‘Soften the Border’
by Rita Duffy
An Artists Installation on Blacklion-Belcoo Bridge
10 – 13 August 2017
Official Launch by Dr. Katy Radford MBE PhD 10 August at 5.30pm
Soften the Border is a temporary artwork installation across the North-South Border on the bridge between Blacklion and Belcoo, literally ‘knitting’ the Border together. Women across Ulster have produced a range of soft ‘furnishings’ out of recycled clothing. Old jumpers have been reinvented as huge soft orbs of colour to dress the bridge. Inspired by holy well amulets nearby in Belcoo, we made a huge collection of dolls - border dwellers, travelling folk, refugees perhaps? Women came together to sew and chat, sharing threads and buttons. Using up scraps from other knitting and crochet creations, voicing fears and listening to opinions drinking tea and helping each other as women do. Collectively we plan to make this little patch of border soft, colourful, curious and comfortable for a few days. Keegan’s shop, former post office and undertakers will reopen for business with items from The Souvenir Shop and archive footage of partition and establishment of the North South border.
Location of the installation along the bridge between Belcoo and Blacklion
Point of interest: The holy well in Bellcoo is reputed to be the coldest water in Ireland and cures stomach trouble and mental illness. The well has inspired some of the dolls, this special water will be available from The Souvenir Shop, located in the reopened Keegan’s shop on the Blacklion side of the bridge. The Souvenir Shop was one of nine arts projects selected to represent Ireland in the Centenary Year 2016.
As the world lurches further into fragmented and polarised realities, I feel that we are ever more dependent upon Art to keep lines of communication open and to create environments in which silenced communities are empowered to change the narratives of conflict and loss which may have dominated their lives. Soften the Border is a contemporary art project that has produced a temporary art installation for the bridge between the villages of Blacklion and Belcoo on the Irish border.
The launch is on the 10 August at 5.30pm and it will run until Sunday 13 August.
Special thanks to Irish Country Womens Association, Blacklion/Belcoo Knitters, all the women at the Cavan Traveller Project, Margaret at Blacklion Marketplace, Noel Keegan for access to his shop and everyone north south and ‘in-between' who supported the project.
Rita Duffy was born in 1959 in Belfast. She received a B.A. at the Art & Design Centre and a M.A. in Fine Art at the University of Ulster. She is one of Northern Ireland's groundbreaking artists who began her work concentrating primarily on the figurative/narrative tradition.
Her art is often autobiographical, including themes and images of Irish identity, history and politics. Duffy’s work has grown and evolved but remains intensely personal with overtones of the surreal. Homage is paid to the language of magic realism and always there is exquisite crafting of materials. She has initiated several major collaborative art projects and was made an Honorary Member of the R.S.U.A. for her developmental work within the built environment. She is an associate at the Goldsmiths College, London and is currently working on an artistic exchange with Argentina and N. Ireland, looking at the role art has in post conflict societies.
Her Belfast studio practice continues to develop and her public art projects are increasingly preoccupied with international themes. Currently she is developing a series of new works for the Public Records Office of N.I. which is designed into the new building. Duffy’s work is being increasingly collected at home and abroad with work in numerous public and private collections
Photos of art installation featuring: local crafters from Blacklion, Belcoo, Rita Duffy, artist, Dr Katy Radford, Institute of Conflict Research, Cllr Paddy Mc Donald, Cavan County Council, Mary Duffy and Anna Rose Mc Cormack, ICA Cavan President and Members of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, by Trevor Lucy.