Belfast, Northern Ireland : 1983

Public performance at the Art Research Exchange, Lombard Street and Cornmarket, Belfast.

17 November 1983

MacLennan – dressed in black, adorned with pages from both Catholic and Protestant newspapers and with white scrim over his head – walked the streets of Belfast, talking to people, reading from a typed statement:


Each person is art (and can make what art is)

Real art resolves inner and outer conflict.

It heals wounds within and without the self.

There are physical wounds. There are also these – spiritual, religious, psychological – political, social and cultural wounds. They stem from partial, fragmented systems of understanding and affect every aspect of our lives. If we split our thinking we split our world. The world we make is a direct reflection of how and what we think – and assume we need. If we examine the human world locally and internationally, what do we find? Apart from what is positive, we see double standards operating throughout political and legal systems at home and abroad, overt human exploitation in many parts of the world and extreme prejudice exercised locally and internationally against those whose religious, political and economic views differ from our own. 

Until the 19th century, if international disputes could not be settled at conference tables, they were resolved my ‘limited’ wars at the end of which ‘adjustments and readjustments’ were effected between winner(s) and loser(s). This strategy is no longer tenable. As every schoolchild knows, a nuclear holocaust between two opposing superpowers would effectively destroy human civilisation and the world as we know it. We must not only dismantle this weaponry, but more importantly the flawed thinking which precipitates it. What is missing is the will on the part of the international leaders to make the necessary transition from limited ‘national state’ politics to ‘holistic world’ politics. They either can’t, don’t or won’t see the world and its resources as WHOLE systems. Each year a major portion of the world’s resources is siphoned off by individual states to build up ultimately military defence systems, while countless thousands die annually of starvation and malnutrition in third world countries and thousands more perish in ‘local’ wars over transient debatable boundaries and mutually exclusive belief systems whose original spiritual worth has been swamped by centuries of local embellishment and the encroachment of ritualised dogma into perverted fanaticism. 

Consider: Because a handful of people (the world’s political leaders) are unwilling or unable to make the transition from ‘national state’ politics to ‘holistic world’ politics, they are prepared, in defence of their respective states, to annihilate the human species in nuclear war. (A limited nuclear war is a contradiction in terms). They are prepared to sacrifice the WHOLE for a part. When the WHOLE goes, no part remains. Is this not absurd? – and yet the news media present nuclear armament as a reasonable proposition. Are you and I sheep to be led dumbly to the slaughter? (I recommend you read and pass on ‘The Fate of the Earth’ by Jonathan Schell, published by Picador, 1982).

Id the world’s resources were used sensibly (holistically), there is more than sufficient to feed, clothe, house and educate every single person on the surface of our planet today. This is a statistical fact. But the political will to bring this about won’t come from above. It must come from below. It must come as a groundswell demand from ordinary people everywhere. It must come from you. It must come from me.

Already there are signs that holistic thinking is breaking new ground. You’ve no doubt heard of HOLISTIC MEDICINE and the ECOLOGY movement. In HOLISTIC MEDICINE the mind and body of a person are not conceived as separate entities but as integral parts of a single system. One doesn’t simply treat physical symptoms. One goes to the root of the problem. Sometimes the root is more psychological than physical. One treats the WHOLE person, not simply his elbow or knee. 

In ECOLOGY we are concerned with WHOLE systems within the natural environment and working ‘sympathetically’ in conjunction with seasonal changes and rhythms rather than imposing ourselves arbitrarily on nature’s ways. We must work with and learn from nature – not dominate it. But if the way we perceive and conceive the world in ‘fractured’, even though we wish to heal wounds we see in it, we will only compound the hurt. We must first heal ourselves. Ecology of the natural environment is important. Of primary importance is the ecology of the mind and spirit. We can then fuse the three. Each is a layer of the other.

To HEAL is to make WHOLE. We need to have holistic attitudes to living systems filtering through to public consciousness at street level everywhere. How can we do this? By word of mouth, by joining local, national and international holistic groups which already exist, by forming new ones locally and nationally, by forming public pressure groups, and, most importantly, by applying our will.