Imagine a city of = planting

3rd November 2012. Black Mountain, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The second phase of Gillen’s public art project.

Imagine a city of = Planting


Duration of project: One year from sowing until fruition.
Action: Planting of oxide daisy and chamomile seed are part of the materials used to create the symbols and work on Black Mountain.

Gillen says of his work:
The intention is to communicate and contextualise the land based art installation as symbolic of a possible future for Northern Ireland, as it moves through a period of both political and social transition towards a potentially shared future of mutual respect.

From Tools for Solidarity newsletter:
The latest phase of this projected happened last winter when an area of approximately 125 m2 of land was planted in the Northwest face of Black Mountain. White clover seeds were used because of their traditional symbolism in Ireland. The beds for seeding have been designed in the form of an equal sign and a downward pointing arrow. Ecoseeds, Tools For Solidarity and friends have helped to prepare the beds and to sow the seeds.

Hopefully, we will see some results this summer and bring you some updates. We wish Christoff all the best with this project and that he manages to bring change to Northern Ireland and to other parts of the world.

As an arts practitioner I work across the disciplines of visual and performance arts media. I have completed several temporary text based and durational installation works in both galleries and site-specific locations. It is these works that have informed my approach to the project I am proposing.

In 2008-9 I researched and developed a dialogical approach to my work. This has given my work a stronger public face through including elements of collaborative and participatory practices within the framework of art in public.

Project outline
The Black Mountain planting project is both an arts based and environmental response to the social and political landscape of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Metaphorically the planting site is a blank canvas and the plant materials is my palette.

The projects objective is to plant an area of approximately 125 square metres of rough grass land with wild white clover (common name). The prepared ground will be cultivated with white clover seeds in the Autumn of 2012. The proposed location for the planting project is the farmland of Mr Richard Bell on the North West face of Black Mountain.

The three proposed beds for seeding have been designed in the form of a mathematical equals sign and a downward pointing arrow to successfully realise the project over a period of time the seeded beds will be maintained for one year. This will allow for the full growth and flowering of the clover. The work has the potential to achieve a high degree of visibility from across the city of Belfast through:

1. The scale of the planted area
2. The cultivating of the one plant on mass
3. The plant colour of the clover contrasting with the existing vegetation on the face of Black Mountain.

Plant information
Wild White Clover L Trifolium Repens
Of all the species of clover this is the most common, occupying many different habitats, but usually a component of grassland vegetation.

Plant Propagation
White Clover flowers from May to September. Vegetative growth generally begins in April and reaches a maximum in June to August. Plants may flower in their first year.

Plant History
‘The true Shamrock, as identified by Nathaniel Colgan c 1893 is a clover. It is not one of any or many clovers, it is one species, collected from a majority of counties at that time and with exception of a very few plants, the majority were Trfolium reopens or a form of this plant’ Jane Lyons.

“The clovers also occupied a position in the cultural life of early peoples. White Clover (T. reopens L.) in particular was held in high esteem by the early Celts of Wales as a charm against evil spirits. According to Evans (1957), this pagan tradition was continued by the early Christian leaders and became the symbol of the Holy Trinity for the Irish people”. Clover Science and Technology, N.L Taylor, 1985.

Saint Patrick used the plant to demonstrate the doctrine of Holy Trinity. Shamrocks had been considered by the Irish as good luck symbols from earliest times, and this superstition has persisted in modern times among people of many nationalities. On March 17th Saint Patricks Day is celebrated around the world with the “wearing o’ the green”.

Site Preparation for Planting
Ecoseeds Team: Cutting back vegetation to allow the tiling of soil.
Artist to mark out and grid planting beds.

Transportation to site. Options Private and Public transport.
Path from foot of mountain to planting area.
Plants and equipment delivered to the site by artists and volunteers.
Planting dates: Autumn 2012.

In the process of planning the project the following individuals and organisations have been contacted. Conservation Volunteers NI, Jenny McGetrick, Kate Holohan, Helen Tomb, Neville Walker and Noel Larry, Mark Bryson, Ecoseeds.
Belfast Hills Partnership, Andrea McKernon, Belfast City Council, Bio Diversity Officer, Orla Maguire.

The documentary will follow the planting project “Imagine a City of =” from the beginning of the project, i.e. The pre planting, to projects completion, the flowering of the White Clover on North West face of the Black Mountain.

The intention is to communicate and contextualise the land based art installation as symbolic of a possible future for Northern Ireland as it moves through a period of both political and social transition towards a potentially positive shared future of mutual respect

Content to include interviews and vox poxs with, academics, art historians, residents of Belfast and the artist.

“It takes people like Christoff to provide new mediums of interest-it takes all of us to provoke a new imagination. We need to use the public realm to invigorate public debate on the type of society that we want to inhabit in the present and the future. The use of the arrow to point a direction that is forward in its thinking and inclusive is genius. Simple yet profound”. Emma Cowan, talking on the “Imagine a City of =” Project, Locus of Control panel discussion – Golden Thread Gallery, January 2009.

After the planting project ‘Imagine A City Of =’. It is my intention to take this project to other Cities and galleries on the Island of Ireland which have outreach programmes. Initially I am looking at Derry/Londonderry, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork.

It is my vision to expand and develop my project by looking at locations in Europe, and further afield as the message is relevant to many areas in the world where conflict both socio/political prevail to this day.

The project is evolving and moving from a local basis to one of an international and academic mode, whereby it has been presented as part of a talk and paper which has taken place in Seattle, Washington State at the AAG annual meeting on the 15th April 2011 in front of some 7000 world delegates. The title is Activist Alphabet and Landscape Art, by Dr Lia Shimada. In addition a artist UU PhD candidate Fiona Ni Mhaoilir is writing about the Black mountain project as part of her research on art and artists post good Friday agreement.

Related works:
Imagine a city of = at QSS
Black Mountain
Imagine A City of = at I AM
Anti George Bush gardening
Imagine a city of = HOME?