There has been a lot of talk recently about certain politicians in Northern Ireland drawing lines in the sand over the controversial Maze peace centre project. So it’s great to find an artist at work drawing lines in the sand quite literally as part of a “Wish” for Belfast which will be a major attraction for visitors to the Titanic Quarter next month.
Internationally acclaimed Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada is working alongside volunteers and communities from all over the city to create a giant land-art portrait that will transform five acres of land in the Titanic Quarter. The unveiling of this work of art will open the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s on Thursday 17th October.
During a visit to the Titanic Centre at lunchtime, which I am glad to say was very busy with visitors, I happened to meet Jorge. He was taking a short break from the project to grab a sandwich. I was taking some photographs of the project for this blog. I had been watching him in action earlier from my vantage point in the upper floors of the Titanic building. The first picture shows him (on the right of the group of three) working on what will be the right eye of the face (left in the second picture). The area of the eye can also be seen in the above picture.
Rodriguez-Gerada has created poignant land-art portraits all over the world such as this sand painting of President Barack Obama he created in Barcelona in 2009 entitled Expectation. It embodied the immense sense of hope felt by Barack Obama’s supporters following his inauguration and raised a mirror to reflect the source of that hope.
Jorge told me his grandparents were Cuban and he lived there for a time. The biography on his website describes him as a founder of the New York Culture Jamming movement and an innovator in the international urban art scene. Since the late 90´s he has been replacing the faces of cultural icons chosen by advertisers with the faces of anonymous people to question the controls imposed on public space, the role models designated and the type of events that are guarded by the collective memory.
Rodríguez-Gerada´s unique direction was mentioned in Naomi Klein’s book No Logo and was a precursor of the use of anonymous portraits now common in street art. His spectacular interventions are created for the sake of bringing awareness to relevant social issues. His large scale time base works avoid negative impact on the environment, challenge the conformity in contemporary art and allow for a reflection that goes beyond the completion of the piece to focus in its concept, process, and the metaphor that comes forth because of the material chosen.
His latest piece represents his first land-art work in the UK or Ireland. The final piece will be created using sand, topsoil and other materials sourced solely from the land. Entitled ‘Wish’, the portrait of an anonymous local child gazing towards the future will represent a new face for Belfast on the old face of the city.
Wish is situated on 11 acres of land (about six times the size of the nearby Odyssey complex) and can be viewed by the public once the festival opens from high up in one of the adjacent buildings on specially escorted tours, as well by walking through the art itself. Visitors flying in and out of George Best Belfast City Airport will also get a bird’s eye view of this transformative contemporary art installation. Jorge tells me that for those taking off (usually heading away from Belfast Lough and towards the city centre), the seats on the right hand side of the plane will offer passengers the best views. I can’t say for sure how it will work out for those landing!
Public viewing from W5
At 30 minute intervals between the following times: Thurs 17th 12pm – 3pm Fri 18th 12pm – 3pm Sat 19th 11am – 4pm Sun 20th 1pm – 4pm Mon 21st – Fri 25th 12pm – 3pm Sat 26th 11am – 4pm Sun 27th 1pm – 4pm
If you would like to book a time to view Wish from W5, please click here.
Public viewing from Belfast Met
At 30 minute intervals between the following times: Thurs 17th 12pm – 4pm Fri 18th 12pm – 4pm Sat 19th 10am – 12pm Sun 20th 1pm – closed Mon 21st – Fri 25th 12pm – 4pm Sat 26th 10am – 12pm
If you would like to book a time to view Wish from Belfast Met, please click here.
Public viewing from Titanic Belfast (LIMITED AVAILABILITY) Sat 19 Oct: 11am / 12noon / 1pm / 2pm / 3pm Sun 20 Oct: 11am and 12noon Sat 26 Oct: 11am and 12noon Sun 27 Oct: 11am and 12noon
If you would like to book a time to view Wish from Titanic Belfast, please click here.