~~~~ NEWS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Borders Intro
Border-Fictions Special Issue 

Amid the Air and Earth

Amid the Air and Earth Intro
Atmospheric States
Stories of the Air / Spéirscéalta
Myths for a Wetlands Imaginary
Wet / Land / Dwellers


Geopower Intro
Self-Organisation Against Injustice

Kin Intro
Becoming Animal
Dolls Play

a place of their own is the art + spatial research practice of Paula McCloskey and Sam Vardy. Through art and spatial practice, we interrogate and propose within entanglements of climate, capital, technology and politics. We operate as a collective, a couple, with our children, and through collaborations with others.



A trans-disciplinary visual art and spatial research project that enacts an ecosophical spatial art practice to suggest alternative imaginaries and ontologies of the border. Building on diverse research from art practice (site-specific performance, film, sculpture), citizen activism, and critical spatial practices, through the project we are experimenting with a collaborative process, that we name ‘border-fictioning’, as an artistic method that engages human and non-human actors in reclaiming the subjective and embodied realm of the borderlands from the dominant sovereign 'trap' of nation-state defined borders, to enable new co-produced metamorphosed border-becomings. The Eile Project has included a wide range of activities, such as site-specific performances and installations, films, exhibitions, publications, and events.

︎︎︎︎︎︎ Exhibition__Eile {Border-Fictioning} at Bloc projects, Sheffield, 2022

The Eile Project is situated on the UK’s border with the Irish Republic, and so exists within a crucial contemporary geopolitical dynamic. Bringing a particular ‘situated knowledge’ (Haraway, 1987) to the work, the project has its roots in Paula’s family history. Paula is from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, a small border town in the Irish Republic. Her mother was brought up in an Irish Protestant family and her father as Catholic. Paula was born in 1975 at the height of the so-called ‘Troubles’ and during her childhood lived in England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, regularly traversing the border.
We invoke the character Eile (‘other’ in Gaelic) - a creature of the border who has been summoned to interact with buildings, different species, the bogs, rivers, flora and fauna, caves, mountains and so on against the unfolding socio-political drama of this border. A key concept and artistic method for the Eile Project, border-fictioning is posited as a resistant form of fictioning through a spatial art practice that seeks therefore to intervene in both the discourses of urbanism and territory but also in transformative ways in physical, embodied and experiential terms (as Simon O’Sullivan says, fictioning might “impact on the real, change it, in some way”).

The Territories of Eile

The border in Ireland is 499 km long with over 200 formal crossing points and probably the same number again of informal crossing points. Farming land and villages (such as Pettigo and Belleek) straddle the invisible border line, with houses on both sides. The border is a powerful geopolitical, historical, cultural and spatial phenomenon, a manifestation of the complex and long history of the partition of Ireland, which began in the early 1920s. Initially intended as a temporary solution to the issue of sovereignty in Ireland, the border was bitterly contested at the time, representing hundreds of years of British intrusion on the island.

‘Eile’ is an ongoing project located in lived experience of this border. I (Paula) am from the small border town of Ballyshannon, County Donegal, in Ireland just south of the border. My dad is Irish Catholic and my mum is Irish Protestant. The significance of this, and its impact on our childhood, was never discussed. Nor, for that matter, was politics of any kind; though it affected so much of my parents and siblings’ lives.

My parents were young teenagers when they met and although from the same small town, they were from very different backgrounds. They married not in Ballyshannon, but in Dublin; they were 17 and 19 respectively. My eldest sister and I were born in Dublin in the mid-70s at the height of the so-called ‘Troubles’. Like many Irish people, my parents emigrated when I was still a young child. We ended up in the midlands in England, but spent school holidays in Ballyshannon - always there over the summer, staying with my Catholic grandmother. The trips back were by car and as we drove through army checkpoints and watch towers we knew we were nearly at our destination.

Being an Irish child in England in the 1980s I was acutely aware of ‘anti-Irishness’. It was easy enough pretending not to be Irish, with my non-specific English accent. When people asked where the name ‘McCloskey’ came from I said it was Scottish or Polish. In 1989, my parents moved us back to the island of Ireland (mum yearned to return ‘home’) - this time to Northern Ireland, Enniskillen, a town some 17 km from the border, which we continued to cross frequently.

It wasn’t until I was much older, living back in England, a few years after the Good Friday Agreement as a young mother in my mid-20s, that I started to reflect on the significance of the border on my family, my childhood, my subjectivity. Unsurprisingly, being a mother catalysed an interest in my Irish heritage.

We (a place of their own) first started to ‘explore’ the border in Ireland in 2011. There were five of us then, two adults, three children, the youngest being just six weeks old. We travelled the length of the border looking for signs of the now mostly invisible line. We searched for changes in language on road signs and shops, licence plates and place names, where kilometres became miles, the price of diesel in Euros or Pounds, phone signal alerts. Did the bird song sound different if we stepped over the border? Did the rivers flow another way or the curve of the branches of the trees bend otherwise? Was the air the children breathed the same when they ran and danced over to the other side of the border line?

In 2016 we were six (two adults, four children), a different child now the youngest, turning three on the day of the EU referendum vote in the UK (23.06.16). When we woke in the morning to the news of the results, my thoughts turned to Ireland, to this border; not knowing what lay ahead but knowing it would be more trouble. Two months after the referendum, we returned to the border with the kernel of an idea: we wanted to spend some time, the six of us, with our different bodies, experiences, ages and ideas with some materials at a border site, a pretty innocuous border site in a rural spot where the border ran through a river and there was a bridge. We asked the four children (from teen to toddler) to think and imagine what else this border might be. The six year-old imagined a ‘tower for the workers’ stretching up to the sky, made of a cardboard tube and coloured elastic bands. The eight year-old imagined a portal to another dimension that came to life as a black hole. The teen conjured a new species, as the toddler ran and played under the foil blankets that danced and shimmied in the wind.

Eile was ‘born’ at a kitchen table meeting in Sheffield. Eile (meaning ‘other’ in Irish) was to be a creature of the border. A shapeshifter, a banshee, a transmuter. Eile was to be alien and other-worldly with the ability to transcend the space and time of the border. Eile was to be able to swim down to the ocean bed, she would melt into the archaic bog, and then become dust in the wind, swept up into a time yet to come.

And so, the trips to the border continue, but with Eile.
Eile visits different border-sites, making connections with rivers, bogs, butterflies, caves, the ghosts of abandoned RUC barracks, and lobsters. Eile’s body intra-acts with these sites using different materials, sound, and the elements, engaging in repetitive, ritual acts, generating encounters and exchanges across space and time.