Looe Street Detectives’ Journey

Looe street detectives at plymouth arts centre

Artist Sara Bowler tells us about the making of her exhibition Looe Street Detectives.

The Looe Street Detectives show is now open – it’s been quite a journey. The project began as a 10 day research residency to explore the relationships between the artist, a host organisation and their audiences. My proposal involved inviting volunteers to work with me in researching the history of the buildings where Plymouth Arts Centre has been based since 1947.

This process expanded and each Detective elected to investigate something of particular interest to them, ranging from family members, specific locations, major news events or famous people.

This was the first time I’d invited others to engage with my preliminary investigations (which involves detailed research into a location before I begin to think about what form a work might take). It proved really fruitful with around a dozen different investigations underway, creating far more core material than I could have produced in the available time. The trick was how to manage all of the disparate information and turn it into an exhibition. Again, the Detectives proved invaluable and it was one member who planted the idea of using the English Heritage blue plaques. Combined with my long held wish to completely cover the floor and walls of a space with a map, the structure of the show was established, enabling details in various forms, from photographs to birth certificates and census entries to be included where needed.

The story the show presents is partial and particular, reflecting the interests and curiosities of each person. This gives equal importance to all of the people and events we researched and I hope serves to demonstrate that a place needs everyone associated with it to make it truly come alive.

By Sara Bowler

The Looe Street Detectives Exhibition is on display at Plymouth Arts Centre until 2 February

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