Sheelagh Broderick and residents of Skibereen town
Funded by the Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme
Urban Explorer is a durational collaborative artwork based in the town of Skibbereen facilitated by Sheelagh Broderick. It originated in an interest in two adjacent cutural zones ; The Rock, a wild elevated ouctrop in Skibbereen and the newly constructed West Cork Arts Centre building, Uillinn. Both have a distinctively vertical orientation and vie with each other for the birds eye view of the town.
A famine memorial at the top of the Rock is enclosed by a circular stone wall at sitting height, an ideal meeting place to meet, although infrequently visited by most townspeople and its future contested by competing interests. The new West Cork Arts Centre building stands tall above the building line of vernacular structures and is itself a zone of contention. The distance from the Rock to the Arts Centre is 200 metres as the crow flies. In a small town with few public amenities both these sites constitute different facets of being in public.
Skibbereen Community & Family Resource Centre and Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre were the anchor partners. As a phased work participation varied in each piece with some overlap. Participants were adult men and women based in Skibbereen and its hinterland.
The aims of the project were to address the changing urban landscape of Skibbereen through a collaborative and creative process with an identified community of place; to engage the local community in performance-making workshops using the Create collaborative arts performance pack as a resource, develop new work in the contexts of ‘culture’ and ‘place’, create a safe and open creative space where people with and without previous experience can create work, explore Skibbereen to expose new possibilities for all elements of performance making, and to create dependencies through the making process that could only be resolved through mutual support.
The name Urban Explorer was adopted to describe the methodology of the research. This was an active and mostly outdoors engagement using everyday digital media and the vibrant matter constituted in and of both sites as tools. The project explored how participants relate to, comment on, respond to and create with these tools. The aesthetic for this project was one in which there was no material trace, being solely constituted through digital media and by the relationships established.
Elevations at Skibbereen Arts Festival 2015 – as part of the research and development phase, this work reconfigured the Rock as a community space. Over 5 days a range of different activities took place led by diverse community interests: Heritage Walk, Nature Walk, Community Choir, Inclusive Dance workshop, ‘Spoken Word’ open mic poetry. A website with audio recordings of location responsive stories on the Rock was launched for the festival.
Taking inspiration from Skibbereen Town motto, Quod Petis Hic Est What You Seek Is Here; Urban Explorer mobilised the town of Skibbereen to reclaim the Rock for community celebration on St Johns Eve., 23 June 2016. With the support of guerilla gardeners, access routes to the Rock were cleared re-establishing rights of way. A noisy procession made its way through Skibbereen via four routes starting from different assembly points, Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen Community & Family Resource Centre, Skibbereen Community School, and Skibbereen Library, converging at The Rock through four different rights of way.
An edited film of participant documentation was screened as part of Skibbereen Arts Festival on July 27 2016. This short film was entirely produced by participants using video, images and music created during the project.
A discursive event with artist author and activist Gregory Sholette and film maker Katherine Waugh on 27 July 2016 at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre during Skibbereen Arts Festival. This followed an 8 week spatially distributed online reading group of Greg’s book, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture. This reading group created a viable locus for discussion of local concerns relating to wider issues supporting sustained and engaged public discussion.
The project is being documented online and by ongoing and post-project discussions with participants and stakeholders and through reflective journaling. The evaluation will be concluded after the final Urban Explorer event at Skibbereen Arts Festival 2019 with a written text and a performance.
The project had many positive outcomes, including; increased confidence by participants and an increased awareness of both the Rock and Uilinn West Cork Arts Centre as a sites of local cultural production. A residency at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre was established, in companionship with expanded arts practices becoming a regular feature on the Skibbereen Arts Festival programme. Many of the participants in Urban Explorer have become protaganists in subsequent art projects, art manoeuvres (2017) and Immram (2018), and a final instantiation of Urban Explorer will take place during Skibbereen Arts Festival 2019
Documentation & Dissemination
This project resulted in a number of pieces; a podcast of the discursive event with artist author and activist Gregory Sholette and film maker Katherine Waugh on 27 July 2016 at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre during Skibbereen Arts Festival; an edited film of particicipant documentation; and a film called What You Seek is Here, by participant Alison Glennie. The project was also featured in the Southern Star on the 25th June and 2nd July 2016. Find links to these pieces on the left hand side of this page.