Flags are used to signal, symbolise, and decorate; in a heartbeat they can communicate a tapestry of information and connotation. They are powerful kinetic cyphers because they communicate their message not only through their design, but also their physical condition. Perhaps newly hoisted, torn down, flown upside down in surrender, or limp at half mast. Each of these states transforms the flag’s sentiment. In this way the absence of a flag is also a presence, an empty flagpole can say more than an occupied one, and one flag can change everything.
Today bunting is the festive younger sister of the flag and while still a signal and symbol, bunting’s Navy roots have diluted to a bohemian and chic decorative trimming. It is apt therefore, that today in Belfast when the cloth of a flag is hard enough to cause sparks, local artists and people are reclaiming flags. By collaborating to create chains of colourful and regional bunting in their communities, the flag has never been more Made in Belfast.
Established by Deidre Robb of Creative Exchange Studios, a visual art collective based in the Portview Trade Centre, East Belfast, the ‘Art Flag Bunting’ project is not just about getting creative in the name of art, although that is a part of it. Instead its mission is to rescue flags from tension by encouraging local people to be playful and creative with flags as a medium. In this way, just as Buddhist flags, that as they flutter issue the blessings inscribed on them to the wind, so too the bunting created by the project will be draped around local schools, and community buildings, so the voices of the community can be added to Belfast’s conversation about flags.
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“It was really fun and I loved the artists that came, they were really kind and helpful. I would love to do this again” – Student from Strathern School