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A Model Family

Bobby Baker installation

16 October 2008

Queen Mary University, London

Taking her 1976 installation, An Edible Family in a Mobile Home, as a point of departure, Bobby Baker created a new version of her family, this time siting them in a reality television house in a nod to Big Brother. Over a 17-day period, audiences were able to visit the house and observe the family saga unfolding inside, behind one-way mirrors. The saga involved an imaginary scene featuring Baker’s mother and aunt bickering about good taste in a National Trust Gift Shop. Baker, with her son Charlie Whittuck, created bespoke padded body armour, designed to protect against painful emotional comments. Manipulated by Baker, and performer and choreographer, Siân Stevenson, the performance and installation explored low-grade family trauma and unresolved childhood tension resulting in habitually abusive relationships.

A team of researchers on site solicited suggestions from visitors about how some of the arguments and conflicts could be resolved, while a ‘diary van’ invited people to share their own accounts of familial conflict and how they were ironed out (or not).

A pilot production of the project resulted from Baker’s AHRC Creative Fellowship at Queen Mary, University of London and took place at the University in 2008 with funding from Wellcome. Additional research support came from The Centre for Psychiatry at the Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine at the London Hospital, Queen Mary, as well as the UEL Psychology Doctoral Department and specialist Family Therapy units.

Collaborator: Siân Stevenson

Artist/maker: Charlie Whittuck
Documentary film: Tomas Leach

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