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Festival News

A world premiere presentation by renowned American visual artist Suzanne Lacy entitled Across and In–Between will be showcased at the Ulster Museum from the 18th to 23rd October as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival and 14–18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.

Created in collaboration with communities in Ireland from both sides of the border, Across and In–Between explores the profound impact the border has on the lives of people who live there. The project is in two parts, The Yellow Line and the Border People’s Parliament, deeply engaging border communities and over 300 residents in collaboration to create an artwork that stirs public conversation.

A three–screen film projection, The Yellow Line, was made with participants including farmers, horse–owners, scouts, hikers and villagers from communities across the Fermanagh, Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan border–line. It will be projected upon the front of the Ulster Museum building each evening from 6.00pm to 9.00pm over the six–day run, supported by a temporary exhibition featuring documentary interviews and the opportunity to contribute to the conversation about the Border People’s Parliament from 10am daily.

Highlighting the wit and cleverness of border life in the face of political pressures, this participatory artwork focuses on the power of play in creatively responding to complex issues.  Suzanne Lacy commented, “Our project draws those who live along the often–invisible boundaries between countries into a conversation—metaphoric and literal – on personal and symbolic meanings of thisborder and by extension all such borders drawn by political forces. The artwork explores inverse paradigms: visible and invisible, official and unofficial, rural and urban, the real border and imagined ones. For a brief time, we suggest there is a unique in–between identity for those situated between two countries – a border people – and through playful acts we explore this liminal identity.”

The second part of the project will see participants in The Yellow Line invited to a private event in Stormont’s Parliament Buildings during Belfast International Arts Festival. They will celebrate their involvement in making The Yellow Line and be part of the project’s final performance: a border people’s parliament, a space where border voices can consider matters of global political significance that are also, to them, intensely local.

Speaking about the project its producer Cian Smyth said, “Across and In–Between is an artwork about the act of drawing a line and an exploration of the social impact that has. Where do you draw your lines? And, therefore, what does it take to overcome the lines we draw? In 1918 the border didn’t exist, it was invisible, but it was being imagined, ready to be drawn. In 2018, the border is mostly invisible and there are pressures to draw it visibly once again. We need to be able to navigate this terrain with a sense of humanity, beyond legislature.”

Across and In–Between has been co–commissioned by 14–18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, and Belfast International Arts Festival, with the support of the Government of Ireland’s Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Reconciliation Fund). The work opens during the Festival on 18 October 2018.

Richard Wakely, Belfast International Arts Festival, said “Suzanne Lacy is an incredible artist, respected worldwide and with a catalogue of work that is truly inspiring. It takes someone with that sense of vision and purpose to accept an invitation to explore a subject as historically and politically complex as the Irish border. It also takes an artist of her calibre and sensitivity to meaningfully engage with the communities living and working there. Across and In–Between continues the Festival’s commitment to examining aspects of cultural identity, community and civic responsibility through a creative and cultural lens.” 

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14–18 NOW said

“14–18 NOW invites artists to explore the impact of the First World War on people’s lives today. We are delighted that Suzanne Lacy, an artist who has made extraordinary and pioneering works through projects with communities around the world, accepted our invitation to work with people in Northern Ireland and to reflect with them on the process of how borders are drawn and redrawn. We are grateful to our co–commissioning partner, the Belfast International Arts Festival, and to the Government of Ireland for their support.”

Image credit – Helen Sloan