Health Inside (2018) is a public art intervention about the Irish prison system and prisoners’ health in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During mid- November 2018, the artwork was visible across eight bus shelters and two billboards located in Dublin 7 near to Mountjoy prison. The artwork reflects on prison conditions, the mental health of men and women in prison and the social problems that imprisonment can cause.
Health Inside was created by visual artist Dr. Sinéad McCann in collaboration with UCD historians Associate Professor Catherine Cox and Dr. Oisín Wall. During the design process for this project, I worked in close collaboration with artist Dr. Sinead McCann and two UCD medical historians Associate Professor Catherine Cox, and Dr. Oisin Wall both working on the Wellcome Trust funded research project Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000, at the school of history in University College Dublin. This involved the creation of eight uniquely designed posters displayed across the ten sites which were constructed using material from archival photographs.
These photographs were woven together with quotes from Irish historical sources; the 1867 Prison Inspectors Report, Correspondence to the General Prison Boards Chairman, 1885, the Prisoners’ Rights Organisation Report 1978, and The Jail Journal (1973-76). Combined they offered the public a series of thought-provoking posters on healthcare in an Irish prison during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
An interesting and challenging aspect of this project was that the public display of these posters did not have any identifying reference to the artist, collaborators or their respective institution in order to sidestep and subvert the typical promotional use of these spaces. In response to this, I developed the title of the artwork Health Inside into logo which functioned to identify the topic of the posters individually and to create a visual cohesion across all ten locations. Health Inside was funded by The Making Great Art Award, funding ambitious once off projects to Irelands leading artists by the Arts Council of Ireland, Wellcome Trust (UK), and University College Dublin.
Health Inside was covered on the main Irish National radion broadcaster RTE on The Arts show Arena with Sean Rock, and in an article He Fought Hard to Maintain His Sanity by journalist Aoife Barry in the online newspaper www.journal.ie
Health Inside (2018), Artist Sinead McCann, public art intervention. Photograph credit Sixbetween
Artwork © Sinead McCann 2018
Archival photograph credit
Photograph of Corporation Place flats, 1972. Source RTE Archives
Photograph of Wakefield Prison, 1918. Source Howard League for Penal Reform Archive, Modern Records, University of Warwick
Photograph of a convict in Mountjoy prison 1867. Courtesy of the Thomas A.Larcom Photographs Collection, New York