2014, Kinsale, Ireland         

You Are Lost

Timber, fire, 4 x 0.3 x 35 m

Commissioned by the Province of Drenthe, the Centre for Visual Arts Drenthe (CBK), and Kinsale Festival, Ireland

You Are Lost announced itself in flames. As a flotilla of boats took audiences out on the water, around the historic site of James Fort, located in the harbour of Kinsale, on Ireland’s south coast, ten burning oak letters lit up the night skyline. Had this fire been set deliberately as a beacon to guide boats home? A signal for help? An announcement of news to pass on? A conflagration to celebrate the capture of the fort?

In fact, the story of the portentous blaze began two years earlier, in Drenthe, a province in the north-east of the Netherlands. The region is the home of the N34 Art Route, a series of large temporary and permanent public artworks along the provincial road the N34. The Morisons were commissioned to create one of the permanent works, which was to be located at Koebroeken, a parking area near the small town of Eext. The commissioners were drawn to their practice of creating special gathering places using traditional wood techniques. The artists responded by creating four-metre-high wooden letters spelling out ‘YOU ARE LOST’. They were to have picnic benches between them and be illuminated at night. The words seem contradictory, because whoever would see them would know where he or she was. The drive would thus become an inward journey, where the road user reflected on the ambiguous meaning and wondered how their presence relates to the place and time they were in.
However, in a sense, the words proved to be prophetic. The work caused so much public unrest among the local Dutch residents that the municipal authorities cancelled the project. Two years later, Kinsale Arts Festival offered the Morisons a chance to resurrect it. The festival is an annual celebration of international arts and culture that takes place in the unique setting of a historic seaside town. The artists chose to place the work on a site overlooking the harbour. But instead of illuminating the letters as they had intended in Drenthe, they decided to set them alight on the opening night, as a riposte to the earlier rejection. The spectacle could be seen from all over the town.

Eventually, the flames died down and the ashes settled. Only the ruins remained, left untouched for the duration of the festival, and in them a message of hope and symbol of new beginnings; for after the darkest day comes always the dawn. You were lost, but now you cannot be; you are right here, now ready to begin again.


‘The four artworks along the N34 were commissioned with the intention of making drivers aware of the ancient and unique landscape of the Hondsrug sand ridge. It was a brave and ambitious decision of a provincial government to connect its infrastructural projects with art. You Are Lost was one of them. A poetic and mysterious work, with different meanings: you can be literally lost, but the work tells you are here; you can also be psychically lost; or do we all lose our way?
It was a work that asked people to reflect. Unfortunately, it was designed at a time of rising populism, which was causing a culture of fear within local administrations. Residents protested with arguments such as “too much money for the arts”, “why foreign artists? we have local good artists”, and so on. Those sentiments made the municipalities anxious, and some of them refused permits to execute the work on their property. Eventually, the Province had to give up the commission. We all were determined to give the work a chance, however, and a new commission was born in Kinsale. We were happy to install a QR-code video with a
text on the burning of You Are Lost at its intended location. It becomes a reflection for visitors with added meaning.’

Monica Boekholt, Center for Visual Arts Drenthe
Photographers’ credits       

All images_ Ivan Morison

Love Me or Leave Me Alone        


Love Me or Leave Me Alone, The Very Public Art of Heather Peak and Ivan Morison presents a journey through the past decade and a half of the artists’ practice, with an emphasis on their pavilions, escape vehicles, and public artworks.  The book can be ordered from the publishers Art/Books
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If you can’t find the information you are looking for you can contact the studio of Heather Peak and Ivan Morison here: studio@peakmorison.org