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In Memoriam by Luke Jerram

Public art has the power to bring out discussions on our feelings and emotions when we encounter it.  The artist Luke Jerram Luke Jerram understands this power and his aim was to create a piece of art that would help people come to terms with the events of last year.  All of us have been affected by the pandemic, some more deeply than others.  There is a collective need to grieve and reflect from what happened during the crisis.  The lockdowns changed how we interact with one another and the loss of a loved one was a difficult event.  I personally attended several virtual funerals during the lockdowns.  They were different and I am not sure that I was able to convey fully my condolences to the families involved.  This art installation made me look beyond the physical and come to terms with the amount of devastation the Covid19 crisis has brought.  Society has changed and we are discussing life and death in different terms.  Talking openly and honestly about death is central to BrumYODO who were one of several groups who enabled the exhibition by Luke Jerram to come to Birmingham. 

The blue and white NHS bedsheets complement the colours of the sky.

Luke has put together an open air piece of art that comprises 120 NHS bed sheets put together in an exhibit that makes a large medical logo.  The sheets are either blue or white arranged as flags that flutter in the wind.  I was fortunate to be invited to a private viewing of Luke’s artwork on a bright day with the sort of white puffy clouds that are appealing and call out to be photographed.  “In Memoriam” is situated in Aston Park next to Aston Hall.  It is a striking view when you see the white and blue flags for first time against the green of the grass and trees.  I met the organisers of the installation and also met Luke.  Instantly likeable, Luke explained the background to his art and how it came about.  His enthusiasm was tangible as he not only detailed the logistics of placing 120 blue and white flags in the form of a medical logo but also how he hoped that the artwork would make people talk openly about the pandemic.  People can reflect and grieve about the loss of loved ones or come to terms with how the year of lockdowns impacted on everyone.

The Artist Luke Jerram discussing In Memoriam

Photographing the flags was both easy and difficult. Easy, as the overall view was relatively strightforward to capture.  The sun was strong when it was not hidden by the clouds and it cast shadows on the grass which could be photographed.  It was difficult as the flags were tall and it was not possible to touch them.  I searched for a different view of an installation that has and will be photographed many times.  Getting low and framing the view of the flags as they flapped in the wind were the best that I could offer.  It really needed a drone shot but I learnt afterwards that the park does not allow this to happen as it has geofencing around it and it is on many air flight paths.  The flags do have a certain symmetry about them and the surrounding trees and fences made framing of them possible.  Unfortunately one of the white TV vans acted as a photobomb to some views! 

The first view of the flags in the park

Im Memorial was covered by BBC news and is a temporary exhibition for approximately 2 weeks.  The exhibition was made possible by the combined efforts of BrumYodo, Birmingham Hippodrome In Memoriam – Birmingham Hippodrome  and the Birmingham Museums What’s On | Aston Hall | Birmingham Museums .  It forms part of the Matter of life and death festival A Matter of Life & Death Festival 2018 – BrumYODO

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Author: Damien Walmsley

Photography started many years ago when I was influenced by my father who was a keen amateur photographer who loved slide and cine film. I had a black and white Kodax camera and quickly progressed to colour prints and slides. 35mm pictures chronicle my family growing up. But it was the digital age combined with the reach of social media that opened my eyes to a new world of photography and I am still learning. My favourite subjects are travel, people, macro and of course Birmingham! Damien Walmsley Twitter @dammo Instagram @dammodammo  

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