I have been thinking about designing a set of tarot cards for several years. I had always played with them and my mother had played with them. I remembered the athmosphere of mystery and awe that the cards inspired and also the attention and respect that was always afforded them. All felt the potential of knowledge that accompanied them.
In May 2013, I began to consider the next chapter of the work which would become The Public Worry Project. A young friend and I had created a series of images of hands which had been waiting to be called into service as a deck of cards.
Reading Ann Cvetkovich, and Lauren Berlant and their writing on public feelings paved the way for an intervention that would incorporate card readings and an intimate domestic type setting. The table, two chairs, the deck of "cards" and some homemade signage and a "worry box" created the set on which this project has been performed in towns and cities in the south and west of Ireland. I set out to research and collect Public worries or other feelings attached to Social, Environmental, Economic and Conflict issues that people were experiencing in this time of chaos and uncertainty
The Public Worry Project
"Now after a century of radical deskilling, to speak of artistic competence is to sound suspiciously conservative — at least to the ears of the experts policing the confines of the field. But competence is not to be confused here with artistic métier or skill in the fine arts tradition. In fact it is to be understood as virtually synonymous with incompetence, for the promise of social practice is founded on mutualizing incompetence, inasmuch as only the ingenuousness and ingenuity of incompetence can bring a competence to the fore. As Robert Filliou once famously put it in his equivalency principle, there is in art a fundamental equivalency between the well done, the poorly done, and the not done."
part of a response to “What is the promise of social practice?” asked by Bill Kelley Jnr. at 18th St. Los Angeles , by Steven Wright, 2013
Ennis Street Festival July 6th 2013
Limerick, TomCat street Festival June, 2013
Kilorglin, Co. Kerry. Puck Fair August 2013
The Public worries were collected and each person was asked to suggest an action they could take themselves in relation to the issue they brought or some action they would like society to take. These were dictatated as I wrote them out on tissue and documented each feeling and each action.
In the next few weeks I will upload these Public feelings, actions and the issues and concerns that have inspired them. Thank you to all who participated, the Irish and the many other nationalities who took the opportunity to Speak out. September 4th 2013
In front of the Courthouse, during Kilkenny Arts Festival. August 2013
Kilkenny Arts festival, August 13th 2013
Starting in Limerick at the Tom Cat Street Festival, in June 2013, people quickly began to form queues which I was surprised by initially, given that there was no attempt or promise of fortune telling. I quickly identified myself as artist and extended an invitation to speak to the public issues and sources of worry that people were affected by. Undeterred, the participants sat with the process and there were exchanges of perspectives on the social, economic, psychological, environmental and the spiritual. Conversations became political and thoughtful.
This continued to be the experience at The Ennis Street Festival a few weeks later.
Galway during the Arts Festival basked in untypically warm weather and In Eyre Square people sat around on the grass and watched and waited for the chair to become free so that they could read the cards. The ritual of silence as the cards were shuffled allowed a focus and a clarity.I could have continued for many hours but it was not physically possible for me to continue without breaks. Perhaps there needs to be more tables and more "invitors" ?
Using the images of the gesturing hands that formed the content of the cards, extended as an instrument to focus the mind and emotions, people were readily able to identify the issues that concerned them and the affectedness that influenced their daily lives as a result.
As I became more confident I understood that the space created through the project was allowing individuals to free their dissenting voices and to do so, in the open air, in public, with no seclusion, in full view of all.
The intention at all times was and is to simply allow the voices of the participants. Listening, while any therapeutic consequence, was incidental.
There was a lively and enlivening aspect to the experience for those who participated and also for myself. Whatever shape an artwork would take out this process, the process became the aesthetic and continues to shape itself as the project continues.
The PUBLIC WORRY PROJECT moved indoors for the first time in ENNISTYMON, Co. Clare, on Friday October 25th 2013
at The Guru Tea House in an event which described the project and opened a group space from which people addressed more societal concerns, this time, witnessed by the gathered community. Following this event everyone moved to the Courthouse Gallery in the town to post their statements, which had been written on post-its, into an installation piece which formed part of the Exhibition "Feasting On The Wind", an initiative of the GROUNDUP Artists Collective, of which The artist is a member. Link
For the duration of the Exhibition people continued to engage with the cards the instructions and they continued to add their comments their concerns and I believe they really made use of the installation in ways that were different yet related to the street process.