Athenry - Gort Mhaoilir
Public Art in Athenry
Gort Mhaoilir – The Myler Fields
Artist: James L Hayes
The main focus of this project was to make an artwork work that centered on the residents, or the community in Gort Mhaoilir housing estate in Athenry. The central body of the work has taken the form of a performative and inclusive community ‘choir’ made up of a diverse range of participants from all age groups. After numerous weeks of rehearsals the Gort Mhaoilir Residents choir performed on the central estate, in the green area, and this performance was recorded, this recording forms the central piece/body of this public art project.
The choir performs the song most associated or synonymous with their home and town land, The Fields of Athenry. The emphasis of the performance aims to investigate ideas related to the misconception of this song and the strange and anachronistic time period it inhabits; it is a recently composed ballad that pertains, or is often assumed to be, from the mid 19th century. As well as having an ambiguous temporality the song has also transcended its spatial references becoming an anthem of the sports terraces in Ireland and further afield.
Furthermore, across the globe it has become a symbol of Irish identity. The Gort Mhaoilir Estate was recently built on the fields that occupy the periphery of the historic and medieval town of Athenry. This site seemed the ideal point at which to probe the ambiguities of this song, which is so layered in its resonances, its sense of place and ideas about a unique Irish identity. I also wanted to situate this sense of ‘Irishness’ within the context of multi-culturalism by engaging residents from diverse backgrounds who are intrinsically connected to the ‘fi ctional’ site of the song. It was hoped that the sense of place so strongly evoked by the song could be replicated by the residents in their coming together to perform as a choir thus generating a sense of community within their new estate.
An additional part of the project was to work with the younger members of the GME and to install a small permanent sculpture trail that is composed of bronze casts/works made and manipulated by the younger members of the Gort Mhaoilir Community. These works are composed of casts of children hands, indexical drawings inscribed onto wax plates, and multiple casts of objects which the children donated and which act as tokens or traces of their time spent in the community of Gort Mhaoilir.
Finally just to add my sincerest thanks and kindest appreciation to all the great people of the GME and it goes without saying that this project would not have been a reality without their wonderful hard work, commitment and trust. I want to thank them all again for this great leap of faith with me and for always welcoming me so warmly and openly into their unique community.