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Ulster Artist Bags Prime Exhibition Space

Visitors to Belfast city centre are being given the chance to store their luggage for free while they explore the sights as part of a unique public art project this week. 

University of Ulster doctoral student Andrea Theis, from the School of Art and Design, is unburdening tourists or shoppers of their bags in return for permission to showcase their contents in a glass display case on Fountain Street.  

The artistic intervention, which runs until Saturday 9 October, has already been hosted successfully in both Dublin and Berlin, and has been designed not just to fulfil the real need for a ‘Left Luggage’ facility in the city but to explore the phenomenon of “the private becoming public”. 

German-born Andrea, who refers to 'Left Luggage' as “the mobile micro-culture museum on the street”, says she has been getting a positive response from the passers-by in Belfast. 

“Dressed like an attendant, with a uniform clearly displaying a ‘Left Luggage’ label on my sleeve, I set up my storage facility every morning on Fountain Street and I always have a guard with me for security,” explains Andrea. 

“Most people think having a facility where people can unburden themselves of their baggage for the day and go off and shop or explore Belfast is a wonderful business idea. 

“There are of course issues of trust and not everyone is agreeable to having their private belongings put on public display but yesterday for example I had a young backpacker who was happy to leave his backpack with me for the day and also happy to take part in the research by having the contents showcased.” 

Andrea says that the focus of the Belfast project is on the conversations and interactions that the artistic intervention provokes, issues of privacy, the contents of the bags and what the luggage reveals about the owner. 

“A lot of people, especially women, were very happy to reveal the contents of their bags to me and were happy to explain why they carry the things they do. However, many people were not comfortable with the idea of putting the contents of their bags on display – they do not want the private becoming public.”  

Andrea’s public art project entitled ‘Left Luggage’ runs until Saturday 9 October in Fountain Street, Belfast.