13 November 2014

There used to be ...

These photos, published by a newspaper, are a reminder of change.

Border checkpoint, 1980s
The same place today
As I travelled the border I visited many spots that formally hosted checkpoints. Often you can tell a border road was the site of a checkpoint because uprooting the defences has left a gaping lay-by, about the length of a truck and trailer. Empty cans, dead leaves, plastic bottles and shopping bags are blown together in the corners. These areas have become truck stops, or been filled with second-hand cars for sale, left parked with signs in their windscreens: “£2000 ONO” and a mobile phone number, northern or southern or both.

I got the photographs from here

23 October 2014

Border Journal: Pheasants

I march down the hill and across the valley fields. I find ten wooden crates littering an embankment. Some are smashed together at the bottom, others didn’t make it all the way down and seem frozen mid-tumble. The wood has gone grey in the sun. There is a loaded moment when I intuit that another life form is present. Then, in a gush of colour, a pair of pheasants launch from a crate and are in the air, right and left of me, all noise and feathers, flying away across the fields.

29 September 2014

Mapping a Railway's Ghost

Once a train line ran from Enniskillen, crossed the border at Belcoo-Blacklion and went on to Silgo. It closed in 1957 but traces of the route can still be seen; raised embankments; sidings; bridges. The artist Séamus Dunbar walked the route and developed an interesting, interactive and very fitting way of presenting his journey. The viewer scrolls through the map, seeing what Dunbar saw and in the order he saw it. The journey is described in ink drawings on a piece of paper several metres long. It is wound up inside the device.

Thanks to Alan Meban for the video

By having the viewer scroll through the journey Dunbar has created a temporal as well as a spatial experience, with fingers taking the place of feet. As new vistas open up ahead, the ground already traversed slips out of sight behind, just like walking.

Dunbar has titled the piece Isolarion 1.

14 August 2014

Map of Thrones

I've never seen Game of Thrones but I'm told it is doing for Northern Ireland what Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand; making it seem unreal and making people want to visit. The cast and crew get around Europe a fair bit but no other country has provided so many locations for the show as Northern Ireland.
... from the towers of Winterfell (Castle Ward) to the shore of the Iron Islands (Ballintoy Harbour), the rocky beach where the sorceress Melisandre gives birth (Cushendun Caves) to the interlacing beech trees of Kings Road (the Dark Hedges of Armoy). If you’re watching a scene set anywhere near woods, chances are it was filmed in Tollymore Forest. Entering or exiting Castle Black? That’ll be the vast outdoor set constructed in the disused limestone quarry of Magheramorne. And the number of interiors shot at the Paint Hall studio in Belfast — where the shipyard that built the Titanic has been turned into one of the biggest studio complexes in Europe — are too many to mention.
Helpfully, a map has been created.

I found the map here and the quote comes from here.

4 July 2014

New Maps, New Prints

Giclée prints are a kind of inkjet print that use fade-resistant, pigment-based archival inks. I'm using the process for the first edition of Fictional Ulster and version 3.1 of The Map of Connections. The difference is clearest in the photographs on The Map of Connections. The greens are rich and deep.

The Map of Connections is 60 x 85 cm. Fictional Ulster is 50 x 70 cm. They are both editions of fifty.

3 July 2014

Charting the Border on the Radio

My BBC Radio 4 documentary is still available to listen to online. It is about Ireland's border and The Map of Connections.

The progamme was originally broadcast at the end of June
Thank you to the producer, Rachel Hooper, and to Paddy Bloomer who canoed part of the Erne system with me for the recording. Thanks also to all the border citizens we meet along the way.

These photos illustrate parts of the show.

On the Erne with Paddy Bloomer
Erne system connection
At the show's last connection, Londonderry/Donegal.

2 June 2014

Mapping Alternative Ulster: Guided Tour

Thank you to everyone who came along on May 31st. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Reading the comments cards that people filled in and gave me after the tour I discovered that one of our number was a tourist who was only spending a couple of days in Northern Ireland. I like to think that he spent his time well. This show is Ulster in a room.

Thank you to Alan Meban for the photos
The exhibition is running until June 22nd. There are a few more events upcoming. See mappingalternativeulster.net for details.

31 May 2014

The Map of Connections 3.1

I've put the latest version of The Map of Connections in the Mapping Alternative Ulster show. It is one of my maps of Ireland's border. I have charted on it unofficial border crossings, paths, stiles, gates, footbridges, anything not found on other maps. Most are humble things in themselves but, all together, they seemed to add up to some kind of statement about human irrepressibility. There are 77 connections charted in this version.

It is 60 by 85 centimetres.
The show runs until June 22nd.

12 May 2014

Now Open: Mapping Alternative Ulster

For an exhibition in the Ulster Museum, I've gathered the work of about a dozen artist/cartographers, all of whom use maps to promote different ways of looking at where we live. The show is called Mapping Alternative Ulster. It has just opened and will run until June 22nd. I think a lot of this work is important, a lot of it is beautiful, a lot of it is both. A series of events runs along side the show. See: www.mappingalternativeulster.net.

The show is on in the Belfast Room, in the Ulster Museum
The first event is a workshop on 25 May, 11am. It will be run by the team behind the Belfast Sound Map, an online audio portrait of of the city. Visit the map at belfastsoundmap.org. The workshop will explore sound recording and the sonic environment of the city. Participants will be guided through a series of practical exercises (listening and technical) and then given the opportunity to make their own field-recordings to be uploaded to the map.

The workshop is open to anyone 16 or over. The workshop is free but must be booked in advance as only eight places are available. Telephone 028 90440000 (lines open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm); go to www.nmni.com; or email ulstermuseumreception@nmni.com.

29 April 2014

Mapping Alternative Ulster, in preparation

The Belfast Room in the Ulster Museum
Every time I visit this room it is bigger than I remembered it. This is where the Mapping Alternative Ulster exhibition will be opening next month. I am curating the show for the Ulster Museum. See www.mappingalternativeulster.net for more.

2 March 2014

Captain Cavan

Recently I made a map of Ulster by cutting out the shape of each county from a thick slab of cork. For clarity I should explain that the cork I am referring to is the stuff you plug a bottle of wine with, nothing to do with the county in Munster.

When I want to use the map the nine cork counties are arranged, jigsaw-style, on a wall.

Uncanny ...  Cavan and Captain Caveman's club.

I have found that cutting out a county’s contours is a great way of getting to know it. County Cavan is a particularly interesting shape. For me it recalls cartoons and comics. It is like the stylised form a leg of chicken takes, the ones Fred Flintstone or his buddies like to eat. But most of all Cavan is like the club wielded by Captain Caveman, the bellowing neanderthal who had his own show on television when I was a child.

27 February 2014

Ravensdale Stones

I went tramping through the woods in Ravensdale Park lately. The park is near Jonesborough but just over the border in County Louth. I wanted to see the standing stone that was marked on my Ordnance Survey map. But what I found was a whole gang of stones, arranged in a rough circle.

You might think I'd be delighted to have found more than I had bargained for, but actually this was something rather less. A single ancient standing stone has a gravitas that these stones lacked. My main problem is that I doubt their vintage. Some of Ireland's standing stones have been in place for millennium — that is a vital part of their power. But these stones did not have that air about them. I think it was because the ring was of too small a diametre. The stones' placement lacked the scale and drama of authentic, ancient, stone rings. These have too strong a niff of the ornamental about them.

If any reader knows anything about the stone ring in Ravensdale Park then I would be very glad of the information.

31 January 2014

Giro d'Italia

This year the annual Giro d'Italia bicycle race will open with stages in Northern Ireland. The Grande Partenza or ‘Big Start’ of the will take place over three days from 9 - 11 May 2014. It involves routes in Belfast, around the coast and, finally, a dash from Armagh to Dublin.

Maps of the routes have been released. The second day's is a 218km round trip; Belfast to Antrim, Ballymena, Bushmills then taking in the Causeway Coastal Route from Cushendall to Larne onto Whitehead and Carrickfergus before returning to Belfast.

An aspect of the map I like is the elevation guide. I have thrown it on its side to suit the format of this blog. You can see these maps and the others at this link.