Artists raise awareness of migrant sufferings with public installation

GiddyBiddy Collective presents Infinity: Mainguard St, Galway, 18 September


Press Office

Date Article Written: 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Giddy Biddy Collective, a Galway-based artists group, volunteering with the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture bid, are proud to present INFINITY, a project born in response to Europe’s forced migration issues, for  Galway’s Culture night, Friday 18th September 2015.  INFINITY, takes the form of a participatory art installation centred on social awareness which is designed to provoke personal response from viewers.

The INFINITY art installation takes the form of a 20 foot shipping container which will be located on Galway City’s bustling Mainguard Street. Eight volunteers will enter the container on Friday 18 September at 11am where they will remain in the confined space in complete darkness for twenty four hours until 11am on Saturday 19 September. Emulating the conditions which are now viewed daily in our international news, the volunteers will only have 2 litres of water and the only sanitation will be in the form of a portable toilet. It will be dark and there is no food or technology in the space.


With this unique initiative, as Galway 2020 bids to become European Capital of Culture, the Giddy Biddy Collective (comprised of three GMIT art students) aims to raise awareness of the plight faced daily by victims of forced migration across Europe, through the medium of art. The near death experiences of migrants being reported on a daily basis from the Mediterranean and the inhuman conditions in which they are forced to travel, has inspired the INFINITY installation to highlight the reality of the situation in Europe by applying it to Galway citizens.  Yvonne Casburn of the Giddy Biddy Art Installation Project quotes Peter Sutherland the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for International Migration who recently said “The fundamental issue here is saving people who are drowning in the Mediterranean. This is not about getting into battles about quotas when we are facing a humanitarian crisis”.  The Galway2020 European Capital of Culture bid team led by Patricia Philbin, have praised the project and are supporting it, “it’s a discerning artistic and cultural response to a pressing European issue. We are proud to be involved with the initiative as it reflects the importance of shared European relations and highlights the influential role that can be played by culture in contemporary matters which is an underlying definition of the European Capital of Culture bid”.


Just as the Galway 2020 bid embraces a significant European dimension – blending European Culture with Galway Culture – this project encapsulates and centres on both the European challenge of forced migration and Galway citizens’ response to the crisis. The Galway 2020 Team hope the project will initiate local debates on European issues such as that of forced migration which, as we have recently seen in the press, is becoming more and more urgent as days go by. Galway 2020 Project Manager,  Patricia Philbin highly regards the unique INFINITY installation; ‘We recognise the need for immediate consideration of this migration crisis and are sure that the Giddy Biddy’s remarkable dedication to art and to social issues with this project will spark a much-needed conversation and raise awareness at a local Galway level. The participants who will take their place in the container have displayed a dedication to aiding this crisis that is both inspiring and thought-provoking, and we are delighted to support them in this artistic demonstration.’


The Giddy Biddy’s collective was founded by GMIT  artists Philippa Maguire, Derval Leahy and Yvonne Casburn.  The INFINITY project is being curated by John Langan  artist and educator at Galway-Mayo  Institute of Technology. The members of the Giddy Biddy Collective identify the premise that everyone is infinitely connected and as artists, feel that “we are all directly  or indirectly responsible for the fact that 50 million people are forced to migrate from their home country each year.’ Artist Phillipa Maguire, will be entering the container along with her GMIT Creative Arts Lecturer in artist/ curator, John Langan.  Outlining her motivation in taking an active role in INFINITY, ‘I feel responsible in a personal way for the fact that as I stand on Galway docks and take a deep breath of clean sea air while behind me is industrial waste. This waste is shipped out of Galway every month. Where it goes exactly I don’t know, but similar waste is dumped across the other side of the world where a little old lady crouches outside her makeshift home sifting through this waste which has poisoned her water  and the air she breathes. Seven miles before you come to her village the smell of ammonia is overpowering. She now has to pay for her water, breath in polluted air and her crops won’t grow. When her children are forced to migrate to find a better life they end up coming to my country because I have polluted theirs.’


Curator John Langan on the initiative; ‘The Infinity Project marks a significant artistic activity in the field of Participatory Arts practice. In undertaking the project our three art degree students in The Giddy Biddy Collective have found a way of representing the awful plight of so many people in an imaginative, respectful and multi-dimensional way. Their integrity around the issue of forced migration is particularly important at this time where millions of people have been forced to flee their home countries because of war, persecution, and oppression.  As curator of the project I feel it is critical for artists to engage with the concepts of change and the realities of how this affects society and culture. Our students, like many in civil societies, have been informed by the current humanitarian crisis and all its political, cultural, social and economic implications. Their intention, to raise awareness through the active participation of the viewer or audience interrogates issues around, immigration, national identity and politics and is rooted in the tradition of Relational Aesthetics. Mainguard Street, Galway on the 18-19 of September promises to be a happening place.’


With this initiative the Giddy Biddy Collective hope to raise awareness of the plight faced by refugees by highlighting what is happening and demonstrating it through Galway’s thriving art scene. They are aware of the emotional and physical turmoil that conditions such as this can induce and would like to ensure followers of the project that all participants will meet with their GP prior to the event. Each participant has met with a mindfulness coach and a councillor to ensure they are prepared for the instillation. This unique and progressive project is supported by Galway 2020, Culture Night, and Centre for Creative Arts and Media at GMIT, SCCUL Enterprises and Sony Ford & Son Transport.


See for more details.


Press release courtesy of Darcy Marketing Galway.