Imagine a city of =

6th October – 28th October 2008.  Black Mountain, Belfast, Northern Ireland. 23 days
Collective action. HOME?

Imagine a city of = doc I


Project background.
While I do not term my work as that of an activist artist, it does lend itself to activism1. “What matters is that people of conscience are using their imaginations in the interest of social justice”2.

My main aim had been to create a piece of artwork on the mountain, which was either temporal or permanent. I feel that I have achieved this through an organic process. At the beginning I was not sure how it would unfold or how I could use the mountain to provoke a dialogue. Imagine a City of = in itself consisted of temporal actions by the placing of letters and removing them, the reactions and responses during this time were an invaluable part of the process. The action will continue through a planting project designed to incorporate community project groups and I believe that the impact of Imagine a City of = will be a central core to the future actions planned. Thus creating a permanent artwork on the mountain.

Twenty five years ago I used to frequent the mountain during the summer months and there I found empty bullet cases left behind by the British Army, who used the mountain as a firing range. I collected the bullet cases and felt they were symbolic of what was happening in Belfast and indeed Northern Ireland. British occupation seemed to even consume the Black mountain. Around the same time frame I trained on the mountain as a fell runner this was my escape from the reality of what was happening to my town and my own personal difficulties. It gave me a sense of freedom that I had never experienced before.

For almost a year now I have ascended and descended the Black Mountain regularly so that I have experienced the mountain in all four seasons. When one is faced with only the natural elements one has to face ones own demons. It certainly was a contemplative time of self reflection and self analysis. Throughout I constantly questioned not only the process but myself and what this tumultuous project meant for my own self development. It became apparent to me after the first phase of the project that no longer was I leading the process but the process in itself had taken on a life of its own. The organic process that I wished for actually became a reality, in actual fact it had taken more than I could have possibly imagined at the outset. Viz a viz global issues emerged in the second phase of the project.

So I regard the project as been more successful than I imagined. My dream of the mountain has become my reality.

“The role of utopias is not to be reached, It is to stimulate us to try harder & to go further. To dream is already a dream come true”3.

[1] Although my work on the whole is not that of an activist I have made a few performances/installations which have been purely political in nature.
[2] Nina Felshine, But is it Art? The Spirit of Art Activism. Dore Ashton, Back page, Bay Press Inc. 1995.
[3] Augusto Boal, Theatre of the oppressed, Pluto Press, London, 2000

Read final dissertation by Christoff Gillen for MA Art in Public, University of Ulster.

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