Great & Tiny War was a major artistic collaboration between Wunderbar and Daily Life Ltd. Commissioned by 14-18 NOW as part of its finale programme, it was installed in a house in Newcastle from 7 September to 28 November 2018.
Beginning in 2014, 100 years since WW1 began, artist Bobby Baker had been reimagining what day-to-day life was like in wartime. In this work she invited us on a tour of a transformed house – an ingenious, immersive multimedia installation inspired by real stories, passed down through her family and shaped by the domestic and emotional labour of conflicts.
Baker’s astonishing work shone a light on the role of women during wartime and the impact of conflicts, historical and contemporary, on the mental health of whole families through the generations.
In doing so, she celebrated the women who carry on running houses, bringing up children and keeping families together at the most harrowing of times.
Great & Tiny War served as a monument to their unacknowledged private struggles and personal strength, and aimed to resonate with anyone whose family has been touched by conflict.
Guests were taken on an intimate room-by-room audio tour of the Great & Tiny War house, voiced by Bobby Baker and guided by a host.
They were met with an uncommon experience as the house contents juxtaposed the spectacular with the everyday, each of five rooms offering their own narrative; an exquisitely imagined correspondence between a mother and her conscripted son, a spectral Britannia, an abruptly intruding giant inflatable gun, an edible domestic armoury and a revolving sculpture featuring 4,701 miniature handcrafted peppermint cream meals.
Go on a video tour of the house
At the close of their tour, guests were served tea and biscuits in the house kitchen, offering them a chance to reflect on their experience. This ethos of curiosity and conversation, enhanced by the domestic setting, was central to the Great & Tiny War project throughout.
Access was deeply considered and perhaps unprecedented for a temporary artwork of this scale thanks to a collaborative approach between the producers and Disability access consultant Sarah Pickthall.
Resources included audio described tours for the blind and partially sighted, captioned videos for the deaf, a video tour of the upper floor for those unable to access it, a visual guide for those on the autistic spectrum and the offer to make bespoke arrangements with your personal tour guide.
The Great & Tiny War project activity extended well beyond the walls of the house. Baker, with the help of local partners, led a series of workshops for women affected by traumatic experiences, including contemporary wars and domestic abuse. In these workshops, women created ‘baked weapons’ which were displayed in the domestic armoury in Room 4.
By its close over 1,700 people had visited Great & Tiny War, the numbers boosted by the extension of its run made to fulfil the demand for tour slots.
Through social media campaigns and press coverage, the work ultimately touched 4 million people.
Bobby Baker’s Great & Tiny War won Best Event Tyneside at The Journal & The Gazette Culture Awards in 2019.