The Acquisitions Panel

by Dan Barnard & Rachel Briscoe

The Acquisitions Panel

Which version of the past do we want to keep? 2022, Reading, UK. The Municipal Museum receives an email from a woman who’s found a box of things that belonged to her great-grandfather. In there is a musical instrument, made out of a biscuit tin – from the famous Huntley & Palmers factory in Reading. Perhaps the museum might want it, Angela is enquiring, and she’s emigrating to Australia so won’t be able to keep it if they don’t. Oh, and her grandfather came into possession of the object in 1905, in Congo. On an expedition during the reign of King Leopold II. The case is referred to citizen acquisition panel, convened to help the museum make good decisions about what to acquire and what stories to tell. Over 115 minutes, this panel of participants hear from the museum director, fighting to keep her museum open in a time of austerity and therefore desperate to remain central to Reading’s story of industry and progress; from diaspora Congolese communities with different opinions on what the object means; and from real-world museum professionals in the UK and central Africa. The panel consider questions of colonial duress, resistance and restitution – and the context they want museum visitors to see the object in. The object featured in The Acquisitions Panel is a real object in Reading Museum’s collection, with an unknown past. The process of making this project has been researching a plausible history for it, used here as a prism through which to explore bigger questions about decolonising and the role of culture and heritage in that process. The artwork is an interactive medium to rehearse a future where which adequately acknowledges the past. The Acquisitions Panel received a Jury Special Mention in the Alternate Realities Category at Sheffield Doc Fest 2022 and is the winner of the Activist Museum Award 2021.

Bio

Fast Familiar are an award-winning interdisciplinary collaboration comprising expertise in theatre, facilitation and creative computing. We make artworks which are participatory, playful and political. For us, art is a space to explore questions which are too complex for daily life – and a space where we can rehearse better outcomes for a world where no decision of significance is taken by an isolated individual. We’ve been exploring digital technology in live performance since before it was ‘COVID-cool’ – we’re fascinated by how digital tech can enable new forms of human connection in a rapidly changing world. We were praised by the Guardian for pioneering “a hybrid form that is its own thing entirely… Fast Familiar are making participatory stories that feel distinctly theatrical. ”We tend to make artworks for small audiences, where participants are invited to collaborate and find their collective way through ethical or social dilemmas. We ask our audiences to bring their intelligence and their humanity to our projects – we are aware that we ask people to take a trip out of their comfort zone with us, and we take our responsibility for caring for our audiences seriously. We think art can be experimental without being elitist. We think art probably can’t change the world but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying. Fast Familiar’s lead artists are Dan Barnard, Rachel Briscoe and Joe McAlister. We’re not as earnest in real life as this intro has made us sound.