Adelaide Festival Review: 21 – Memories of Growing Up

What? 21 – Memories of Growing Up

Where? State Library, Institute Building

When? Until 18 March

How much? $20


I loved being 21. I was getting to the end of my undergrad degree and was just about to move overseas to study abroad in Montreal for a semester. Montreal was the most incredible city to really find my legs as an independent adult for the first time, and I finished up the year travelling through Canada and the US with my boyfriend.

21: Memories of Growing Up is a video exhibition, the space filled with TVs playing interviews. Created by Swiss artist Matt Staub, the exhibition is a continuous work in progress. At each place it travels it collects stories from new people. Adelaide is certainly well-represented, and the project grows naturally. Staub first visits his subjects, and records audio of them telling the story of being 21. Three months later, he re-visits them, but this time he plays them the audio recording and films their reactions to the audio. People sit in the video, facing the camera and listening to themselves talk. Sometimes they react, laughing or gesturing at something they say. Mostly they sit, stare into your eyes or fidget, and you listen together.

21 is a milestone age, often the age at which you start to feel like an ‘adult’, or when you finish studying, or leave your parents’ home for the first time. Watching these videos, I find so many common threads. These people are from many countries and the year in which they were 21 spans from a Jewish woman surviving WWII in 1939 to a young person from Freiburg in 2015. They are students and rebels, they are from villages and cities, they are Indigenous and they are refugees. They each have a story, and each story feels familiar.

For a project intending to tell the stories of a diverse range of people’s experience on the brink of adulthood, the project is still Very White. While there are clear attempts made, I hope in the future the project is able to travel more and there is more racial diversity.

I feel as if I have had intimate connections with twenty new people. Time passes quickly and I could stay all day. I originally dropped past the exhibition on my way somewhere else, thinking I would be able to see it in 45 minutes. Almost two hours later I leave, emerging into the bright sun blinking and ignoring the errands I meant to run that afternoon.

Luckily for me, the ticket is re-usable and I can go back tomorrow.

4 out of 5 stars

Natalie Carfora

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