Great and Tiny War
Great and Tiny war is an art installation by artist Bobby Baker about how even though the men were off literally fighting in World War 1(The Great War) the women at home were fighting a figurative war to feed their families and keep everything under control while their husbands, lovers and sons were away and may never come back.
The installation was exhibited in a house in the West End of Newcastle with a different set of exhibits in every room. It was on from the 7th September-28th November 2018. The experience was set out as a tour with a tour guide to answer any questions and audio headsets for the artist’s commentary. Only four or five people were on each tour and it was like visiting a war-time house as a guest, culminating in a cup of tea in the kitchen and a chat with the guide.
We went up the stairs to the first small room listening to the commentary. Bobby mentioned how each country has a national personification such as Britain: Britannia and France: Marianne. We were then led into the first room by Helen Shaddock(our tour guide and local artist). The room was so dark we had to feel for the stools we were supposed to sit on. Helen went out and closed the door. All of a sudden, Rule Britannia started playing and a projection of Bobby came up in front of us. It was projected using mirrors so it looked like a hologram, it was very cool. The video was of Bobby Baker dressing us as Britannia using only household objects such as a bread breastplate, pudding helmet and a broom weapon. This was to signify that women were heroes as well as the men.
In Room 2 there was a clockwork candle machine made by Bobby’s son, Charlie Whittock, to show the passing of time. It was mesmerising. There were also some painted biscuit tins with gold leaf on by Bobby to signify family. In room 3 also upstairs there were lots of family photos showing Bobby’s Dad growing up and getting happily married. There were also pictures of when he designed giant guns that killed hundreds of people, which he became very depressed about. He was a survivor but didn’t really survive fully; mentally he was injured because he felt responsible for the deaths of lots of people by building the gun with a barrel of over 6 feet in diameter. This sort of giant gun killed and injured 60% of the German soldiers. There was a huge surprise in this room, but I won’t say what it was in case you have the opportunity to see it for yourself one day.
Downstairs in room 3 there were salt dough sculptures made by local women. They were on the subject of war and household conflict. In the final room(4) there was a series of lazy Suzans with 4,701 minute peppermint cream sculptures of the most popular war foods (called Grossly Undervalued Domestic Products). There were as bread loaves, pan haggerty, blancmange and porridge. They represented the number of meals cooked by women for the duration of the war. There was a lovely minty and sugary smell in there.
I thoroughly enjoyed this installation and it made me think that the civilians worked hard as well as the soldiers. The role of women in the First World War is often underplayed but they were fighting their own battles while the men were away. If you have the chance to see it somewhere, go!