A Collection of Small Choices, Hoxton Hall, review: ‘An amazing evocation of space’

A Collection of Small Choices at Hoxton Hall. Picture: Minyung Im

A Collection of Small Choices at Hoxton Hall. Picture: Minyung Im - Credit: Archant

Past voices of Hoxton Hall make for a unique and humbling experience, says David Winskill.

Hoxton Hall has been serving Hackney residents since 1863 when James Mortimer opened it as a music hall and “place of education and entertainment for the humbler classes.”

In Hannah Bruce’s fantastic creation we get to hear some of those ‘umbler voices and many more besides. Galley and museum audio guides are familiar to us all – a cut-glass voice through the headphones lauding the light and shadow genius of Caravaggio as we trudge around in an aesthetic fug. Hannah’s piece is so much more than that.

On arrival I was given an iPhone and a comfy headset with no instructions other than where to stand. The Hoxton spaces have been wired up with beacons that sense location and then transmit the appropriate dialogue. The evocation of space created between the cans is amazing – footsteps approach from behind, doors creak confusing visual reality with the world pumped into your ears.

The Hall is a confusion of stairs and corridors and cramped spaces (apart from the beautifully restored music hall) and miraculously the directions work. They are prompts rather than the “.. two yards to your right you will see..” more like a real life guide taking you round.

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There are four hosts who have the feel of ghosts still inhabiting the building they contributed so much to when alive. They guide us round the Hall where micro exhibitions of pictures, memorabilia and artefacts are to be discovered under stairs, in corridors and cupboards.

Characters tell their stories and memories stirred from 150 years of rich social engagement that the place has witnessed and been part of. Hannah’s research has been wide and deep, trawling through archives, newspapers and magazines, diaries, minutes and talking to locals who have and continue to use the Hall. It is hard to categorise the work that she has created – a sort of sound psycho-journey.

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Recommended – available indefinitely, details from hoxtonhall.co.uk/hoxton-hall-experience/

Rating: 5/5 stars

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