The Connecting Hearts Project
The CONNECTING Hearts Project
The Connecting Hearts Project began in April 2016, the focus for my MFA at the National Art School, Sydney. Its initial conception focused on facilitating workshops with people to make 2000 small terracotta human hearts, while sharing the ways they felt connected to people seeking asylum and their responses to Australia’s policies on off-shore detention. Initially the project was named the Confined Hearts Project but the experience of the workshops and installations made it clear that the notion of connection was central to the work.
In 2016, approximately 500 people took part in over 45 workshops held all over Sydney, in Canberra and in two regional centres. The process of sitting together, shaping hearts in clay and sharing stories was profoundly moving and technically challenging for many. The project reached a diverse range of people in terms of age, locations, life experiences and cultural backgrounds.
While all the hearts are made following a simplified seven-step process, every one is individual, bearing the stamp of its maker. As a final step, many makers chose to inscribe a message onto their heart.
The project broadened its focus to explore migration and the sense of belonging/ not belonging. This expansion is the result of an iteration of the work (Moving Hearts) taking place in London in March 2018 in collaboration with Professor Anna Reading and Dr James Bjork from King’s College, London, and in conjunction with the UK Migration Museum.
Installations of the hearts have also invited participation and reflection. Installations that have occurred since June 2016 in art galleries and public spaces are varied in format but have common elements. In all cases audiences are invited to enter the installation space to stoop and pick up a heart wrapped in fine white muslin. They are asked to pause for a moment as they unwrap the heart, to feel its weight and fragility. They then replace the now unwrapped heart on the ground and write their own response on the cloth.
Opening Hearts, the largest installation , took place on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016, at Circular Quay, Sydney. Two thousand wrapped hearts were placed in a double spiral on the park adjacent to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Around 1000 people walked the spiral and wrote responses.