The Bluebell Interactive Park, sited at the Brandywell in Derry is a steep embankment of land that has been reclaimed by the community as an interactive play space. The site is challenging in its shape and slope. My aim was to provide unusual but engaging outdoor musical instruments and sensory artefacts that would stand up to aggressive play.

Users communicate with each other through the snakes

The Question Mark ModelThe sound play area is constructed around a 2 metre wide by 1m deep concrete-lined underground chamber. This chamber provides a resonant space and an interconnect for the 4 snakes. Each of the snakes is a different distance from the chamber and has a different reverberation time. The overarching symbolism in the sonic sculptural elements of the site represents rebirth, potential within a community and a connection to the land from which we come. Ultimately it is about hope for the future. St Patrick, having driven the ‘snakes’ out of Ireland, would I think have approved of their re-introduction in this context!

This symbol has many varied interpretations in history, in life and in mythology. It has been associated both with positive and negative symbolism. In this installation it is a positive signifier, intended to represent the community and its development. Each of the four snakes is one of a pair, two parents and two children, yet within each couple you will find individual character and presentation.

In natural life, the snake sheds its skin, divesting itself of old constricting binds in order that it may grow and renew itself. Underneath lies a new skin, perfect in its potential and in its projection of itself.

The simplest 'Question Mark' shape

Alpha doesn't feel the cold

The stainless steel from which the snakes are constructed represents this new skin, a contemporary material for a contemporary people, a strong material to represent the resilience of the community, a reflective material to reflect the life that surrounds it.

In this series of 4 sculptures, the snakes are interconnected through the earth, as is the community whom they are intended to represent.

They provide a conduit through which visitors can listen directly to the very earth upon which they build their community. What they hear will be that which is filtered through the other snakes, each emphasising a different frequency of the surrounding soundscape.

Because the snakes are interconnected, they also represent and provide opportunity for communication with each other and a reflection of one’s own words. The sonic effect means that a visitor will hear reflections of their own voices, made so by the journey through the earth, the void and the other snakes.

Stainless eggs to symbolise rebirth

Clearly the eggs signify ‘new life’, their meaning is simply ‘potential’. The potential may be taken to refer to the hopes and dreams of the community. As with the snakes, the choice of stainless steel as the fabrication material is significant; meaning that while it is difficult to damage the potential from outside, when the time is right, it will blossom from within.

A clutch of stainless eggs under a bush

The polished finish of the eggs reflects an ‘inside looking out’ view of the faces andthe immediate environment of those who gaze upon them. The eggs represent the people, and that potential is within and around the visitor.

Two or more people viewing the same egg simultaneously will each see a slightly different view those around them, themselves and their surroundings, in this way it mirrors life and how we all view it differently. The two larger snakes are each coiled around an egg in a nesting position. They extend the metaphors above, indicating the community’s protection & nurturing of positive hope & dreams for the future of the community.

Drum Seating

The drum seats are dedicated to three of the indigenous trees of this area viz Oak, Ash and Holly.

Drumseats pre-installation

The script carved into the pieces is written in English to reflect the working language of the contemporary people; Gaelic to represent the culture and heritage of the area; and, Ogham to represent the trees themselves and their ancient connection to this land.

Aside from the practical aspects of the seats, they function as drums. Using stainless steel delivers a particular metallic and bright sound. Each seat has a distinct pitch providing elements of the sound palette.

Detail of the etching

Sonic elements designed by Paul Marshall

Stainless fabrication by George Adams Engineering, N’ards; PF Copeland, Mallusk and Jordan Metalwork N’Ards.

Landscape Architect Peter McDonald, Groundwork NI

Project Management Conor Heaney Bogside and Brandywell Initiative

Site Contractor Robert Todd, Boyd Landscapes, Ballyclare.

This project was funded by the Department of Social Development. It would not have been possible without their support.

photocrati gallery