Blackstaff is Belfast

Locative media sound walk accompanied by gallery based video installation exhibited within the ISEA 2009 juried exhibit held at Ormeau Baths, Belfast from 7th of August until the 29th, 2009.

The Blackstaff River, a principal tributary of the Lagan River, flows underground from the south of the city to the centre. The majority of the river was culverted (constricted to artificial channels beneath the city) in the late 19th century. A second major culverting operation was undertaken in the 1990s.

Prior to Belfast’s industrialisation, the river coursed through woodland, parkland, meadows and natural flood planes. By 1881 the river had become severely polluted and was regarded as an obstruction to urban growth. A news piece from the time commented: “All agree that the Blackstaff must be buried out of sight”.

‘Blackstaff is Belfast’ seeks to unearth the Blackstaff River. The river is to be rehabilitated and reinstated. It shall, once again, flow freely through the heart of the city. The inflictions of modernity that had rendered the Blackstaff River grotesque shall be remedied. The river will once more become a source of growth and beauty.

Visitors to the host gallery, Ormeau Baths are invited to undertake a short augmented walk along the course of the river. Through the use of mobile technologies, a participant will be able to hear the sounds of the river flowing underground. As the walk continues history shall be reversed and the river will begin to surge back on to the land. The walk will culminate at the site where the Blackstaff River had previously entered the Lagan. Here the participant will experience the river as it was before urban settlement: a time of natural harmony.

Video depicts a walk through the Gasworks portion of the work. Overlaid sound is an example of what the participant would hear through their headphones as they traverse the augmented site.

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