Silvermines; a psychogeography (2007 - 2011) is a long-term engagement with the town of Silvermines, Co. Tipperary. The project began when I was appointed artist-in-residence for North Tipperary (2007).Throughout the period, I have used public art processes and forms of cultural production - temporary and permanent artworks, workshops, events, public discussions and meetings, publications, a website, cultural evenings - to engage the community of Silvermines in discussions about the future sustainable development of the village and surrounding area.

My initial intention, drawing on Situationist theory[1], was to create a ‘situation’, a platform that would allow an encounter between myself and a rural community to develop into a conversation that might elaborate the construction of mental, physical and social spaces in a rural place. The term psychogeography was used by the Situationists to describe a playful means of exploring the organisation of urban space. I decided to adopt it as a strategy to explore the construction of space in rural contexts; I allowed myself to be drawn by my response to the terrain and influenced by my encounters with people and the attitudes, desires and expectations that they expressed.

Rural space is rarely considered as a critical site from which to explore hegemonic strategies, but I propose that the phasing out of farming and food production creates a new rural, where the nature of space is shifting from the concrete to the abstract; it is a place of leisure or a place of development, no longer the source of our capacity to feed ourselves. This is traumatic and disorienting for rural communities; it is experienced as a rupture in the cohesion of ‘social time’.

The small village of Silvermines is surrounded by abandoned mineworks which have remained almost unchanged since mining ended (variously  - 19thC, 1950’s, 1980’s, 1990’s). A community initiative to develop a Museum of Mining fell through in the late 1980’s when, upon discovery of profoundly damaging toxic waste in the area, the State withdrew its offer of funding for the project. In the last two years changes have taken place in relation to access to and rehabilitation of the mineworks, including proposals by the Local Authority to demolish many of the minework buildings. The people of Silvermines are actively campaigning for the retention and positive development of these sites.

During the life of Silvermines; a pscyhogeography, a number of projects have taken place, including;
Imagining Silvermines; workshops in Silvermines National School over a six-week period (2007)
Imaginary Museum; a temporary public artwork taking the form of a museum created with the cooperation of the local community (2007)
Imagining identity; a Youth Art project carried out by Clive Moloney and Sally Anne McFadden (2007)
Silvermines, becoming Utopia; a publication (2008)
Walking Silvermines; a permanent public artwork developed through a two-year consultation process (2008 - 2010)

The project will conclude in 2011 with a symposium and publication.

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[1] The Situationist International (SI) was formed in 1957; a small group of international political and artistic agitators aspired to change the world and liberate society through appropriate actions. They adopted various methods such as the dérive, aimless walks through urban territories intended to expose the politics of space, and the détournement in which existing material was reused or reinterpreted, sometimes to the point of deliberate plagiarism, as a means of exploring the power structures inherent in practices of representation.      

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