After our brief hiatus, Brum Spirit is back with a bang this weekend! Amongst the talented artists lined up, we’ve got Empty Rooms: the Guided Tour to look forward to. To find out more, we had a chat with the man behind Empty Rooms, Ben Waddington…
How did you begin as an artist?
Fine Art BA at Wolverhampton University 1990 – 1993
What is Empty Rooms: the Guided Tour?
A 60 minutes guided tour for up to 12 people exploring the three levels of Moseley School of Arts.
What can attendees expect from the tour?
Empty Rooms demonstrates that abandoned spaces are anything but: architectural aspects, forensic details, subtle clues and our own presence there reveal elements of a greater story still being played out. Empty Rooms takes the form of a guided walk but drops the notion of a tour being a ‘sight seeing’ experience and encourages the audience to uncover the purpose, history and meaning of a place by active observation.
What is the process when approaching a room?
I will begin by narrating and steering observation through an environment: details, atmosphere, materials &c. I will encourage observations from the group and incrementally become more ambitious in scope. In larger rooms I will allow a group to explore briefly at will and then thread together their independent discoveries as the group warms to the experience.
How does it tie in with Brum Spirit’s central message of We’re In This Together?
The tour guide’s usual role is to deliver information and to direct movement, attention and subject. Empty Rooms encourages audiences to contribute to the shared experience with their own observations, memories, outlooks and discoveries. A recognition that the group’s pooled knowledge as as valuable as the guide’s research and knowledge.
What do you hope the audience of your guided tour will get from the experience?
A sense of how close observation of an environment, considered and playful responses to clues (especially in a group setting) can create a greater attachment to our environment: room, building, street, town and city.
Does leading such a niche tour help you develop as an artist?
I’ve gained confidence in taking this approach on recent guided tours, recognising the value it has with audiences and would benefit from the opportunity to expand the scope of environments.
What is the favourite or most interesting Empty Rooms tour you’ve led so far?
Round House ‘Un Tours’ for National Trust this summer: 150 years of history demonstrated by evidence remaining in-and-outside the former Sheepcote Street Wharf (I was a consultant and director for this project rather than a guide)
What attracted you to Moseley School of Arts as a building?
Designed around light and space as currency.
Where can we find out more about your work?
(Moseley School of Arts image credit: Daryl Georgiou)