Official Statistics tell us that suicide is the biggest killer of young Irish men and women in Ireland, far exceeding road deaths. Hidden behind the statistics lie the personal, untold stories of the lived lives of loved ones who have died by suicide. When someone dies by suicide, the person becomes de-humanised and the lived life is reduced to a statistic. The deceased quickly becomes defined by the manner of their death, changing from person to object. The reality of their life and the memory of the person they were are eclipsed by the manner of their death. To challenge this, Lived Lives seeks to re-humanise the suicide-deceased by going behind the cold, clinical statistics and making the individual visible, through collaborative, truthful, sensitive, and safe representation of the lived life lost and the experience of those they left. This action restored identity to the deceased and foregrounded the lived life as opposed to the manner of their death.
Lived Lives is a durational social practice which emerges from a on going collaborative interdisciplinary research platform established in 2006 between artist Dr. Seamus McGuinness, GMIT Galway, Professor Kevin Malone, School of Medicine & Medical Science, UCD Dublin and many others. The process involved working closely with forty-two Irish suicide-bereaved families (107 individuals) from 22 counties around Ireland who donated stories, images and objects associated with the lived life of a loved one lost to suicide. From these McGuinness created a series of art installations including, 21g, Archive Rooms and The Lost Portrait Gallery. Placing the families within the process, they became the first audience to see the emerging art works atEnnistymon "09 and Galway "09. Importantly at these engagements the families had the right to withdraw any of their donations from the exhibitions.
With express permission given by the donating families, a mediated public exhibition was co-produced and co-curated with artist, scientist, families and communities .The aesthetic experience of Lived Lives has the quality of ritual or relic, but its primary quality is the manner in which it communicates to diverse audiences. The practice can move people towards an empathic position, creating the circumstance to understand, reflect upon and question the loss of young Irish lives to suicide, without judgement. The practice is not informed by asking what artworks are, but rather with the question of what the artworks can do in society.