Il Birmingham Open Media (BOM) is running the first ever exhibition of Life Echo, Justin Wiggan’s groundbreaking experiment with sound and memory, until 28 January 2017.
Life Echo was originally developed with John Taylor Hospice in Erdington for patients receiving end of life care. It is the brainchild of Birmingham-based sound artist and BOM Fellow Justin Wiggan, which involves a highly personal journey through memory to identify key “sound triggers” in a person’s life.
These sound triggers are incorporated into a bespoke soundscape which, when played back, can stimulate consciousness and communication in the patient whilst creating a digital legacy for families.
Prostate cancer patient Gerald McCarty was one of the first to complete the Life Echo process three years ago: “I’d been in hospital for some scans and when I came out I was not in a good place. My whole life was jumbled up and I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t enjoy remembering, so I would just choose not to”.
After listening to his Life Echo for the first time, Gerald noticed a dramatic improvement in memory function: “Hearing those sounds that were such a big part of my life was more than therapeutic. New memories started coming back to me. It was like someone had turned the radio up”.
Over the last three years Wiggan has developed the experiment with a number of different patient groups to explore the impact on health and wellbeing. More recently he has been working with vulnerable people such as homeless groups and prisoners, to test the impact of Life Echo when used in everyday life. He calls this a Life Anchor, which uses the same tools as a Life Echo, but encourages people to imagine the sounds of positive memories they would like to experience in the future.
The exhibition at BOM includes new Life Echoes and Life Anchors created through a month of engagement with John Taylor Hospice, Sifa homeless charity, Cotteridge School UK and the Tea Project in Sri Lanka which supports vulnerable children.
The soundscapes will be played in specially designed immersive pods that will nestle audiences into the Life Echoes of others. An accompanying programme of events includes a Happy Triggers sound workshop for families and “brain tears” cocktails served at the opening event, designed by BOM’s in-house experimental restaurant The Wilderness.
BOM is forging a new model of radical practice at the intersection of art, technology and science with measurable social impact. By making sustained investment in a community of Fellows and developing strategic projects and partnerships, we test pioneering ideas that investigate the transformative value of the arts across education, health and society.
About Justin Wiggan.
Justin Wiggan is an artist working at the frontiers of arts and health. His experimental practice has attracted collaboration across the medical research and creative industries sectors. His works include a range of media from sound, phonics, film and performance, which have been exhibited nationally and internationally.