The Lashkar Gah Drive-in – Claire Halpin/ Madeleine Hellier at Sculpture in Context 2016

Sculpture in Context 2016

8th September – 21st October 2016

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin 9

Experience art beyond the museum wall when Sculpture in Context takes up residence in the National Botanic Gardens. Follow the sculpture map to discover art everywhere; flowering in the herbaceous borders, hanging from the trees, floating amongst the water lilies and appearing out of the undergrowth.

Delighted to have been selected for Sculpture in Context 2016 in collaboration with my sister Madeleine Hellier. Our artwork this year is The Lashkar Gah Poppy Field Drive In installed in the Plants for People section of the Curvilinear Range.

The Lashkar Gah Poppy Field Drive-In

The building of the Kajaki damn on the Helmand River in Afghanistan was the biggest engineering project in Afghanistan. It was built by American companies in 1951 during the Cold War to help Afghanistan modernise and bring the country into the US sphere of influence

The capital – Lashkar Gah became a model town, built to American designs with electric lights and tree lined avenues and became known as “Little America in Afghanistan”. The Americans brought their families, swimming pools, Santa Claus and the Lashkar Gah Drive-in movies. As Afghanistan experimented with modernity and technology, a great future seemed within touching distance.

However the bitter lake created from the rise of the water table behind the Kajaki dam, an unexpected consequence of the dam’s construction, and the increasing salinity of the soil in the surrounding agricultural areas allowed one crop in particular to thrive and flourish in the saltier earth – the opium poppy. And thus Afghanistan became the largest producer of opium poppies in the world – a very beautiful plant on the outside but whose innards produce a lethal substance, a cash crop for terrorist groups and a threat to global security.

This artwork recreates The Lashkar Gah Poppy Field Drive-In and surrounding poppy seed heads in resin, the colour of poppy resin in reference to its ominous history. Visitors to the Botanic Gardens will encounter this artwork as a curious sculpture comprised of somewhat contradictory elements – beautiful poppy heads cast from clear resin and amber coloured resin overhanging a model of a drive-in, installed in context amongst the tropical plants providing a natural backdrop and amphitheatre for the work.


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