Landmark Public Art Program

Curator: Gaynor Seville
Lough Lannagh, Ireland
Year of completion: 2012
Leon Tan

The Landmark Public Art Program (LPAP) was commissioned by Mayo County Council (Ireland) for Lough (lake) Lannagh in Castlebar, an underutilized nature site. Developed and curated by Gaynor Seville, LPAP consisted of two permanent site-specific artworks, temporary projects, an artist residency and bursaries for emerging artists. Project briefs were released in 2010, and the official launch of the public art program took place in April of 2012. LPAP was financed by the Percent for Art scheme.

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The two permanent commissions were awarded to Cleary Connolly for On Sight, and Elaine Griffin for Landmarks. On sight is a sculptural video-installation of four binocular viewing posts around the lake. While the viewing posts are reminiscent of those found in popular tourist attractions around the world, they presented a very different visual experience to LPAP audiences. Instead of seeing the landscape as would be expected, viewers instead saw the landscape at a different time, populated with other people engaged in different activities.

Landmarks is a set of small-scale sculptures, also sited around the lake. Griffin conducted extensive historical research relating to the area, and created, among other objects, a miniature model of the kind of houses people actually inhabited by Lough Lannagh in previous times, and a bronze replica of traditional shoes worn by these people. Like Connolly’s work, Griffin’s evoked the deep history of the site, enabling audiences to experience something out-of-the-ordinary while exploring, and revitalizing, Lough Lannagh.

Lough Lannagh Ripples and Bridging Sounds were two of the temporary commissions, created by Rob and Matt Vale and Fionnuala Hanahoe respectively. Lough Lannagh Ripples was an interactive light performance by the lakeside, while Bridging Sounds comprised a sound installation triggered by audiences when they crossed the new bridge at Lough Lannagh. Both effectively transformed the experiences of the lake by audiences, stimulating imagination and reflection on the site.

LPAP also included “an intimate theatrical experience” in the lake itself, with The Performance Corporation (artist) ferrying three passengers at a time in a wooden boat steered by a boatman performing a work written by Tom Swift and directed by Louise Lowe. Called Across the Lough, the performance included stories and songs, and evoked the ancient notion of crossing water as a passage to “the other side.”

The residency, awarded to the composer Ian Wilson, involved meetings with local community members and documenting their stories of the struggles of the current economic situation. These experiences were then translated into a musical piece performed for the community.

Ambitious in scope and scale, LPAP is commendable for the coherence of the programming as well as its clear relevance to the local community and site. As a placemaking initiative that also involved other Council projects such as the building of a new bridge, it functioned to generate interest in, and engagement with, Lough Lannagh, facilitating a re-imagination of the natural resource as a space that offered previously unthought-of opportunities for leisure, recreation, enjoyment, and use. LPAP offers a useful model of artistic engagement for cities and councils planning revitalization and redevelopment programs, demonstrating how artists working in the public sphere can play a crucial role in connecting local communities psychologically and socially to neglected or underused spaces. As a measure of its excellence, it was highly commended in two categories in the 2012 Allianz Business to Arts Awards—Best Commissioning Practice and Best Use of Creativity in the Community.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency