Becki Skittrall, research apprentice at the Tavistock Institute, reflects on the exhibition, ‘Echoes At Home’.
The Tavistock Institute, Entelechy Arts and Tower Bridge Care Home: this is the trio who wanted to shed light on the life between the walls of a London care home.
On Tuesday 26th March 2019, I had the privilege of installing a very unique exhibition, ‘Echoes At Home’, at Tower Bridge Care Home in Bermondsey.
This small, yet significant intervention I co-curated, featured resident quotes personally selected and boldly displayed on coloured backgrounds; paired with drawings of residents by Juliet Scott (artist in residence at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations).
These drawings were produced originally for the monograph ‘On the Experience of Being 70 and Over’, written by our colleague Dr Mannie Sher. The monograph is an account of collaborating with a group of people aged 70 and over around their life experiences and stories. The monograph is the result of one of the many events that took place as part of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations’ 70th-anniversary festival – Reimagining Human Relations in Our Time, in October 2017.
Portrayed in Juliet’s drawings are the older people Entelechy Arts work with and support at Tower Bridge Care Home, as well as some of Juliet’s own ageing family members. As research for the illustrations, Juliet attended one of Entelechy’s Story and Dance groups with a sketchbook and from these drawings developed her illustrations, which prompted the suggestion from Paulette Dixon that it would be nice to show the illustrations and their evidence of the creativity within Tower Bridge Care Home itself.
The exhibition is part of the continued partnership between the Tavistock Institute and Entelechy Arts which began when BED and Ambient Jam contributed to the festival. Rebecca Swift (Entelechy Arts), Paulette Dixon (Tower Bridge Care Home), Juliet Scott and myself (TIHR) met initially at the care home to discuss and plan our project and the logistical side of it and the importance of this collaborative curation was very apparent among us all.
Following this, our interactions continued during the curation process as quotes, poems and sentiments were gathered by Rebecca from the sessions Entelechy Arts run for the residents at the home. I selected those that stood out and formatted them for print, with the images and informative text on foam board & cardboard.
One quote is by a resident called Kathy: “It’s all part of life! You are living! You are here!” and another by Steve particularly felt that they really carried meaning into what the installation process and exhibition day held for us: “Aw! I will remember it for always. I will never forget this, never. It’ll be in my heart forever.” These quotes particularly have a sense of life and eternal cycle and the invisible trail that we can leave on the world, during both youth and ageing.
It proved a lot more stressful than perhaps anticipated, but the significance of the exhibition resonated on a deep and personal level.
When the day of the installation itself arrived, we encountered, funnily enough, some stickiness with the sticking of the images up on the walls of the home, finding ourselves initially hesitant and with a rebellious feeling. But we continued with our timely schedule, knowing all was prepared and cleared in advance.
It proved a creatively fascinating feat to install the drawings and quotes in the community spaces we had chosen in the three-story home. After a long day on our feet, it was soon enough time for it all to kick off with one of Entelechy’s session run in the reception area in front of the main display of Juliet’s drawings, this was followed by wine and cheese in the meeting room for mingling with staff, invitees and some residents too!
During a tour of the installation for our colleagues Meg Davies and Rachel Kelly (TIHR), we came upon a confusion of torn down images on one of the floors. We soon encountered one of the residents, quite a characterful woman we were told by Paulette, she shuffled along the hallway clutching some of Juliet’s drawings (of the males it seemed!) into her room. It was soon apparent to us in the hilarity of the situation that of course – this is her home. How wonderful indeed!
Our intention and the core message, which we were able to show with the exhibition, is the significance of the voices of the residents, which carry a whole experience of life along with them. The compilation of the resident’s quotes and poems with Juliet’s art, unite and bring to the forefront the amount and depth of life that exists within the walls of the home; giving it the recognition and appreciation it deserves. I can really envisage the meaning this exhibition could carry for the relatives of residents.
This may have been a small installation, however, it is one small stone that will create a ripple beyond the walls of the care home and be carried forth by those who visited.
Research Apprentice, The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations
All artworks: Juliet Scott, 2018