“The only thing truer than truth is the story."
That’s the belief of the people behind a fascinating new art exhibition in Birmingham.
Curator and lead artist Lee Griffiths, 49, along with fellow artists Sandra Hall, 50, and Simon Walker, 40, have created Friction Art’s latest show Echoes: documentaries for all six senses , at The Edge, in Cheapside, Digbeth.
Along with Ray O’Donnell, Highgate and Digbeth’s pillar of the community, they visited past and present generations of local families and factory workers and simply listened.
Reaping the treasured memories they were told, the group, with help from project manager Johnathan Branson, 33, and Edge administrator Tim Franklin, 25, have created a series of thought-provoking installations.
Using materials that were donated, bought, salvaged and found, they transport us to a time when flowery wallpaper, rotary dial telephones and cheese and pineapple were today’s feature wallpapers, iPhones and olives.
The exhibits beg for visitors’ participation from the very beginning when you’re presented with a time card, clock-in and walk into a 1970s living room complete with comfy seats, doilies and artificial fireplace, then through to a squat complete with anarchist graffiti and a certain air of desperation.
The interactive displays allow the visitors to eat, drink, dress up, listen or just sit back and take in a different era.
“When we had school kids here, it was funny to watch them.
“One of them asked if this old address book, which has a dial, had a password to open it. They looked at some of the machines and just couldn’t get it, how they worked.
“It was nice to be able to show them what the area was like in the past,” said Lee.
“It’s quite poignant to use the factory to create artwork directly related to the people themselves. There are echoes of their presence – not ghosts – but echoes of stories that remain.
“Friction are very routed in Digbeth, and Birmingham, and will continue to run projects that will live on through Birmingham Central Library’s archive. It’s more about the people than the place.”
Ray, who is the sixth generation of a Highgate family, tells his story in the factory room, where spanners, hammers, crowbars and saws hang from the walls opposite to an alginate sculpture of hand casts of the people who used them.
Ray said: “Each member of the team works together and learn something about each other. This is unique to me because instead of telling people what they want, they’re listening to them.”
The free exhibition is on at The Edge in Cheapside until November 16. Further events include Up The Wall – an evening of live music and digital projections – on November 7.