“I don’t know what “The Backstop” is??” You’re not alone, it seems that most of the politicians in Westminster don’t either. Northern Ireland voted against Brexit wit 56% of the population in opposition. Brexit is looming and as the potential for a no deal exit becomes a greater risk the chances of a hard border between the north and south of Ireland grow. In 2017 an artist based in northern Ireland used the art of jogging to highlight to the potential difficulties a hard border would cause. Aleks Stanek, a graduate of fine art ran 2oo miles of invisible Irish border over 7 days. Originally from Poland, living in Ireland since the age of 11, she completed the run in a week by criss-crossing the border 17 times showing the freedom currently afforded at the border and highlighting the approaching absurdity of potential restrictions to free movement after Brexit. Art and health have long been at the core of human interest. The need for meaning and relevance in daily life has long been accepted as the fundamental motivation in artistic creation and enjoyment. Art helps people communicate experiences that are too difficult or elusive to express in words. There are physical and mental benefits from producing art and expressing yourself in a material way (Stuckey e Nobel, 2010).
The true implications of a hard border seems lost on the politicians in London. The border is currently only marked by changes in road surface and the confusing calculation of changing miles into kilometres. The way in which the border runs means there is divisions halfway through roads and fields, cutting through herds of cattle, dividing communities and replacing bridges built in the last 25 years with the barriers. Almost thirty years after the iron curtain fell, and in an age in which globalisation is supposedly tearing barriers down we are building walls and borders at a rate unequalled in history provoked by the illusion of security.
Aleks set off from Bridgend a small village on the Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal on July 22nd 2017. It is located on the road to Letterkenny, on the western outskirts of Derry and at the border. She crossed the border seventeen times with the longest single day run being an impressive 44 mile effort to finish in Warrenpoint County Down. Each time she crossed the border Aleks buried makeshift monuments of broken Belfast bricks and ash tree seeds native to Ireland – the bricks representing industries in Ireland and the trees referring to a physical border and a border in people’s minds. Although history tells us they are destined to crumble, we have always built walls. There is almost always a way through, under, over or around. Borders and walls aim to separate and divide but as Janet Napolitano, former US secretary of homeland security to Obama observed “Show me a 50ft wall, and I’ll show you a 51ft ladder.”
STUCKEY, H. L.; NOBEL, J. The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Am J Public Health, v. 100, n. 2, p. 254-63, Feb 2010. ISSN 0090-0036.