Fóidín Mearbhaill – A field in transition
by John Langan
Fóidín Mearbhaill – A field in transition is a public art project directed by John Langan. Fóidín Mearbhaill or Meara is according to folklore, especially in the West of Ireland, a widely-held superstition that the fairies sometimes put a spell on a piece of earth, usually a sod of grass. Whoever inadvertently steps upon it loses their way at once and cannot find an exit until the fairies tire of their game and at last throw open the unseen doors. It is also widely believed that one can counter the spell by turning one’s coat inside out and so wearing it. (See: Mac Manus. Dermot,The Middle Kingdom: the Faerie World of Ireland. The Irish fóidín, clod of earth thrown up by flying feet; mearaí, craziness, distraction, wandering).
In this case, it is the artist and those who stepped into the field in Carrowcauly, Ballymote, who became the enchanted ones. Fóidín Meara is an artistic engagement with a place and its people which examines the transformation and diversity of rural Sligo.
In autumn 2007 John Langan asked Mary McDonagh of Sligo Arts Service to help him find a random field where he might base his work. The selection was based on an investigation of the County Council’s current land bank with particular reference to the south of the county. As a result, a site of approximately 1.2 acres was chosen, close to the town of Ballymote in the town land of Carrowcauley or Earlsfield, in the parish of Emlaghfad. This began an artistic process that involved an on-site residency by the artist and a collaboration between an archaeologist, horticulturalist, farmer, website designer and others. The planting of flax, the creation of a crop drawing and the discovery of two roadways through an archaeological survey of the field are just some of the fascinating actions directed by the artist during his time in Ballymote.
John Langan has found a way of representing the transition of a rural site in an imaginative and multi-dimensional way. The past, present and the future of the field are transformed through the artist’s eyes.
Fóidín Mearbhaill-A field in transition, is part of Unravelling Developments, a series of public art commissioned by Sligo County Council and curated by Joe Lee.