Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Waterworks art gets C4 showing

Undated Channel 4 handout photo of Katrina Newell (right) and Claire Kelly at the Waterworks site in North Belfast, one of the six communities announced today to get new pieces of public art as part of a Channel 4 series.

A north Belfast park is currently featuring in a national television programme as part of a unique art project.

The Waterworks Park on the Antrim Road was shown on Channel 4’s Big Art Project on Sunday (May 10) and will be shown for the next three Sundays, along with several other sites in the UK.

The Big Art Project is a unique public art commissioning initiative that saw 1,400 sites across the UK nominated by members of the public to engage in a process of commissioning a major artwork for public space.

Katrina Newell of New Lodge Arts, and Claire Kelly, a local community worker and resident, nominated the Waterworks for the project in December 2005 and were informed in April 2006 that the park had been selected.

The pair believed the selection would represent an extraordinary opportunity to create an artwork by an artist of international status within a unique site in north Belfast.

They also hope it would become the focus of community-based activity and would show the area in a more positive light.

In Spring 2007, several artists visited the Waterworks and subsequently submitted proposals.

Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier’s Northern Light proposal was selected by an advisory group made up of local residents, users of the park, members of Belfast City Council’s Parks Department, fishermen and the Friends of the Waterworks.

Katrina Newell said: “Claire and I are very excited about the development of Northern Light and believe it will be something very positive and inspirational for north Belfast.

“We have been delivering a range of arts-based projects in the park to raise people’s awareness of the piece while also encouraging more positive use of the site.

“We also want to use the project to generate local community participation in a programme of arts events over the next three years.”

Curator of the Big Art Project in Belfast, Declan McGonagle, said: “The Big Art Project, as it is developing in the Waterworks Park, is significant because it moves away from the idea of the disconnected artist and more towards the idea of the engaged artist — engaged with place, context and community as well as aesthetics.

“Northern Lights is a magnificent model of this new area of art practice.

“It is also significant because this set of relations between artist, artwork and community is being promoted in a television series by a mainstream broadcaster, Channel 4, with national reach.”

Artists Vong Phaophonit and Claire Oboussier said: “This project was initiated by key community members and their energy and vision is fundamental and integral to the work; it should be fully realised and kept close to the heart of the work itself.

“For us as artists, the challenge of the work is in the ‘translation' of this energy, this ethos, into a rigorous, aesthetically accomplished piece of art.”

Northern Light is currently progressing through the design phase, after which it will be presented to the wider community for consultation.

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