Artist Rebecca Collins has produced an art exhibition inspired by the objects of the First World War, in collaboration with History Makers and the Shropshire Regimental Museum. The exhibition is at Participate Contemporary Artspace, Riverside Mall (opposite Wilkos) from 9th – 20th May and will continue at Shrewsbury College in June.
Rebecca said “My intention with this project has been to focus my interest in examining the extra-ordinary lives of ‘things’ by looking at a selection of objects from the First World War. We cannot live without things: they provide a comfort and a familiar presence. Objects are integral to our domestic lives and they make us feel something of Sigmund Freud’s ‘uncanny’. They can incite a Proustian memory effect as they are custodians of past events. In the case of the First World War, these will not be the actual events of the war itself, but of the stories told by family or owners of the objects. My aim is to highlight how current generations relate to and perceive objects from the First World War and to question whether these objects can provoke thought about the lives of people who lived a century ago.”
The exhibition is linked to History Makers, a local project which has been funded by the National Lottery. The project aims to find evidence of what happened to ordinary people during the First World War and to produce a large digital community archive and travelling exhibition. For the project, school children from the Mary Webb School in Pontesbury have been interviewing people who own objects from the First World War. Rebecca visited the same people to photograph their objects. She created a series of paintings and clay sculptures based of some of the objects she encountered on these visits.
Shropshire Regimental Museum
Rebecca also created a video piece based on five interviews carried out with staff and wardens at the Shropshire Regimental Museum. She asked them to pick an object each from the museum’s collection to talk about and responded to these interviews through art. She took photographs and has made paintings, videos and clay replicas of the objects.
Members of the public have been asked to visit the Shropshire Regimental Museum and respond to the five objects which feature in the video. The aim was to see if current generations can feel a ‘trace’ of past lives embedded in objects on three levels: from the original owners of the objects, through the second-hand telling of the stories about the objects, and through the ‘trace’ left in the art. The clay objects on display are for people to touch. Rebecca says that they aren’t works of beauty but that she hopes that this ‘trace’ held within objects can be picked up by people through the sense of touch as well as sight.
Further details can be found at www.wwithings.com