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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

Attraction of Onlookers Art

National Museum Wales, next to Cardiff City Hall in Cathays, showing until 22nd February 2009, free of charge,
3*(out of 5)

Marking the 40-year anniversary of the catastrophic Welsh mining disaster in Aberfan, where almost an entire generation of children died when a landslide engulfed Pantglas Junior School, the Attraction of Onlookers exhibition aims to capture the present day character of a community haunted by the past but poised for the future.

American artist Shimon Attie created the piece of contemporary video art by asking villagers, some of whom were survivors of the landslide disaster, to pose in a stance that signified their everyday life. These images were then displayed as rotating 3D moments-of-stillness on cinematic screens in the museum, these included a young mother pushing a buggy, a boxer mid-punch, and a retired miner using an oxygen mask to help him breathe.

a retired collier

Attraction of Onlookers: a retired collier

The piece was mesmerising once the context had been understood. However, the National Museum has done the artwork an injustice through disorganised signage and inappropriate placing of Attie’s documentary which provided context and gave impact to the piece.

As a result of the poor signage, the viewers were first directed into an unrelated room that contained a separate piece of video art about the Helsinki protests. Only if they ventured further would they reach Attie’s work, and if they did this, a lack of understanding (and seating) meant few stayed longer than a couple of minutes. Had there been signposts towards Attie’s documentary first, they would have realised the full meaning of the artwork and appreciated what Attie was trying to show -residents of a small Welsh village ready to move towards the future and liberate themselves from their tragic past.


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