Speaking Portraits on show at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Friction Arts unveil groundbreaking augmented reality project at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG)

Scan the photographic portraits in the Echoes exhibition with your smartphone to discover untold stories of the people who lived, worked and played in Digbeth over the past 60 years

Echoes - John and Terry

Brothers John & Terry, photographic portrait from the Friction Arts BMAG exhibition, Echoes.

Photographic portraits are springing to life at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Local arts organisation Friction Arts are pioneering the use of augmented reality (AR) as part of their Echoes exhibition, which is currently on show in the Community Gallery.

Part of a two-year project to explore the lives of the people who lived and worked in the areas of Digbeth and Highgate, Birmingham, in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, Echoes features several photographic portraits of local residents, including a pub landlord, former bouncer and current market worker, engineer brothers, steel working woman, cabinet maker / youth worker, and member of the Irish community.

By holding their smartphones up to the portraits, gallery visitors can hear the people recount anecdotes and short stories relating to the area.

This groundbreaking AR element has been made possible with the kind support of Layar, the world leader in mobile augmented reality and interactive print, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Heritage Lottery Fund.

Lee Griffiths, Co-Director of Friction Arts, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to showcase this cutting-edge technology as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project Echoes; as an organisation, we continue to test and explore new and interesting ways to make our work more accessible to the widest possible audience.”

Richard Statham, Audience Development and Interpretation Manager, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery said: “Echoes is already an engaging, accessible exhibition combining images, sound, photographs and visual installations in a refreshing and inspiring mix. Smartphone access will be a first for Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, adding a new dimension to the exhibition and an exciting pointer to the future.”

Join Lee Griffiths for a live demonstration of the augmented reality on Thursday 8 August 2013 at 4pm in the Community Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

  • Echoes continues until Sunday 15 September 2013, admission free. For more information, including details of talks, tours see: www.digbethechoes.com

Until Sunday 15 September 2013
A free exhibition that takes a closer look at some of Birmingham’s recent and overlooked history.
Community Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DH
Open: Monday – Thursday 10am – 5pm; Friday 10.30am – 5pm; Sat 10am – 5pm; Sunday 12.30pm – 5pm
Admission: Free
Web: www.digbethechoes.com

Notes to Editors:

Echoes is a two-year Heritage Lottery Funded project, delivered by Friction Arts, a Birmingham-based arts organisation that specialises in working with people and places.

The AR element of the project requires a smartphone and a free Layar app. Instructions on downloading and usage are available in the Community Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

About Echoes

Over the past year Friction Arts has been working closely with community groups, individuals, arts and cultural organisations, artists and volunteers, to collect, archive and respond to stories, images and objects, collected from across the spectrum of people who lived and worked in Digbeth and Highgate in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

A selection of just some of this wealth of historical content has been put together in an exhibition, described as ‘documentaries for all six senses’.

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to experience untold spoken histories, maps of the area’s rich industrial and musical heritage, an installation of a Nan’s front room, and portraits of local heroes. A number of FREE guided tours, talks and oral history events will also take place in the gallery space throughout the exhibition.

About Friction Arts

Friction Arts is led by artists and cultural activists Sandra Hall and Lee Griffiths. Based in Digbeth, Birmingham, for the past 20 years, it exists to create change and to seek out and test new ways to connect and inspire people through engagement with the arts. They aim to change lives and perspectives by finding authentic ways to address the needs and concerns of the people they make art with and for.

Friction Arts work with all kinds of people, from the hardest to reach and most vulnerable, to more traditional audiences. They have worked with a wide range of groups from young men on electronic tag, Muslim women, allotment gardeners and Caribbean elders, in places as diverse as Tipton, Johannesburg and Brazil.

They are respected locally, nationally and internationally for making intelligent, contemporary work that never loses the voices of the people they work with. They are known for making extraordinary work in awkward spaces.

More information about Friction Arts can be found at www.frictionarts.com

About Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is part of Birmingham Museums Trust. The Trust has been established to govern and manage the museum sites and collections owned by Birmingham City Council and Thinktank, Birmingham’s Science Museum. The new independent organisation is focused on sustaining and developing key partnerships within the city and beyond, in order to deliver high quality audience-focused museum services and meet the needs of Birmingham communities as well as its wider audiences.


About Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage through innovative investment in projects with a lasting impact on people and places. As the largest dedicated funder of the UK’s heritage, with around £375million a year to invest in new projects and a considerable body of knowledge, HLF are also a leading advocate for the value of heritage to modern life. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, they invest in every part of our heritage. Since 1994, HLF has supported just over 35,000 projects allocating more than £5.5billion across the UK.

For further information see: www.hlf.org.uk

Media Contacts:
For all queries and interview requests relating to Echoes and Friction Arts, please contact us: