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The Green Room Project

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Artist Pauline Keena, Deputy Mayor Paddy MacNamara and County Arts Officer Lucina Russell at the launch of "The Green Room Project" in the Rotunda Hospital

Minister for Health Opens The Green Room Project at Rotunda Hospital

On Wednesday 15th October 2008, 12.30pm, Minister for Health  and Children, Mary Harney TD, launched ‘The Green Room Project’, a groundbreaking art exhibition at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.  The project is an artistic collaboration between visual artist Pauline Keena and a group of mothers who experienced the loss of an infant.  Minister Harney in her piece for the exhibition catalogue said “It is a loss that is difficult to articulate. I hope this project can help to penetrate the darkness”.

Responding to an advertisement by the artist in the ISANDS Newsletter, bereaved mothers embarked on an artistic project through an artists residency in the clinical environment of the Rotunda Hospital in 2007-2008.  By implicating the process of grief and mourning in an artmaking process, the project allowed the mothers to explore a range of emotions around the loss of their infant - profound grief, unspeakable loss and sense of failure.  As one of the mothers involved in the project said, “The art I made was basically many, many different ways of saying the same things: I think of you, I miss you and I love you”. 

Keena, an artist from Clane, Co Kildare was funded by Kildare County Council Supports for Professional Artist programme to carry out the work as part of her research into her own practice.  Her previous career as a neo-natal mid wife was the impetus for ‘The Green Room Project’ and allowed her to work with the mothers in an informed and sensitive way.  Her experiences as a midwife resonate through Keena's own artistic practice by implicating the work with narratives specific to midwifery that engage the mothers body and language in the mother’s body. Keena is currently researching the work of linguist and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva.

Through ‘The Green Room Project’, the artist’s idea was to “investigate and explore, through an engagement with ideas, processes, procedures, materials and making how the physicality of grief could be languaged in a vocabulary specific to itself”.  It is clear that participation in the project has also been deeply beneficial to the four mothers who worked with Keena,  “I had always hidden, not even known how intense the loss was, I never let myself believe how devastated I truly was. In many ways I had never said how sad I was, how hurt, how devastated at losing my baby. Here I was, all those years later, expressing and processing all that could not be said or mentioned or felt then”.

The exhibition consists of a series of framed prints, drawings, stained glass and a number of poignant miniature baby garments, as well as a neon signage artwork, by the artist entitled ‘Are You Sure You Had a Baby’, inspired by a comment made to one of the mothers after the loss of her child. 

The research and development phases of this project and the subsequent exhibition forms part of Kildare County Council’s Arts in Health Programme, which is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.  The exhibition will run in the Education Exhibition Room at Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, from Tuesday 21st October to Tuesday 11th November 2008.