Boxopera

BOXOPERA manifests the claustrophobia of the pandemic through the writings and paintings of local people; a time of being corralled into small spaces where only imagination and creativity offered entry into wider vistas. Within these small spaces the operas of real life unfolded. The name of the installation was inspired by Benedict Kiely’s book Proxopera, set amidst the Troubles, in which the main character himself is in a situation which is antithetical to all he believes in.

The artists’ work was presented in black and white, displayed within four wooden box frames. In the centre of three of the boxes was an etching of a bird’s nest, representing the notion of ’home’. The fourth box had no nest.

Nests are made up of bits and pieces of broken things perhaps the odd shiny treasure. Nests are both fragile and resilient –  withstanding storms, winds, and rain – yet in a moment they can be destroyed. During the various lockdowns life centred around our imperfect homes. The top box which had no nest reminded us that not everyone had a home in which to hunker down. Four pieces of writing were suspended inside each box by fine fishing line, suggesting how, during the pandemic, many felt that time was suspended or that they were suspended in time and boxed in.  Ironically one of the few methods of communication we had during the pandemic were the boxes (computer screens) on which we pursued our lives.

In one of the boxes was an image of the fox, implying that predators too had gone to ground, and that not all homes were safe.  The original full-colour painting of the fox was on display in a space apart from the installation.

The installation was held on December 9th, in a building with two sides open to the elements. Storm Elin was predicted for that day. Conor Shields, CEO of Community Arts Partnership (CAP) travelled from Belfast – a journey which should have taken about an hour and a half. Due to the floods, closed roads, and consequent diversions he was inevitably late yet he kept driving, determined to be with us, determined not to find himself boxed off.

BOXOPERA started as an installation, but as the artists read and performed their work –  their voices rising above the winds – it became a moving performance. Storm Elin threatened to rip and tear asunder the installation, but the artists instinctively circled their work, protected their creativity and supported each other in their readings.

In the words of Pat Brady, a visitor to the installation:

It is the abiding image I retain of the event: and it is of the steely defiance of you and your artistic community, of the elements that did their best to wreck your event and of your individual and collective determination not to let them!!

Those wonderful spoken words outwitted the winds!

Magnificent!!

A triumph!

Well done!

A hint of King Lear!”

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

Teresa Kane

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