Silvermines: a psychogeography

Journal of an Artist Residency / Miles to date 4,171/ Primary Carbon Footprint to date 1,139 kg = 1.139 tonnes

Friday, February 26, 2010

Walking Silvermines

It's over a year since the last entry. During that time I have been working on the follow-on project which is now called Walking Silvermines/ Siuloid Beal Atha Gabhann. This public artwork in the form of a walking project consists of 13 double-sided signs, a map and guidebook. It has been informed by a long-term research process, drawing on material that was presented by the people of Silvermines during the Imginary Museum project, and on other material presented or uncovered since.

It is created with and for the community of Silvermines, something that reflects and addresses their desire for a presently absent tourist industry. It also provides an opportunity to present the 'heritage' of the area, something that is very important to this community, but it does so in a way that is not uncritical of the way that the Heritage Industry packages a place and a past for tourist consumption.

This project is made possible through the generosity of the people of Silvermines in sharing their knowledge and archive materials. It is being carried out with invited contributions from artists Clive Moloney and Sally Anne McFadden, and designer Dave Wrenne.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Silvermines;Becoming Utopia

I created a self-published version of Silvermines; Becoming Utopia in the absence of any funding. A small section of the book can be previewed here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Phase 2!

Well, after I found out that the Arts Council had declined to fund the Silvermines publication, I went back to the drawing board.

All credit due to the Arts and Heritage Offices of North Tipperary County Council who were willing to work with me on the development of a follow on project, which I have provisionally titles 'Silvermines Story Map'.

This is the proposal for the project:

This artwork will develop through a process of discussion between the artist and the local community, working to create a map of walking routes in the area and a series of signs along those routes presenting texts and images related to all aspects of the area; urban myths as much as heritage, stories that may be factual or fictional but are part of the mythology of the village.

A public meeting took place on October 9th to discuss the project in Hickey's pub.

Report from Public Meeting, Hickey’s Bar
October 9th 2008

Fiona gave a short presentation looking back at the Imaginary Museum and the Story Map that she created inside the front door there.

The stories on this map were drawn from lots of sources – people, books, newspaper articles, material on the Internet etc.

She outlined that her idea is to take some of these stories and create signs with images and text that will go in the locations from which the stories are drawn (number of signs subject to budget). She will then create a map of walking routes along which the signs can be viewed.
Fiona showed work from two art projects in America – one in New York and on in Atlanta – where they created signs in particular places to commemorate hidden histories or overlooked stories.

There were many discussion following this about what routes should be ‘mapped’. While there are a great many walks in Silvermines of historic interest, not all are publicly accessible at the moment.

It was suggested that the project concentrate initially on the village itself and surrounding area, and that it might be possible to build on that in the future, seek more funding and create something similar at Shallee or other mineworks.

People had good suggestions for further funding opportunities that might be sought. Fiona explained that she had spent 10 months seeking Arts Council funding to do a follow-on book project which had not been forthcoming in the end, and so rather than waste any more time she thought it would be better to plough ahead with the funding that is available and perhaps build on that in the future.

Fiona agreed to try and keep everyone informed of developments through a newsletter and to return for a public meeting with her designs for the actual signs and map.

Many thanks to Tommy and Catherine for their hospitality and lovely welcoming fire!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Silvermines: Becoming Utopia

In many ways this unfolding project has been an attempt to discern the ways in which rural space is ordered and controlled and to locate occluded or counter-hegemonic practices and thinking.

The character of non-metropolitan space is quite different to that of urban space –topographically space tends to be more apparently open and horizontal but subject to an invisible architecture of regulation governing land-use; rural audiences or publics are more dispersed but often less transitory so encounters tend to be quite different; temporality is not linear and progressive as I described earlier but tends to include the past in a more real and concrete way; engagement with nature is integral to the social, economic and cultural matrix and then of course there are areas which are neither urban nor rural.

Silvermines is an area of ecological disaster; seven centuries of mining have left the watercourses and the land impregnated with heavy metals. It is also a beautiful place with an incredibly interesting and complex history. Imagining Silvermines; a psychogeography was developed in response to the passion for local history that I encountered all over Tipperary but particularly in Silvermines.

Using the Space Shuttle I entered into an agreed exchange with the people of the village; I provided a space and a display service arranging whatever material people brought to form the ‘collection’ of a temporary museum. In return they afforded me an opportunity to enquire into the narrative constructions and practices that were used by different groupings within that community to make sense of their place, including nostalgia, racing and burning out cars, graffiti, farming practices, a kind of epic poem tradition peculiar to the area, and also an unpicking of the construction of local history.

In response to that first encounter stage and with the intention of extending the notion of psychogeography that informed it I am developing a publication Silvermines: Becoming Utopia for distribution back into the community that befriended me and vice versa. The intention is to reflect the ‘tactics’ employed by different groups of people to make sense of this place.

The publication is also an attempt to place the project in critical relation to itself, to subvert conventions of ‘reading’ and include the participant-reader in the act of meaning making. To that end the publication will include a number of movable elements and sections, a number of board games designed around the realities of the place, a fictional ‘I’ve Been to Silvermines’ tourist merchandising line based on the legacy of mining for a much-desired but presently absent tourist industry, and a selection of material and maps gathered or generated through the project that may be real or fictional.

The completion of the project is currently funding-dependant and will be developed in collaboration with Clive Moloney, Sally-Ann McFadden (artists who worked with me during the first stage of the project) and Dave Wrenne, graphic designer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Still here!

Things have been very quiet in terms of the public face of this project for a while, but I have been collaborating on the book with Clive Moloney, Sally Ann Mc Fadden and Dave Wrenne (designer) over the last few months.

The book is taking quite an interesting form; it's going to be far more expensive to produce than I can afford so we need to get one or two dummy's together and look for funding.

I went to Silvermines yesterday to take some images for the publication; it was a beautiful misty day but the sun broke through when I arrived. I managed to take some shots of the ochre slag (for the cover) and also went up to Shallee mines to get another shot of the 'canyon'. There has been quite a lot of work done there, and an ad has been placed looking for companies to tender and take over the management of the place - in advance of development maybe, I am not sure.

Magcobar has been closed and fenced off, to keep the travellers out I expect. The usual story, just lock the travellers out rather than deal with their need for space.

I wandered up and down looking for the big area of subsidence; despite having a map from Robin Wallace showing me where to find it I just could not. Unless I actually stood on it, but that looked like a slag heap to me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Shadow of a Project

The Space Shuttle quietly departed Silvermines yesterday and headed for Kilfenora in Co. Clare.
Billy Grace, the principal of the school was kind enough to send me these photos of the space preciously occupied by the s/s in the form of the Silvermines Imaginary Museum.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

End of an era

Miles 151
Carbon footprint 44kg
Expenses 15 euro hardware 150 euro on food for the pub night

Well, it's all over. I can't say I am sorry - it was such a strain really in the end on family, work, domestic life in general.

Anyway we arrived on Friday morning, en famille (it was the start of our holidays). A few people turned up with stuff, including Michael O' Brien with some amazing implements.

Clive and Sally turned up to finish work in the Handball alley with the graffiti project, looking a bit hassled and distressed. It turned out that some of the youngsters who were not signed up had been giving them serious grief and stealing paint cans and graffiting on the back of the handball alley.

To be fair to the youngsters, they did it out of sight. They could have sprayed somewhere really public and caused a lot of trouble for us, but I think they just wanted to have a go.

I had to talk to them about their disrespect and ask them to behave, basically. They only kind of listened to me - not really. Sally and Clive agreed to do 20 mins with them after the project had finished painting over the bad language stuff by showing them how to do something a little more cool.

At 2 pm Robin Wallace came by and took me down Shallee mine - so that was terrifying. 2 billion tons of unsecured rock over your head, water running and dripping everywhere, it was like something out of a nightmare really. We went on a circular route through some really dark tunnels and then had to clamber over a deep rushing river and around the edge of a bottomless pool. And as we got close to the entrance (luckily we could see daylight at the time) we heard a sound like a low-flying aircraft except it remained constant. I thought it must be a machine of some kind, but I couldn't think what machine would be operating so close. Then the two of us suddenly got really nervous that what we were hearing was the collapse of the entire cliff! I made a bit of a dart for the exit, but then it seemed to stop. Later I talked to a man who had been a miner and told him about it - he said 'oh you heard the rock creaking'. I asked him if it was really rock creaking and he said he didn't know, it might be water or wind in the tunnels, but that's what they call it.

We went to Nenagh in the afternoon to stock up on food and wellies for the kids, in preparation for an entirely wet summer holiday.

Saturday dawned and I had a lot to do, putting up the new stuff that had arrived. The marquee came at about 3.15 (cutting it fine!) and Melanie arrived - we went over some stuff in advance of her speech and it's possibly the first time I talked with her about the actual nature of the project from my perspective as an artist.

I think the important part was distinguishing between this stage which I see as an encounter and the final stage which is where I will interpret the encounter and create an artistic product, that is the publication.

So, everyone arrived, tea and buns arrived. It was a good crowd, a nice local mix. Of course I didn't manage to talk to loads of people but that's always the way.

Just as the speeches were beginning, my 4 year old who had been complaining of a pain in her tummy puked violently all over the place, and partly on the county manager. Andrew whisked her away and the speeches went on. I hate that part, I always want the ground to open up and swallow me.

In the evening I went to the pub with Andrew for the story and song night. We had arranged a local girl as a babysitter she was great. The evening was not really what I was hoping for but I met some people I had not really spoken to before and that was great.

Next morning we had to rush the 4 year old into the doctor as we started to get really worried about appendix. It was kind of inconclusive and the doc suggested we go back in the evening. I opened up just before mass ended and there was the most amazing gathering in the museum after mass, all the 'heavyweights' as Andrew called them, talking over the photos, the contents of the museum and so on. I was kicking myself that I had no recording gear set up. It was a great conversation.

Anyway, I took everything down and closed up and we rolled out of town. A bit like the circus really.

I think it worked. I think there was trust generated and good discussion and a real sharing of thoughts, memories, stories, ideas. Looking forward to starting work on the book.

And to top it all off, the sun came out for the whole week of our holidays. I felt like I had never seen the sun before.