CAAKE Winter Residency – December reflections PART 1 TARA J MURPHY

CAAKE’s second month of its winter residency for FL*OOOW Orient_Ornament_Order focused on the theme Ornament, involving a collaboration with Kerri ní Dochartaigh, Simon Mills and Tara J Murphy.


A poet-writer, a film-photographer, a mixed-media jewellery artist and educator – where to begin? 

For December’s residency, I invited Kerri ní Dochartaigh (poet-writer) and Simon Mills (film-photographer) to investigate the intersection and commonalities between the written word with two-dimensional and three-dimensional visual practices.  The opportunity to explore what happens when ideas, perspectives, materials and working methods are combined was an exciting prospect.

Our collaboration began remotely enabling us to quickly identify a common shared interest in the value of objects and materials in relation to place, exploring the movement and transience of such objects (precious, mundane, discarded) and the relationships between the people and places associated with them.

Within my practice the body is central to how and why I develop and make things.  Viewing this collaborative opportunity through this lens informed the direction of how I engaged with this journey.

I wanted to investigate walking as part of the creative process.  According to Friedrich Nietzsche (1889) ‘All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking’ (Nietzsche, F. cited in Oppezzo and Schwartz, 2014:1142).  This belief was proven in a 2014 Standford University research study where it was demonstrated that ‘walking boosts creative ideation’, it ‘opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity’ (Oppezzo and Schwartz, 2014:1142).  I wanted to utilise the creative potential of walking during this residency, to physically engage and explore a ‘sense of place that can only be gained on foot’ (Solnit R., 2000:9).  Walking formed the basis to investigate Ornament, using it as a vehicle to explore local patterns of instinctual behaviours leading to collecting, assembling, arranging and adorning practices.

Kerri suggested walking ‘out the line’ together.  Having grown up in Derry she had walked this route many times and had many wonderful stories to tell relating to this place.

Kerri sent Simon and I words to reflect on while we walked ‘out the line’ together for the first time.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the original train line was completely intact and that you literally walked along the line.  We quickly became immersed in this space not noticing the storm that was blowing in.  As the weather dramatically changed the experience intensified – the wind pushed us back in the direction we had come.  We returned to Art Arcadia with a wealth of gathered objects, visual information and exhilarated by the experience.

What struck me most about the line itself was the heavy beautiful rusty components – the symbolism they carried and the connection they had with Kerri’s words – as discussed in email correspondence with Kerri and Simon:


“on reflection of our walk yesterday, I really connected with your What it means to co-inhabit, with the ghosts that memory and loss make of the edges.’ and ‘a gap in the in-between of history-and of sorrow – I felt that loss and its layers across history….quite amazing from just one simple walk on a wild day.”

I then walked ‘out the line’ by myself everyday while I was in Derry.  I became aware of the generosity of the line – along each journey new objects presented themselves, new experiences and an ever-changing River Foyle. I was filling Art Arcadia with a wonderful array of objects – questions and ideas began to unfold, as highlighted in email correspondence:

“I’ve been thinking lots about our walk – I can’t help bringing the experience back to the body, that is, relating what I saw and felt to the physical self.  Questions that come to mind are:

– how can I translate my experience to the body?

– how can the things/objects I saw be connected to the body?

– how can the historical weight, that I felt the actual line carried, be represented physically/materially?”

“I loved the line itself: the heavy chunky components; how its remains have been left behind (significant) to continue guiding those that walk along it from one destination to another.  It is a relic amongst the living, a potential reminder of times gone by….yet how many stop to consider this?”


Kerri and I then walked ‘out the line’ together.  It was a beautiful clear winter’s day, such a contrast compared to Simon and my experience.  Kerri described the personal, social and cultural significance of ‘out the line’ for her.  This provided me with another level of understanding and appreciation of this place.


The still point where I know we all must meet: video by Tara J Murphy; words by Kerri ní Dochartaigh.


I reflected upon my walks with Simon, Kerri and alone; the gathered objects, Kerri’s wonderful words and Simon’s beautiful films and photographs – how could I respond to all these differing perspectives?  How could aspects from the various formats be combined?  These questions were considered further in email correspondence with Kerri and Simon:


“Initial ideas that have come to mind are about taking elements from the walk and exploring how to manipulate them in three dimensions and connecting them to, or projecting them onto the body”



I projected Simon’s films onto the walls in Art Arcadia, allowing his wonderful observations and documentation of ‘out the line’ and its overlooked details to become magnified and a central focus.  I interacted with the films through walking and using some of the found objects gathered from ‘out the line’.


The trace of foot and the echo of words; video by Gail Mahon; words by Kerri ní Dochartaigh.


I constructed new objects using the discarded finds from ‘out the line’, weaving Kerri’s words into the manipulations.




This collaboration has begun a wonderful conversation with two very inspiring practitioners – I hope that there will be future opportunities for us to work together again.



….the ghosts that memory and loss make of the edges: video by Tara J Murphy; words by Kerri ní Dochartaigh.


Many thanks to Art Arcadia for providing the support and space for this collaboration to happen.



  • Oppezzo, M. & Schwartz, D. (2014) Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, Cognition. 40(4), 1142-1152
  • Solnitt, R. (2001) Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Granta Publications: London