Mary Conroy’s work investigates humans’ connection with nature through socially-engaged practice, including participation and intervention. For the Memory of Water podcast, she talks us through her three projects developed during the international residency programme in Levadia, Gdańsk and Govan, engaging with the natural environment in three distinct locations. She also shares how she adapted her contribution in Scotland through a remote but authentic engagement with local community following COVID-19 restrictions on travel.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at Stocznia Gdańska. From the historical images I’d seen of the cranes, the industry and the crowds during the events of the solidarity movement, I could imagine the shouting, the clanging of iron, workers and machines noisily building gigantic ships to travel the globe.Read More
I had no idea that Govan had once been bigger than Glasgow. I was excited by the decorative buildings, monuments and the stories of engineering innovation and rebellion, solidarity and kindness by Govan’s great men and women.
A cycle along the banks of the Clyde with the persistent drizzly rain made everything seem very familiar. There were parts of the Clyde where I felt I could have been cycling by the River Shannon in Ireland, with overhanging willow trees, the odd cormorant diving (presumably for eels), and the slow, deep water rising and falling with the tides.
After meeting representatives of community groups, I realised that the solidarity and support that Mary Barbour had harnessed still existed and was visible through networks of community groups and social enterprises. The social fabric of this city is a complex one.
The dry docks (they weren’t dry, it rained that day too!) surprised me, the community of trees and plants here are well established. I sat for an hour watching the locals quietly go about their business, the pigeons that live under the bridge, the butterflies feeding on the buddleia, the bees, spiders, the ducks, a young magpie family. All these creatures call this place home.
It was a whirlwind introduction to Levadia and some of its citizens. A generous welcome awaited us led by the mayor showing us the tradition of Xenia – Greek hospitality at its finest! The week was spent meeting people, all of whom have had an impact on, or been impacted by the landscape, culture, history and traditions of Levadia and the Erkyna River in particular.
The river flows from high in the mountains, fed by multiple springs as it reaches the town. It then passes through old mills, man-made falls, locks, and under bridges until it relaxes into its natural pathway at the other side of town, gently flowing through an unfinished and unnamed public park. This unnamed park, sitting beside a giant unfinished government building and shows a town at a standstill. But the river is in constant flow, always squeezing through the barriers put in place by industrious humans over the centuries. Erkyna was there before the people of Levadia. It inspired myths and legends. How can we bring this powerful history back to life? How do we infuse the citizens of Levadia, through contemporary art, with the energy and power of the beautiful yet unstoppable Erkyna?
– Mary Conroy (Ireland)