Echo Eternal II (2018)—Artist residency, King Edwards Grammar School. A collaboration with MUSIC AND SOUND ARTIST Richard Shrewsbury
Broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky recently documented 112 Holocaust Survivor testimonies, filmed interviews with living survivors. Working with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation to share this serious subject, Echo Eternal is a programme seeking to encourage young people, to explore a crucial aspect of our history, through creative projects—a series of echos. In 2018 a group of young people selected from King Edwards Grammar School in Birmingham received a testimony, from Holocaust Survivor Dov Reichmann.
Working with this group of academically accomplished young people, had particular challenges. They were initially self-conscious and guarded in expressing their ideas, thoughts and emotions. They are adept at anticipating what adults want to hear and navigating expectations in an educational setting. Often this leads to a lack of honest expression and personal commitment.
Employing a large-scale format, allowed the young people to break out of preconceived notions of drawing, working on walls and floors and using their whole physicality to express ideas and emotions. A broad range of mark-making materials like rollers, scrubbing brushes, sponges and scratchy gloves, provided for experimentation and exploration, allowing for alternative forms of gesture and physical expression.
The young people sought hard to understand the history that Dov’s story relates to, and with a great deal of empathy, engage with the individual and complex personal experiences that his testimony described. Across the six large artworks, there’s a beautiful array of expressive marks which the group adeptly and sensitively utilised to portray various aspects of Reichmann’s account, animating their storytelling and his memories. Some focused on single aspects of his testimony—specific reflections that compelled and moved them—devoting a whole drawing into communicating one distinct feature. Others addressed the broad range of experiences that he shared, layering narratives on top of narratives: sometimes literal and sometimes abstract. The powerful drawings are articulate, considered and solemn, a depth of meaning giving weight to their marks.
Working with music and sound artist Richard Shrewsbury (Birmingham Conservatoire), young people in a separate group formed a musical ensemble. Using collaborative composition and performance techniques (exploring tempi and timbre, texture and tone, emotion and sound) to make musical decisions and react to the images created by those who were drawing Dov’s story. The music ensemble and spoken-word piece combined with visual narratives from the drawings evolved into a collaborative multimedia film—Drawing Resounding.
Drawing Resounding was created in collaboration with Richard Shrewsbury, animating the young people’s music, sound and drawing together in one collective creative interpretation of Dov Reichmann’s testimony. This film can be viewed here
Drawing Resounding featured in Echo Eternal Horizons performances at Birmingham Town Hall in 2019 and 2020. Echo Eternal was an arts, media and civic engagement project inspired by the testimonies of Survivors of the Holocaust, created for the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation.