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Public Artwork

My Grandfather Lived by the Sea

My Grandfather Lived by the Sea, 2012

Şile, Turkey


My Grandfather lived by the Sea is a participatory installation in public space. The work originates from my residency in Şile, Turkey in 2012.


Sile has held a long engagement with the sea, from the 7th Century BC, Phrygian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman Empires, The town has witnessed many cultures settling upon its coastline. There is a connection to the Greek legends such as Jason and the Golden fleece, the legend of Xenophon (rumoured to have stayed in a cave on the coastline) to links to the silk road and in the last few hundreds years the town has been an important port town for fisherman and trade.


A key architectural feature of the Şile landscape and many other parts of Turkey are the traditional wooden houses. The ornate storybook-style buildings lead a tenuous existence susceptible to neglect, fire and Mother Nature. In the growing cities and towns of Turkey, real estate is in high demand and some Turkish families can’t afford to maintain the delicate wooden structures. In the push for new housing, many of the old wooden homes are illegally burnt down, left to collapse or decay.


The focus is on the sentimental embodiment of intimate objects, photographs and daily rituals pertaining to our loved ones past and present. Loved ones are the fabric of daily life; intimate objects and rituals are a vehicle to revisit the memories of those who have passed. I carry with me a photograph of my Grandfather, John Deane who passed in 1996 when I was 15 years old. 


The sea is a passageway, the seaside a liminal space; it is the beginning or end of journey. My Grandfather lived by the Sea grants the participant a gateway to cross the threshold between these two worlds. 


The doorway and window are open onto a place across the ocean where perhaps a loved one has passed on, or is unwell or perhaps lives a great distance away. 


Participants gather at the waters edge, to inscribe the name of a loved one on the side of a paper boat. One turkish biscuit for the participant and one biscuit for the absent loved one is placed alongside a small candle stub in the paper boat. 


Participants then pass through the wooden door to walk to the waters edge, taking time to contemplate their loved one and partake in a ritual of sharing food, they then light the candle and place the boat on the water.


In that moment there is unity in liminal space, all people are equal and connected in mutuality.

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