Witnesses

A visual chronicle of one hundred years of British history in Humankind's oldest medium

One hundred handprints of one hundred people born in each of the years of the twentieth century 1900-1999

Oil on paper
100 framed pieces each 46x46 cm
that can be displayed in any
'factors of 100' format,
plus accompanying text outlining
the major social and political events
that shaped the century.

Frost and Reed Gallery, London

Durham Cathedral

The work is a continuum, through 25 millennia of human history, of human beings leaving their 'marks' behind them. From the first anonymous handprints left deep within subterranean caves by our palaeolithic ancestors (hands which could have contained the genetic blueprint for any one of us) through to the continuing practice today; from the sacred sites of primitive peoples to the play in children's nurseries.

Photograph kindly loaned by Professor R. Layton, Department of Anthropology, University of Durham 

All the participants, with the obvious exception of the very young whose lives will be shaped by the century to come, will have borne witness, if only vicariously, to events during their lifetimes which have claimed the lives of millions, instigated huge social changes, infiltrated the collective consciousness or seized the public imagination - witnessed the turning points of the times. Many have borne witness to some of these events in the most direct way, having been present or directly participating.

Durham Cathedral

Born out of stardust, we have coalesced here and now, together. In a brief blink of time our lives have overlapped. I hope the work will stand as a unique chronicle to our collective participation at the end of one Millennium and the beginning of another.  

Bob Barron

"Apart from the horrors of the war, there have also been peacetime disasters that have stirred the nation.  Perhaps the peacetime disaster which captured the public imagination more than any other was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.  There is a handprint from a survivor of that night who left the vessel in her mother’s arms.  Her father remains beneath the cold waters of the Atlantic".

An extract from the accompanying catalogue which contains the full text.

Public responses to Witnesses taken from the Visitors book at :

The Mall Galleries, London SW1, 2000

Durham Cathedral, Durham, 2000

Ely Cathedral, Ely, 2000

St Martins in the Bullring, Birmingham, 2001

 

 

Most moving, enduring and beautiful legacy from the 20th century.

My first reaction was to put my hand against a print, which really says it all – They are the handprints of us all.  (Ireland)  

A show of hands which spoke!  Much appreciated.

 

Like other visitors, I was expecting captions.  Instead I found this great moving flow of humanity, a silent witness to so much suffering that freezes time.  I wonder who will see this exhibition in 100 years?

Merci pour cette belle oeuvre qui a touché ma coeur et mon ame . (France)

An adventure filled with sadness, joy, movement and love.  The possibilities for us are endless.

© 2019 Bob Barron

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