Lived Lives

art installation by Seamus McGuinness at Pavee Point, Dublin
art installation by Seamus McGuinness at Pavee Point, Dublin

A better world. Isn’t that what most people want? I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of global politics and, even though my thoughts are very much with the people of France this week, I’ll stick with the post I was writing and tell you about an art exhibition at Pavee Point in Dublin’s inner city.

Did you know that suicide accounted for 11% of all deaths in the Travelling community in Ireland? – or that male Travellers are 6.6 times more likely to die by suicide than males in the general Irish population? High suicide rates are observed in many indigenous ethnic communities around the world but not to the same extent as those observed in Irish Travellers.

“Lived Lives” is a touring exhibition which arose from engagements with over a hundred families about the lives of their loved ones, lost to suicide. It was such a deeply affecting exhibition. In one room, items donated by the families – dancing shoes, a coffee cup, a trophy, a football jersey, a debs dress, an electric guitar… items that reminded them of their young people’s lives. In another room, a video of family members talking about them, and then finally, the installation of shirt collars (above), each collar weighing 21 grams to signify the imagined weight of the soul as it leaves the body.

A series of workshops was organised during the exhibition to encourage people to talk about suicide. Artist Seamus McGuinness writes: “by working together in a creative manner, we aim to bridge, translate and transform the divide between awareness, knowledge and action that is sustained by stigma in relation to suicide within an indigenous minority ethnic group.” This was a collaborative arts/science project, in collaboration with Prof. Kevin M. Malone of UCD. Everyone we met at Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre was kind and supportive.

A better world? I believe that art can definitely make a difference. What do you think?  Click on the little brown speech bubble up at the top right of this post and put your comment there. Talk soon, eoin





  1. A very interesting blog Eoin and the artwork is haunting. I too believe that art can help to change attitudes, increase understanding and enable expression of difficult and painful feelings.


  2. Haunting image, the shirt collars.

    I think if I’d seen them without the explanation, I’d have felt that they were disturbing, but they wouldn’t have had the impact that they do now I know the story.

    Which brings me to question an old idea I’ve probably always held, that the best art doesn’t need an explanation in order to move people. I used to think that if you couldn’t understand a piece without some kind of decoding, then it wasn’t really art, but some sort of intellectual exercise. I think differently now.

    The newer conceptual art like the one above, art made with an idea at its centre, is not just image, but is just as much words. The words, photos, – all the media used for the art statement are one whole and contribute to the strength of the message.
    thanks Eoin.


    • Thank you Sarah for your thought-provoking comment. For myself, I’d often turn away from art that has too much text to it. If I’m not at first captivated by the visual aspect, I mighten give it the time to find out more. I suppose that it depends on what kind of person you are… some people like words, others like colours etc… there’s an awful lot of theory coming out of art colleges these days 😦


  3. A better world? Well, I think that all of us can make a difference. A little bit of kindness shown to a stranger in a form of a friendly smile, I believe that even this can do wonders. I try to always remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi – “be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

    As for suicides, it’s a massive problem in Lithuania. If we count suicides per 100,000 people per year, Lithuania is in the 4th place! overtaken only by Guyana, South Korea and Sri Lanka. We loose 28 people a year from that 100 thousand. By the way, Ireland gets the 59th place (11 people). These are numbers provided by the World Health Organization (2012).

    Such exhibitions raise awareness and make people realize that there’s always a different story, that we might not notice. We need to pay more attention to what is being said, as none of these people want to really end their life, usually it’s just the last cry for help. So could art help? Yes, there are plenty of ways it could. K.

    P.S. Here’s what was done in Lithuania – an actor gathered hundreds of people in the main square of the capital and asked them to lay down on the ground so that everyone could visualize how many people we loose a year. Sadly only 700 turned up, the number of people who kill themselves is actually nearer 1000! Some photographs:


    • Hello again Kristina. Your comments are always interesting but this one is a particularly sobering one. Thank you for sending the link to the photos of the people in the square. Even with 700 people it looked very impressive – and to think that there could be 300 more! It’s very sad. The world seems to be losing its way… but yes, I agree with you – art can make a difference!

      Liked by 1 person

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