Michele Horrigan Back
Stigma Damages 2024

Research continues for Stigma Damages, an investigation into the social contexts, histories and realities of the aluminium industry. I grew up and continue to live in the shadow of such a world – mineral ore bauxite is imported from Guinea in Africa into Ireland’s largest industrial complex in my hometown of Askeaton, and chemically altered onsite and exported to smelters worldwide to become aluminium.

Debates continue with refinery owners Rusal seeking to expand in size as Europe’s largest refinery. Current planning sees the refinery’s closure at the latest by 2039, leaving a postindustrial landscape and an urgent need for conscious Just Transition to occur. Since early 2022, with war in Ukraine, the Irish government refuse to apply sanctions on the Russian-owned site despite proven links to military forces in Russia through its main shareholder.

I continue to create a critical public forum to interrogate these urgent environmental issues  – participatory and educational events in Askeaton and elsewhere, exhibitions, film-making, a podcast series produced from my own amassed research and interviews, and an Augmented Reality application are all planned. Research has additionally focussed on comparable geographic locations, and I have just returned from Western Australia, a centre of bauxite mining and refining where I worked alongside activist groups such as the Community Alliance for Positive Solutions and Peel Environmental Protection Alliance, gathering inclusive and democratic testimony, and understanding lived life in the vicinity of a global industry.

Stigma Damages is project funded by the Arts Council of Ireland with support from The Model, Sligo and Schloss Britz, Berlin and by an advisory group from National University of Ireland, Maynooth; University College Dublin and University of Westminister, London.


Images: Heavy metal test and results, conducted outside Perth, 2023