Project Year: 2006-7
Location: Aberfan and the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, UK
The Attraction of Onlookers: Aberfan – An Anatomy of a Welsh Village is a 5-channel video installation that re-imagines the Welsh village of Aberfan. In 1966, the village became known the world over when a coal waste tip slid down a mountainside and buried the village’s only primary school. Nearly an entire generation of the village’s children as well as many adults lost their lives. Within hours of the disaster –and ever since- the village lost its privacy as the worldwide news media descended upon it. Having become “famous” as the village that lost its children and forever identified with the disaster, Aberfan -and places like it the world over- has found it difficult to move on.
In 2006, on the disaster’s 40th anniversary, I was invited by the Arts Council of Wales and the BBC to come to Aberfan to see if it was possible for a contemporary artist to help the village move on. In order to oxygenate the frozen narrative of the disaster, I took as my working method: What does it take to make a Welsh Village? Over the course of several months I invited villagers into my studio and asked them to assume statuary poses that would reflect their social or occupational role within the village while I filmed them on an unseen slowly revolving stage. The Attraction of Onlookers thus lies at the intersection between the static and moving image.
In addition to the 5-channel video installation, I also created a body of still photographs.