This autumn a playful, uplifting and thought-provoking exhibition by artist Tom Hackett celebrates the town of Luton through the shared regrets and reflections of its community.
'A Barbecue of Regrets' is a unique, inter-active art project. It invites the people of Luton to share their regrets and then watch them literally go up in smoke in a barbecue at the opening of an exhibition of new work inspired by their conversations with the artist.
Over several weekends in May, Nottingham-based artist, raconteur and self-styled “artist-confessor” Tom Hackett walked the streets of Luton wearing his eye-catching dayglow ‘Conversation Suit’ and pushing a wheelbarrow full of charcoal briquettes. Members of the public were invited to share regretted moments or actions with Tom, and to write them on a post-it note inserted into a hole in the charcoal bricks. At the opening of his new exhibition, the artist will barbecue the regrets, using the post-it note briquettes to cook free burgers for participants and passers-by.
Hackett has used the anonymous regrets as the source material for the exhibition, which features two key new strands of work.
For the walls, Hackett has used the collected words to digitally design and print a series of six padded fabric ‘canvases’. Using a mixture of fonts, undulating text paths and angular blocks of texts, these create a fragmented interplay between one regret and another. As well as their narrative inter-relationships, these works also operate on a level of colour, reflecting the post-it colour range, and as formal compositions.
Occupying the central floor space, a circle of 5 dome-shaped kettle barbecues form a sound sculpture produced in collaboration with Julian Woodcock. Each barbecue contains a sound source. Following Hackett’s walks, Woodcock has recorded the original regrets, re-spoken by a series of voice actors. These are mixed with found sounds and fragments of a piano. Collectively these juxtapose to form a sound collage, evocative, in part, of bizarre group therapy session. The spoken content ranges from the minor and absurd to the deeply personal, poignant and sometimes tragic. All regrets are from Luton, but the age gender and ethnicity of the recorded voices is deliberately disassociated from the identity of the original authors of the regrets.
'A Barbecue of Regrets' creates a fragmentary snapshot of a shifting moment in time in Luton, evolved through incidental dialogue rather than a documentary process.
Organised by Luton Culture and Departure Lounge, 'A Barbecue of Regrets' is the latest project in As You Change, So Do I, a three-year programme of public art events funded by Arts Council England’s Luton Investment Programme.