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Witnesses - A visual chronicle of one hundred years of British history in Humankind's oldest medium
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Handprint 1. Click to view a larger version, 900KB

Handprint 1

Oil on paper

46x46cm
Handprint 2. Click to view a larger version, 40KB

Handprint 2

Oil on paper

46x46cm
Handprint 3. Click to view a larger version, 46KB

Handprint 3

Oil on paper

46x46cm
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One hundred handprints of one hundred people born in each of the years of the twentieth century, 1900-1999
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Witnesses,
Frost and Reed, London SW1
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Oil on paper
100 framed pieces each 46x46 cm
that can be displayed in any
'factors of 100' format,
plus accompanying text outlining
the major social and political events
that shaped the century.
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Witnesses text, Durham Cathedral
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The work is a continuum, through 25 millennia of human history, of human beings leaving their 'marks' behind them. From the first anonymous handprints left deep within subterranean caves by our palaeolithic ancestors (hands which could have contained the genetic blueprint for any one of us) through to the continuing practice today; from the sacred sites of primitive peoples to the play in children's nurseries.
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Aborigine, Dundundi rock shelter, Northern
Territory, AustraliaPhotograph kindly loaned by Professor R. Layton, Dept of Anthropology, University of Durham
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All the participants, with the obvious exception of the very young whose lives will be shaped by the century to come, will have borne witness, if only vicariously, to events during their lifetimes which have claimed the lives of millions, instigated huge social changes, infiltrated the collective consciousness or seized the public imagination - witnessed the turning points of the times. Many have borne witness to some of these events in the most direct way, having been present or directly participating.
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Witnesses, Durham Cathedral
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Born out of stardust, we have coalesced here and now, together. In a brief blink of time our lives have overlapped. I hope the work will stand as a unique chronicle to our collective participation at the end of one Millennium and the beginning of another.Bob Barron
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Witnesses - accompanying catalogue
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An extract from the accompanying catalogue that contains the full text
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Apart from the horrors of war, there have also been peacetime disasters that have stirred the nation. Perhaps the peacetime disaster that captured the public imagination more than any other was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. There is a handprint from a survivor of that night who left the vessel in her mother's arms. Her father remains beneath the cold waters of the Atlantic.
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Public responses to Witnesses:

  • Haunting, emotional and inspirational. Witnesses is beautiful
  • The ephemeral made permanent. I found this moving. I also liked the way the anonymity of the prints brought everyone to a level. Collective passers through.
  • The German word for 'to understand' is 'begreifen' what means (more or less literally) 'to touch with your hands'. The text makes me to understand the flow of the human river through the units of time. Well done exhibition. Thank you. (Germany)
  • Merci pour cette belle oeuvre qui a touché ma coeur et mon ame . (France)
  • An amazing tribute to a small segment of human history. The links of life past, present, future. Wonderful. (Australia)
  • This show should travel so that others may enjoy and share in its magic.
more...
  • We did not understand at first glimpses and then we suddenly realised what it all meant - a Bayeaux tapestry of Hands giving witness to this or the last century.
  • Fantastic - an amazing amount of research must have taken place to produce such a 'far reaching' exhibition.
  • Informative and poetic. I need to read it over again.
  • An adventure filled with sadness, joy, movement and love. The possibilities for us are endless.
  • Greatly enjoyed - would have liked to know whose hand belonged to whom. However, we could see how that could spoil the mood. Thank you.
  • Most moving, enduring and beautiful legacy from the 20th century.
  • A thought filled tapestry.
  • A shrine to the people and events of the 20th century.
  • Like other visitors, I was expecting captions. Instead I found this great moving flow of humanity, a silent witness to so much suffering that freezes time. I wonder who will see this exhibition in 100 years?
  • It's interesting that without the text, they are just handprints. With the text they take on a huge burden of significance and symbolic meaning.
  • A show of hands which spoke! Much appreciated.
  • I found this work extremely moving. I expect it will in time go down in history. (Australia)
  • Fascinating. Nothing like this in the U.S.A. (America)
  • A most moving tribute to a century which has seen so much of good and evil we shan't forget seeing this. (Australia)
  • My first reaction was to put my hand against a print, which really says it all - They are the handprints of us all. (Ireland)
  • Very touching. Shows how we can devastate each other to make the hair on your neck to stand. (Ireland)
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This work is for sale. Please contact for further details.

Witnesses gallery Bob Barron Artist