“My name is Michael. I’m an artist.
I am working on a project as part of the post peace process in Ireland and as part of that I hope to engage thirty thousand people or 1 in 10 who live in the border region. I’ve sent out a series of prompts asking people to respond with what is basically an ‘I Am’ poem so things like ‘I am’, “I regret’, ‘I need’, ‘I see’ and ‘I hear’.
Their responses will be engraved onto stones, a couple of which are with me today.
One of them ‘I need to leave the countryside’, is a common, very common, response to people living in rural areas there. And you get the flip side of that from people in the cities who ‘need to leave this country’ so people feel really at home and disconnected from home. They long to stay in a place they need to leave. I’m just thinking of this installation as a way of creating some dialog around how we locate ourselves in this concept that we call home and how we can all be in the same place and be ok with it.
Another response I was really struck by, came from a young woman who said in hers “I see through my big brown eyes-I am an Irish girl”.
I think the second stone I brought goes right to the core of the whole project, ‘I hear best when I listen’. For me as an artist, sort of listening to or taking the pulse of what’s going on in the community is the source for my work so that one has some meaning to me, personally as well.”
The following is from a press release about Michael’s project. It might be helpful to fully understand the scope of the installation. When completed it will be three years in the making:
This project is titled “The Tonnes: A Meeting of the Waters.” It is a cross-border peace-building public art project in the troubled boundary area between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The project will facilitate a creative dialogue among communities along the River Foyle in the Northwest border region of Ireland. There are three phases:
“In Phase One we will invite communities to make handmade books and participate in writing workshops in order to create a communal archive and an anonymous epic poem about their private recollections, experiences, and prayers during and after “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
In Phase Two, stones engraved with these writings from Phase I will become cairns all along the riverbank.
In Phase Three the cairns and books will be gathered from the communities and loaded onto a floating installation of copper and reflected water which will journey from the town of Strabane in the border region to the Atlantic. The stones will be dropped overboard at the mouth of the river in a gesture of reconciliation among diverse communities.”
Michael is the founder of Medicine Wheel Productions.