The National Justice Museum has a small, hidden-away art gallery with a brand new exhibition - a public open call photography collection entitled Freedom. The exciting, impactful results are now on display…
As a former court and prison, the National Justice Museum is the perfect place to philosophise on the history of such places and the wider questions of freedom and justice. The art in the museum always plays on these deeper questions in creative, impactful ways to try to get visitors engaged and thinking. Indeed, the exhibition Freedom is an open question to the public to ask them what freedom means to them.
The museum decided to try a totally novel approach for this exhibition and launched a public call-out for black-and-white photographs on the subject of freedom, with the promise that every photo submitted would be included in the collection. In response over 200 photographers from around the UK, from professionals to amateurs, submitted their images, with the photographs displayed varying substantially, each showing the depths of the question of freedom. The pictures and the strong theme give the whole exhibition a real coherence, considering hundreds of artists have produced it. There are pictures of flies, dogs, shots of natural wonders, abstract forms, barbed wire, prison stairs and social justice statements.
It was this that was the biggest take away for me as a viewer; the realisation of the different ways that people interpret ideas and the importance of seeing different perspectives. In this way, the exhibition has a personal touch to it. Many of the photographers presented photos of their families or their pets, or places very close and personal to them, that symbolise freedom.
The artistic team here always places its emphasis on including local people, and giving a platform to the voices of the oppressed
The exhibition feels very contemporary because it has a variety of ways of displaying the art, through multimedia such as video and audio. There are also interactive aspects of the exhibition, such as the ability to make your own gallery guide book or to vote on which photograph you like the most, which will lead to a People’s Choice Award for the winner. One photographer will be awarded a creative residency at the National Justice Museum in 2023 with a £1,000 budget, decided by a panel of expert photographers. The exhibition features sound art as well. This is very immersive and was designed for the exhibition by the artist musician Juga-Naut. He has created a 'soundscape' that features a mix of noises, voices, and fragments of music to accompany visitors through the exhibition.
The Artistic Programme Manager at NJM, Andrea Hadley-Johnson, organised this first ‘open call’ exhibition in order to get multiple perspectives into the museum and really engage with the public. The artistic team here always places its emphasis on including local people, and giving a platform to the voices of the oppressed. This is a very important part of any just, fair system and, in my view, was a very successful and engaging move by the museum that will hopefully bring more people in and make them more aware of this fantastic little art space.
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