IRISH FAMINE MEMORIALSydney

The main focus of the sculpture design is the dislocation of the Barracks southern sandstone wall. A section of this wall has been dismantled and rebuilt on a rotated axis. In the space of the demolished wall two glass panels bearing sandblasted inscriptions of women’s names are inscribed and a cast-bronze table intersects the stone wall.

The rotated sandstone wall represents disruption and dislocation. Its rotation results in a gap which provides the viewer with a degree of visual accessibility to both sides of the art work. The effect of the observer being unable to walk through or view the work in its totality is maintained. The viewer is obliged to rely on memory in order to complete the image and make it whole.
The table, split in two, has on one end a simple bowl with a void in its base that continues through the table. At the other end is a simple institutional table setting with utensils, also cast in bronze. Although the table is divided and even dislocated by the stone wall it represents an element of continuity and a link between the two sides of both the sculpture and the lives of those who immigrated. The table and the more intimate spaces created within the rotated wall evoke the domestic nature of life and work for the majority of Irish women migrants while their simplicity and sparseness allude to the subject of Famine.

The glass walls with finely sandblasted names of women gradually fading from one side to the other indicates their large numbers, their country of origin and adds an ethereal quality or lightness. The faint and fading quality of the text on the glass panels also indicates the frail and inconstant nature of memory.

The other element of the work is a soundscape created by Paul Carter which is located within the courtyard’s solitary Lilli Pilli tree. Carter, Melbourne artist and writer, noted that the soundscape was called ‘Out of their feeling’ indicating that as the list of the dead increased, the living were ‘out of their feeling’. This meant that at a certain point the suffering had gone beyond speech. Carter and the Valamaneshes decided to locate the soundscape work in a Lilli Pilli tree in the precincts of Hyde Park Barracks. It looks very isolated and orphaned and is an appropriate site. He said he ‘wanted to have that small tree become as it were, a pool of silence amid all the clamour of the city traffic’.