Public Art Participation Project – Letter Writing
The motto over the door of the historic Robinson Library in Armagh can be translated from the Greek, as The Healing Place of the Soul. We had hundreds of beautiful, intimate and heartfelt letters in response to our call-out for #FillingTheVoid https://mariamcmanus.wordpress.com/2019/10/30/write-us-a-letter-filling-the-void/. Our writers wrote to the future and to the past, to people they love and about things that matter most. They made us laugh, they touched our hearts and they made us think. They also made us realise that through writing their letters, the opportunity to reflect, record the everyday, and connect with each other, is responding to a deeply held need to communicate.
The letters came from Australia, Spain, the UK and all over Ireland. During Georgian Festival we had many visitors to the library on the day, and those that came also wrote letters – some were posted there and then, to friends and family from the beautiful Georgian letterbox on the street outside the Robinson Library, and others were left with us for the archive.
Christmas is often a time for reflection and a time when we need to connect. We are aware that recent events such as the election bring up many things we need to think about and consider as we navigate our way to a new decade, to new uncertainties about the state of our world and where it is we find ourselves now, individually and with each other. In view of the success of the project and the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves, we are keeping the project open for further contributions.
This project is creating a contemporary epistolary archive written by citizens – especially the citizens of Armagh, but also from all over Northern Ireland, the border area, the island of Ireland, Britain, Europe and the whole world. Everything in a letter tells something – the handwriting, post marks, the subject matter, the demographic and concerns of the writer: the letter is a point in time pen-portrait. We are also interested in receiving correspondence which for some reason has personal significance to the donor.
Letters, preferably hand-written, from people of all ages and ethnicities, from anywhere in the world, on any topic they wish to record. Then we will include it in our exhibition and archive in the beautiful Armagh RobinsonLibrary for posterity.
- If you wrote the letter you wanted to write, to whom would you write it?
- What would you write about? A letter to your childhood home, the parent you’ve lost, your old lover, those pesky politicians, your heroine/ hero, the generations yet to come, the child in your arms, or in your womb, your idol, the lost, the prodigal, the fictional, the historical?
- Who would be the object of your letter? We live in such uncertain and turbulent times. What do you have to say about climate, Brexit, the border, the grudge, the past, the lost opportunity, the gratitude, the quotidian, the chance you ought to take, regret, courage, agency and activism, finding a quiet place, peace…what is the ‘thing’ you can write about in a letter, but just can’t say any other way?
- Is yours letter to the masses, or to just one person? To your older self? Your younger self? Your braver self – something for the record.
Letters from anyone, about anything are welcome.
Filling the Void – Letters Project
Splendid. Liberal. Lofty
C/O Armagh RobinsonLibrary
43 Abbey Street
NOTES – Splendid. Liberal. Lofty. Armagh RobinsonLibrary 28 Nov – 1stDec 2019 https://visitarmagh.com/festivals/georgian-day/
Together with the citizens of Armagh, three leading contemporary artists explore and celebrate the legacy of Archbishop Richard Robinson to create an exhibition, audio installation and a legacy pen-portrait of modern Armagh, whether they are warty and worldly, or wishful hopes, dreams and wonderings.
Splendid The Congress of The Beasts – an exhibition of new art works from artist Helen Sharp inspired by the menagerie of animals to be found within the books and prints of the Robinson Library.
Liberal: Filling the Void: Archbishop Richard Robinson had all his letters burned after his death. With the citizens, Maria McManus creates an epistolary legacy of new letters to fill the void, from the professional to the confessional, from love to loathing and from the curious to the confirmatory.
Lofty Whispering from the Sky – a sound installation by composer Simon Waters and modern citizens of Armagh on the 1770 census of Armagh which is archived in the Robinson Library.
Maria McManus (Poet) is the author of Available Light (Arlen House, 2018), We are Bone (2013), The Cello Suites(2009) and Reading the Dog (2006) (Lagan Press). She has collaborated extensively with others producing performance pieces for choir (18, with composer Keith Acheson) dance (TURF and DUST with Eileen McClory) and multi-art form collaborations. She is Artistic Director and curator of Poetry Jukebox, an on-street audio installation of contemporary poetry.
also supported by Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Council