recording of herself talking about her memories of grandparents and this plays in the background. But it slightly distracts from everything else that is going on in the room; the objects speak for themselves without requiring this authorial comment.
The project intends to generate an emotional response and it certainly achieves that. I certainly found myself thinking about my own family and people I have lost and how I keep my memory of them alive.