Familiar Territory

The theme here lies in the notion of “home” as natural environment – the familiar and sustaining “place”.  The work comprises site-specific installations and the documentation of derelict houses and their surroundings.  The thoughts behind the documentation work relate to the de-population of rural areas in connection with the general urbanisation of society.  Taking the idea of “place” as a starting point, the work addresses the notion of how this de-population undermines the human connections with the land:  the consequent loss of cultural material (ie the naming of places, local stories, folklore and customs) and the disintegration of the sense of belonging to a place.

The Famine, a landmark in the evolution of the de-population process, serves as a reference for information and ideas as it left villages deserted and created a tradition of migration and emigration, which continues today.  (A recent article in the Mayo People refers to the falling numbers of children in the schools of Achill).  The urban sophistication of contemporary life tempts people away from the sublime, ancient bog, the dramatic weather conditions and the isolation of such a sparse landscape.

The site-specific work involves the symbolic re-occupation of derelict houses in rural areas, through which I reclaim for hem in living form, the “essence of presence” of those who are long absent.  Each occupation involves spending time in the house, performing home-making taskes, (tidying the house, sweeping the hearth, ornamenting – pictures, flowers, etc. – but without undoing the dereliction) and gathering the significance of place around me.  Photographs are taken of the surroundings of each house and of the weather – an element which affects the life of any place – as it is happening.  Materials gathered from the site include the self-same materials that past occupants knew and used – grass, moss, lichens, soil, turf, ferns, stone.  All work on site is made from these materials.