a special commission for the festival to mark the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland

In a special commission for the festival and to mark the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland, East Belfast resident and artist John Baucher has made a celebratory ceremonial cloak and a “bullet proof” vest. The “Loyalty cloak” is comprised of a linen frame with found, gifted and retrieved flags sewn and combined with antique silk ‘Empire flags’. John worked collaboratively with experienced textile designer and artist, Emily McIlwaine (EM Textiles) who helped design and produce not just the cloak but the linen frame for the cloak and a linen gilet undergarment for the ‘bullet proof vest ‘. The vest designed by John is comprised of brass flag eyelets and cable ties that John hand made. Both artefacts are described as wearable “performative artefacts”.

This installation engages a number of themes, ceremonial commemoration and remembrance being the most obvious. The commodification of remembrance and identity are also part of the conversation. The work is referencing trench art (repurposing and re imaging) along with the artists own experience of the syncretic nature of belief he witnessed in Haiti a year after the devastating earthquake.

According to John: “It’s my wish that the installation will stimulate questions such as – when do flags get retired? What are the protocols? Is that something that perhaps could be initiated? When is a flag not a flag? Who owns the copyright to flags?”

“I’m intensely aware of the sensitivities of working with these flags. I’ve been entrusted with them over the years so this commission is an opportunity to utilise them respectfully, paying all due attention to the possible mis-readings of the work. It is an area of previous and ongoing dissonance within the broader community so naturally I wish to create something that sparks positivities, perhaps a smile and a nod of oh okay I see what you mean.”

Join John for a live Zoom talk from his studio at Vault Artists Studio on 27th March 6.00-7.00pm as he discusses this new work along with his work process. Expect an entertaining and illuminating talk guided by an artist with a 25 year career.

Installation funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Department for Communities.