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Ireland’s largest artwork unveiled in Derry~Londonderry

Monday 27th June 2011 at 4pm 0 Comments

Mute Meadow Image: Mute Meadow

Phase one of Mute Meadow, a seminal new artwork located on the banks of the River Foyle in Derry~Londonderry, was officially unveiled on Saturday 25th June.

Created by London based artists Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, the artwork celebrates the regeneration of Derry~Londonderry, marking its transformation from a city of conflict to a city of culture.

Mute Meadow is unlike any other artwork in Ireland, in both design and scale. Stretching out across the waterfront, the £800,000 sculpture is the largest public artwork in Ireland and is made up of 40 pairs of angled steel columns lit at the base to resemble a shimmering ‘forest of light’.

Located at Ebrington, a former British military base, the artwork is part of a wider redevelopment project to connect the communities living on both sides of the riverbank and create a new shared space. The illumination of Mute Meadow this Saturday will coincide with a special series of events throughout the weekend to celebrate the opening of the Peace Bridge, the main access point from the town centre to Ebrington.

Aideen McGinley, ILEX Chief Executive, believes that Mute Meadow heralds a bright future for the Ebrington site.  She said: “Ebrington will be a wonderful new shared space for the people of Derry~Londonderry and Mute Meadow  is a fitting signifier; a dynamic project of the highest quality with the people of the city at the heart of it.”

While it will be another few months before the Mute Meadow site is landscaped and fully accessible to the public, Saturday’s (25th June) official ‘switch on’ marks an important milestone in the development of this unique public art project.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council commented: “This has been a hugely ambitious project and after years of planning it’s fantastic to see Ireland’s largest artwork finally beginning to take shape. It is a city’s culture, heritage and architecture which make it unique. Mute Meadow is a landmark art project which will help reinforce Derry~Londonderry’s image as a thriving cultural destination.”

A specially designed lighting programme was created as part of the project which converts sound data collected by the community into gently animated projections of coloured light, illuminating the columns at night. Through a community engagement programme, developed and organised by the Verbal Arts Centre, residents are being invited to capture their own sounds of the city. Recordings, including poetry recitals, traffic noise, music and conversations, will now be collected on an ongoing basis, to be transformed into light waves.  These will create the distinctive patterns of coloured light which will be used to illuminate the installation every day, the palette for which was inspired by the stained glass in the Guildhall.  Mute Meadow’s creators, Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, say this element of the project has given local people an unmatched opportunity to contribute directly to the artwork.

Vong Phaophanit explained: “Over recent months we’ve been asking local people to upload their sounds of the city to the One Day I Planted a Seed website, created by the young people involved in the community engagement program.  On Saturday 25th June, for the first time the artwork will be illuminated using light patterns, generated by some of the sound recordings gathered so far.
Claire Oboussier added: "As Mute Meadow reaches the final stages of construction it is genuinely exciting to see how art in public space can have the power to transform the visual landscape of a city such as Derry and play a role in the re-imagining of place." 

Professor Declan McGonagle, Director of the College of Art and Design in Dublin and Chair of the Foyle Public Art Steering Group, spoke about the significance of the artwork: “It is now widely acknowledged that genuine regeneration must involve regeneration of community as well as regeneration of place. Art's role therefore has become much more than a decorative afterthought.  
“A commissioned artwork, in a regeneration context, succeeds when it is integrated into the spirit as well as the topography of place. In this, Mute Meadow, from its beginnings in the commissioning process, dealt with the nature of the specific site and all that it means in the city, but also with the spirit of place and its communities. It is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when committed artists, like Vong Phaophonit and Claire Oboussier, unite with support agencies to create an artwork in public space which provides a rich immediate experience but also long term value. Mute Meadow, along with the new Peace Bridge, represents the regeneration – and predicts the transformation – of Derry/Londonderry into the City of Culture 2013, and beyond!”

Mayor Alderman Maurice Devenney said: “The Mute Meadow artwork will complement the city’s existing art and cultural offering and provide the people of the city with a unique visual display alongside the Peace Bridge. The artwork reflects positively how the city is moving forward to celebrate its culture and heritage in preparation for UK City of Culture 2013.”

Mute Meadow is funded by the North West Cultural Challenge Fund. Delivery partners include Ilex, the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure, the Department of Social Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City Council. The public engagement programme, onedayiplantedaseed.com is managed by the Verbal Arts Centre. The architects on the project are ARD Ciaran Mackel Architects.  The construction work is being carried out by SIAC.


Key Facts

  • Mute Meadow is the largest public artwork to ever be commissioned in Ireland.
  • It is made up of 40 pairs of angled steel columns that will stretch from the former parade ground at Ebrington, down to the banks of the River Foyle and across the waterfront.
  • Phase one of the project is now complete. The columns are now in place, ranging in height from 6 meters to 10 meters, and the lighting element of the artwork will go live on Saturday 25th June.
  • Phase two of the project will see the area surrounding the columns fully landscaped and public access to artwork.
  • 40 LED projectors will be used to illuminate the columns. The chosen colours are based on the stain glass windows of the nearby Guildhall.
  • The city’s residents are being invited to contribute to the artwork by uploading their ‘sounds of the city’ to the onedayiplantedaseed.com. The sounds will then be converted into light waves and used to create a silent lighting programme to illuminate the artwork.

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