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Galway 2020: New audio artwork brings the sounds of the West of Ireland to patients’ bedsides

Date posted: 4 November 2020

Image shown: POST_ location photograph, Deirdre O'Mahony, 2019.

On Monday 9 November, Saolta Arts and Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture launch another specially commissioned artwork as part of The Deepest Shade of Green programme. POST_ is an online audio-based work by Deirdre O’Mahony which takes listeners on an aural journey through the Western region, connecting them with places and practices that cannot be reached, and exploring the healing power of being in nature.

Over an 18-month period, the artist travelled with sound recordist John Brennan to locations served by the Saolta University Health Care Group, capturing the unique sounds of people and place. These recordings and a scripted voiceover were then woven together to evoke life on land and sea. A series of photographs which document the artist’s recording process is being exhibited across Saolta’s seven hospitals with a QR Code, giving staff and patients access to the online audio artwork.

The work takes its name from the rural post office that O’Mahony reopened as a public art project and social exchange in 2007. Its seven chapters are inspired by objects found in the ex-post office and navigate through distinct landscapes of the West and sites associated with the health of the spirit, ending with the slow awakening of an ancient Oak woodland at dawn, recorded during the deep silence of lockdown. Whilst the work was always intended for hospital communities and the wider public, it proffers greater resonance as it launches during Level 5 restrictions. Speaking about the work the artist said, “As we better understand the benefits of nature to mental wellbeing, POST_ allows everybody to take an aural road trip to the West of Ireland and visit places and practices that cannot physically be experienced, whether through hospital admission or within wider communities”.

The commission evolved through a series of conversations which drew parallels between O’Mahony’s public engagement in rural places with aspects of the Saolta Arts participative programme, where a patient’s time with an artist helps them to connect with what matters to them outside the hospital. The Deepest Shade of Green programme was inspired by a book of writing by patients at Merlin Park University Hospital, in which older people shared their knowledge of the Irish landscape and its customs, and the considerable knowledge of the former postmaster explored in POST_’s opening chapter is reminiscent of a generation of patients who left school early but never stopped learning.

In partnership with Saolta University Health Care Group, POST_ is part of a series of exhibitions and commissioned artworks which explore the importance of connecting hospitals with the natural world. These bring nature and familiar landscapes of the West into the wards, corridors, and waiting rooms of Saolta’s hospitals, so that patients, staff and visitors might imaginatively escape the clinical environment.

POST_officially launches on Monday 9 November 2020 and can be listened to at https://saoltaarts.com/stories/post/

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