Kate Nolan’s Lacuna

© 2016, Kate Nolan, LACUNA

© 2016, Kate Nolan, LACUNA

Kate Nolan’s installation Lacuna was recently at the Gallery of Photography, Dublin (9 September to 22 October 2017). Together with Val Connor, Luke Gibbons and Tadhg O’Sullivan, I was on a panel responding to the work. The talk is given as an essay here. It’s worth a look even just to see the beautiful images that Kate has let me share.

Venereal Disease and early-twentieth century Dublin

gatewayAs part of Silvia Loeffler’s Transit Gateway project, I spoke about sexuality and disease in early twentieth century Dublin. This was part of a set of talks on Dublin 1898-1929/Turbulent Times. The lecture is online here (it starts about 14 minutes in after Silvia’s introduction to this stage of her project). Silvia is creating an installation around a series of art-maps that re-imagine the development of the port. The next public viewing of the installation is on Saturday 30 September 2017 at Terminal 1 in Dublin Port.

Eulogy for my Dad

Dad 1a

We buried my father on Monday

Kevin Joseph Kearns
4 October 1923 – 23 July 2016

Did Dad, Granddad, Kevin, ever tell you the story of the boy from Dublin who lost his Mam when he was twelve, and, abandoned by his father, was taken in by his responsible and generous sister, Theresa, and her young family? He didn’t tell me. But he would tell me that I had no idea what it was like to have nothing, that I had not seen what drink did to families. He was certain he could not have survived without help from his God, “without him up there, you’re nothing,” he would impress upon me. This man touched barely a drop of alcohol after his marriage, and stopped smoking after a first day off work, sick with a cough. The half-empty packet of Guards cigarettes stayed in his chest of drawers for years afterwards, a test and proof of firm purpose.

His stories beguiled our mother, and later entertained their children, grand-children and great-grand-children. The breath would chug out of him as he laughed at memories of cowboy movies (Tom Mix, Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers), the tricks the horses did, up on their hind legs, and turning in a circle. The slapstick of Abbot and Costello, the scrapes that Harry Lloyd got into, Laurel and Hardy playing with eggs, these he could conjure with his hands, stamping his leg to interrupt the helpless laughter, “Oh you have no idea GeGe, you’ve seen nothing.”

He was quite the romantic figure with his stories, and his good looks. Several of his brothers were involved with the management of cinemas in Dublin. When the Hollywood stars came to open their films in Dublin, a Kearns might be welcoming them to one of the movie palaces on O’Connell Street. He would also tell stories of his time in the Irish Army, riding a motorbike around pitch-black Dublin during what he first knew as the Emergency but after moving to Britain called the War, of the time the bomb fell on North Strand Dublin and with his body he sheltered his pregnant sister-in-law, or of his time in the RAF, gingerly driving unexploded bombs to a store in a forest somewhere in Yorkshire (“it’s confidential”), ferrying folk through the floods of 1947, the worst winter, a tour of Rhodesia as he knew it, the luxury cruise ship out, eating at the captain’s table with the officers for whom he was driver, the scallywags and other friends and the tricks they played on each other. Oh, and yes, I could have no idea what laughs they had.

Mum knew about the laughs and the romance of it all, and the gaps in the photo album–“all his girlfriends” she would rib him, poking him with her finger, bringing him back to other stories; of the “sweetheart”, Chris, to whom he opened his heart and to whom he told it all, all the pain of the orphan. Our Mum was quite a catch, and he knew it. With her education, the precision of her accent, the glamour of the clothes that work as a bookie’s clerk bought for her, the molten radiance of her smile, and her aspirations for her own children, he knew he had found the soulmate for a new life, a family life, and with this woman his children could have everything he had missed out on. His children would have no idea what it was like to have nothing. And this woman, Chrissie, later Chris, “my sweetheart” in letters, “your Mam” in his stories for us, this woman knew him. Her mother’s sister had married one of Kevin’s older brothers, Harry, a soldier in the War, traumatised by the bloodshed and imprisonment of what Dad called the Far East. Chris, herself, babysat the children of this couple, and it was this Aunt Josie, who nudged Chris and Kevin together, and then teased them until Aunt became sister-in-law.

I have no idea all that Chris knew of Kevin but I do know that she saw his charity and his humility. This man would work evenings, Saturdays and, despite a crisis of conscience (resolved, typically, in favour of his children), occasional Sundays. He did this so that his wife and children would want for little. With a dread of debt, Chris and Kevin bought Christmas presents, bikes or scooters, on higher purchase, HP at the Co-Op, and Dad’s overtime paid for it, but his humility gave the credit to Mum. “Your Mam got you that,” he would say. And of course she did, for if she asked, he would not refuse, whatever it meant for the length of his working week.

And still the stories. Home from work, he would, when the children were small, go up to the cot and talk, until dinner. The family photos show him clowning around, trousers rolled up to his knees, or punching a ball aloft for children to squeal at and chase, but the most placid, cheery and cherished we see him are in pictures for or with Mum, on holiday, perhaps, or holding one of their children. We know that he watched his children with extravagant care (“not on the wall”, “not near the water”, “oh Mam will you tell him to stay away from …”), and we knew it was Mum that licensed our always-moderate risk-taking (“don’t tell your father”), for she knew that, however precious, children could not be kept from all injury. But he was right, and when harm came, and belovèd Denise died tragically and young, it broke both of them.

They crawled up out of this pit and it was the charity that made immoderate claims and a humility that disqualified introspection that, in that dark decade after Denise’s death, had them reaching back towards the rest of their family. It was with caring for Daniel, the son that their daughter, Anita, was raising as a lone mother, and rejoicing in the memory of Denise in the company of her daughters, Toni and Roxi, and taking joy in watching Adrian’s children, Oliver and Saskia grow into vivacious teenagers, and it was with the charity of seeing the best in the achievements of their children, that the horror of that early death was set aside just enough to once again be thankful for a full life for themselves.

Then, last February, Mum went to hospital after a stroke. With so much of his life’s content reached with and through this woman, Chris, Dad was cut loose to the terror and loneliness of memory. I don’t know if I admire anything more than his fortitude in the past few months. For years, he and Mum had relied upon their daughter, Anita, and her husband Spencer (thank you Spencer and Anita), for help with the business of living independently and proudly, and in the past year, Anita’s son Daniel had been with them. With Mum now gone, Daniel cherished his Granddad all the more (thank you Daniel), and with Anita helped him continue to live at 24 Hornsby Close. Dad accepted this care with humility and gratitude.

He began to tell stories again. Dad spoke of all he owed to Chris. He spoke even of his youth. Liberating his RAF blazer from the wardrobe, he spruced himself up to the form of that glamorous young man who had first seduced Chris. He planned visits, and holidays, all the while knowing the pain of the joyful memories they would stir. He wanted to see again his only surviving brother, Mattie. He wanted to travel again the roads of his honeymoon, through West Cork and Kerry in the flash car loaned to him by his stepfather, Tommy Bird. After hearing the sad news of her death, he wanted to go to the funeral in Dublin of his sister-in-law, Josie Fullam, and he did go, flying in to Dublin and spending a day amazing relatives young and old with the acuity of his memory, the cheeriness of his manner, the vigour of his gait, and the lure of his stories. But frailty loads the dice against the player, and he collapsed at home some few days after this. Not a bad way to go, too soon for all of us, but perhaps Roxi’s comment is the best: “Well, Nan, you’ve got him back.”

Worlding Place. Art and Geography Exhibition at Conference of Irish Geographers, 5-7 May 2016

Exhibn 1
Glas Journal; Invitation, pen and watercolour. Silvia Loeffler, 2015

Worlding Place: A relational Perspective

Dedicated to the memory of Doreen Massey

2016 Conference of Irish Geographers Art and Geography Exhibition,
5-7 May, Cregan Library, Ground Floor, DCU St. Patrick’s College
Curated by Karen E. Till

Proposition for a Reading Group: The Monument Game, Laura Donkers © 2014. Performance video of public artwork.

Exhibn 2

In Proposition for a reading group (2014) Participants are invited to engage, via an open, multi-layered and ever changing visual/verbal space in a game of specially designed cards. The players receive a set of Monument playing cards and instructions on how to play the child’s card game ‘Go Fish’. The Monument Game is a deep map that investigates the bio-cultural heritage of the Outer Hebrides through the riddle of how a Monkey Puzzle tree came to be planted on a small island in Loch an Eilean, Askernish, South Uist during the time of the Clearances. It is comprised of a 54-card set of images, and the text ‘Monument’. This collective public artwork provides a multimedial depiction of a place and all that exists within it by creating an open, multi-layered and ever changing visual space. Monument is a timely reflection on the need to cultivate our understanding of place. ‘The little island garden with its collection of distorted and varied specimens reveals two perspectives of thought: on the one hand it is a reminder of colonial dominance and the havoc that it created; and on the other hand it presents the bountiful and forgiving lessons that nature teaches about adaptation, assimilation, diversity and symbiosis. Both ultimately present in the here and now.’ Vimeo extract available at: https://vimeo.com/94789540.

Artist’s Statement: Laura Donkers is an environmental artist, and Doctoral candidate at University of Dundee. She lives and works in the Outer Hebrides. The interconnectedness of art, ecology, site and politics provides a rich framework for her artistic explorations. Through research and practice, she explores the ‘act of dwelling’, considering how art can expand reflection on the lived experience, and promote change. As our contemporary lives become increasingly encoded and distanced from the land, so there are fewer opportunities to directly connect with the places where we live. To address this concern she uses ‘field research’: drawing, fieldwalking, and digital recording, to collect primary observations that trigger understandings of connection, presenting experiences of living “first hand”, in touch with environment, community and self. w www.earth-hebrides.co.uk; e laura.donkers.art@googlemail.com

Walking/Drawing, Kathy Herbert and Dorothy Smith © 2014. 8m x 2.5m pencil on paper.

Exhibn 3

Walking/Drawing, a collaborative drawing and research project took place in the external spaces of Blanchardstown Town Centre, Dublin 15 and in the gallery space of Draiocht Arts Centre in July 2014.  Its aims were to bring drawing out of the private space of studio into the public realm and to push the parameters of drawing; exploring its possibilities as a process of engaging with audience and place.

Artist’s Statements: Kathy Herbert. My practice is positioned in an Art and Ecology framework, addressing our attitudes and perceptions of how we live on Earth.  I am particularly interested in how art can articulate this human / Earth relationship – how we affect our surroundings and how they affect us. I work with Sculpture and Drawing, and currently, my inquiry has been concerned with audience interaction with the work. I see part of my role as effecting attitudinal change through dialogue and experimentation;  through engaging my audience in practical ways which enable me to communicate directly with them and to offer them something of value.  With this in mind I have included in my methodology conversations with people, collecting facts, opinions, stories. Bourriaud (2002) spoke of Relational Aesthetics as “an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interaction and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space”. My own concerns and way of working has developed and grown from these ideas, from feeling that I want to be a useful artist, that I want to make meaningful interactions with audience and to make my work matter. For more see: kathyherbert.ie.

Dorothy Smith: My practice is concerned with built environment of public space. I consider the infrastructure and material fabric of public space, its impact on the quality and reach of everyday lives and on the effectiveness of our cities and neighbourhoods. ‘For Smith it’s not about a preoccupation with the exotic: more like a tenacious attention to working where you live, a highly local exploration of place’ (Vagabond Reviews 2014, http://dorothysmith.ie/text/). The language of drawing is the subject as well as the means of inquiry. I am interested in the possibilities of how such an analogue activity interacts with contemporary issues and places. What does drawing bring to the table? For me, it connects  – in order to draw you have to explore, stop and look. Forthcoming: Solo exhibition Made and Considered, Darc (Dublin Architectural) Space, 26 Nth Gt Georges St, Dublin 1, 20 May-17 June. Current: RHA Annual Exhibition, until 11 June. For more see: dorothysmith.ie.

Glas Journal I, Silvia Loeffler © 2015. 12 hand-sized, hand-made artist’s books representing 14 sequential Dún Laoghaire harbour places between the West and East Pier bordering the sea. Glas Journal II: The Geographical Turn: Environment, Silvia Loeffler © 2016. Handmade artist’s book, with essays by Cian O’Callaghan and Ronan Foley.

Exhibn 4

In Irish, the word glas is reserved for the indefinite shades of green, blue and grey that are present in the sea. I take this chromatic generosity as a marker for this alternative mapping project that crosses art with geography and is called Glas Journal. Connecting arts and research, Glas Journal (2014-2016) is a collaborative, multidisciplinary cartography project that explores the layered emotional geographies of Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Dublin, Ireland. The project is held together by map fragments, temporary art installations in the harbour space and bespoke journals created with partners in the local community whose work and living spaces border the sea. Traversing the material and watery landscape of the harbour space, this project probes the attachments, fantasies and circuits of affect that forge performative textures in a maritime environment. The literary and visual practices that take place in Glas Journal performatively map the intimate rituals and everyday performances of those individuals who live and work in the harbour, whose quotidian activities structure the very fabric of the harbour space.

Artist’s Statement: Silvia Loeffler is an artist, researcher and educator in Visual Culture. Visual material and critical writing are her guides to establish a narrative of public intimacy. She is currently an IRC Postdoctoral Fellow at Maynooth University, Department of Geography, and has lectured in the National College of Art and Design and in the Dublin Institute of Technology/Art, Design & Print on the psychology and the deep-mapping of spaces. Silvia was awarded postdoctoral research funding from the Irish Research Council (2014-16) for ‘Glas Journal: A Deep Mapping of Dún Laoghaire Harbour’, a participatory mapping project based on concepts of belonging and the multiple meanings of ‘harbour’.

Studies in Stillness, EL Putnam © 2015 . Performance documentation, silent video.

Exhibn 5
Studies in Stillness; EL Putnam, performance, Dublin Live Art Festival 2015 Winter. Image by Fiona Kileen

Moving at the threshold of stillness as the body is abstracted into a swarm of light — an apparition on the fringe of site. For this performance, I am dressed completely in black, with face and body covered, and fitted with wearable LEDS and a motion sensor. I slowly pace the Grangegorman campus for two hours, with the lights triggered to illuminate when either I move or the wind moves me.

Exhibn 6
Studies in Stillness; EL Putnam, performance, Dublin Live Art Festival 2015 Winter. Image by Fiona Kileen

A Rule of Silence, EL Putnam, in collaboration with David Stalling © 2016. Sound installation.

The sound composition evokes the hidden histories of women held at the former site of the Grangegorman Penitentiary in Dublin (1836 to 1897), the first all female penal institution on the British Isles. Instead of replicating the sounds of the time, this work contain abstract sounds that allude to the stories and accounts that emerged from the site, inspired by the prison registers and prisoner records held of the National Archives of Ireland. Interwoven in the soundscapes are text excerpts from the Inspector General Reports, read by DIT senior management, including John O’Connor, Dean of Arts and Tourism.

Artist’s Statement: EL Putnam. Through my artistic practice, I am interested in exploring hidden histories and emotional experiences, testing the limits of their un-representability. I am drawn to gestures and the kinaesthetic; actions as interlocution, or the forces and relations that interconnect people with places, space, material objects, ideas, and each other. Treating art events as inherently participatory, my works function as intersubjective spaces that offer multiple conceptual and aesthetic points of entry for the audience. My influences draw from multiple themes and sources, including explorations of gender and sexuality, play, materialism, and the study of place, which I investigate through personal and cultural lenses. In addition to creating works that are rich in cultural and political meaning, I am interested in how aesthetic pleasure can be used as a critical strategy, or as a means of captivating audiences in order to expose them to provocative ideas.

auf Nostalgie, Beatrice Jarvis © 2015. Video of performance, multiple venues, Berlin.

Exhibn 7

Reflections on explorations of the city as studio. We are living in an age where the ground is shifting and the foundations are shaking. I canont answer for other times and places. Perhaps it has always been true. Not a dancer but a wrestler, waiting poised, and dug in for sudden assaults. We slowly going forwards to the end. and each idea that easily arises suggests the next idea.The pleasure of the familiar can guide us through any landscape, including the landscape of language. Reflections and annotations. With thanks to EGFK – European Society for Research and Art / Europäische Gesellschaft für Forschung und Kunst and Benjamin Bailey. Film available at: https://vimeo.com/92736421.

 Artist’s statement: Beatrice Jarvis. An urban space creative facilitator, choreographer and researcher, and founder of the Urban Research Forum and The Living Collective, Beatrice works as an independent dance artist in Romania, Gaza, Berlin, Germany and Northern Ireland. She generates large-scale, site specific choreographic works to explore the social power and potential of embodied movement practices. Her socio-choreographic research has been profiled within Pina Bausch Symposium, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, dOCUMENTA (13), The National School of Art Bucharest, Galway Dance Festival, Goldsmiths CUCR Tate, and AAG 2013. Her commissions include GroundWorks Jerwood Space, Steven Lawrence Center and EGFK Berlin. For further information see http://beatricejarvis.net.

Exhibn 9
auf Nostalgie, film still. Beatrice Jarvis, 2015

Carlow Dawn, Ollie Hennessy, composer. Live performeance by Ollie Hennessy and Aoife Kavanagh, Friday 6 May at CIG Session 6A, ‘Art and Geography 3: Deep Mapping’.

Exhibn 8

Carlow Dawn was commissioned by Carlow Tourism in 2000, as part of ‘Images of Carlow’, a compilation of music and imagery. The instrumental piece depicts a journey of discovery of and reflection on Carlow as a place, seeking to create a sense of expectation, discovery, wonder and curiosity for visitors, and to provide an opportunity to rediscover and appreciate place anew for those who might already feel that they know it. A short piece reminiscent of an Irish slow air, the intricacies of the rich string accompaniment in tandem with the flowing low whistle melody convey a journey much greater.

Artist’s statement: Ollie Hennessy. A Carlow native, Ollie is a renowned performer, composer, arranger and producer. Coming from a background steeped in music, he completed studies with Trinity College Dublin and U.C.L.A, and has held the position of chief instructor for Yamaha Music Schools Ireland. He has held various roles with RTE, including as musical director of the International Rose of Tralee broadcasts for the past twenty years. Ollie undertakes various local, national and international commissions as composer, arranger and performer, and is widely known and highly respected in music circles at home and abroad. He particularly values working in his home place, and provides important and valued support and mentorship to many emerging and professional musicians there.



Conference of Irish Geographers: Art and Geography Sessions, 5-7 May 2016

There is plenty of Art and Geography activity coming up at the next Conference of Irish Geographers, held at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin – Details here.

Dr Karen Till has organised three sessions of papers from artists and academics

I am convening an Author Meets Critics session with Jason Moore to discuss his book, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (London: Verso, 2015)

Dr Karen Till is curating an exhibition of work from some of the artists involved in the Art and Geography sessions. The exhibition is at the Cregan Library, Ground Floor, DCU St. Patrick’s College, 5-7 May 2016. I will give further details of the artists in the exhibition in a later email.

The keynote lecture in Human Geography is by Dr Harriet Hawkins, a leading scholar of Art and Geography and author of For Creative Geographies: Geography, Visual Arts and the Making of Worlds (New York: Routledge, 2013).

On the Saturday there is a fieldwalk with Professor Luke Gibbons covering themes of memory, identity and landscape in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and based on his book Joyce’s Ghosts: Ireland, Modernism and Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Here the details of these Art and Geography activities.


Silvia Loeffler, Glas Journal 2015, image courtesy of the artist


CIG 2016: Art and Geography Sessions

Organisers: Dr. Karen Till MU Geography, Dr. Nessa Cronin, NUI Galway Centre for Irish Studies; Dr. Tim Collins, NUI Galway Centre for Landscape Studies

Thursday 5 May 2016. 9:30-11am: Art and Geography 1: Irish Memorial Cartographies

Session 1B: Room E201

Chair: Mark McCarthy

EL Putnam, independent multi-media artist (Ireland): ‘Silenced Echoes: Multisensory Tracings of Grangegorman’s Institutional Spectres’

Karen E. Till, Maynooth University Geography: ‘ANU’s 1916-2016 Triptych: Emplacing Ireland through the Female Body’

Gerry Kearns, Maynooth University Geography: ‘Postcolonial Memory: Commodities and Institutions’

Clodagh O’Malley Gannon, Maynooth University Sociology: ‘Local Place-name Maps and Traditional Ecological Knowledges (TEK): Supporting Local Agricultural Sustainability Through Folklore and Material Insight’

Discussant: Lorraine Dowler, Department of Geography, Penn State University

Coffee break: 11-11:30am

11:30am-1pm: Plenary Session: GEOGRAPHIES OF 1916, Heaney Lecture Theatre,

G114, Cregan Library

Lunch break: 1-2pm

Kathy Herbert and Dorothy Smith, Drawing Conversations, 2014, image courtesy of the artists

Thursday 2-3:30pm: Art and Geography 2: (Re)Mapping Public Space through the Body

Session 3B, Room E201

Chair: Nessa Cronin, NUI Galway, Centre for Irish Studies

Lorna O’Hara, Maynooth University Geography: ‘Street Harassment: Creative-placed based interventions’

Kellie Ann Payne, Maynooth University Geography: ‘Avant-garde Geopolitics’

Beatrice Jarvis, independent movement artist (UK/Germany): ‘Dancing with Shadows: Choreo-cartography, memory production and the embodied spatial archive in Berlin’

Dorothy Smith and Kathy Herbert, independent community-based artists (Ireland): ‘Walking/Drawing’

Discussant: Gerry Kearns, Maynooth University Geography

Coffee break, 3:30-4pm

Moore_-_Capitalism_in_the_Web_of_Life-28ccec2d6dcf167acd4733a0a8a74581Thursday, 4-5.30pm, Capitalism in the Web of Life

Session 4c, Room E406
Chair: Gerry Kearns, Maynooth University

Jason Moore’s “Capitalism in the Web of Life” (Verso 2015) is an important intervention in debates about the Anthropocene. Moore incorporates environmental change within a broader narrative about the evolution of capitalism. This is an audacious materialist reading of the politics of climate change and challenges the naturalizing of structural violence, class conflict, and colonialism that is so often produced under the sign of the Anthropocene. Jason Moore (Binghampton University) will attend the session and will engage with the responses to his book from Anna Davies (Trinity College Dublin), Gerry Kearns, John Morrissey (NUI Galway), and Conor Murphy (Maynooth University).


Dr Harriet Hawkins, author of Creative Geographies, Heaney Lecture Theatre (G114) Cregan Library

Friday 6 May 2016, 11.30 am – 1 pm. Art and Geography 3: Deep Mapping

Session 6A, Room E201

Chair: Karen E. Till, Maynooth University Geography

Aoife Kavanagh, Maynooth University Geography and musical artist: ‘Making Music and Making Place: Insights from Musical Practice in Carlow’

Silvia Loeffler, Maynooth University Geography IRC Postdoc and visual artist: ‘Utopia and Weltfremdheit: Deep Mappings of Rootedness in Dún Laoghaire Harbour through the Lens of Migrant Border Existence’

Laura Donkers, University of Dundee, School of Art and Design, and community-based artist: ‘The Monument Game’

Nessa Cronin, Centre for Irish Studies, National University of Ireland Galway: ‘“You’re all the time adding”: Deep Mapping, Community Practice and the ‘Invention’ of Place’

Discussant: Harriet Hawkins, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London

1-2pm: Lunch

2-3:30: Concurrent Sessions

3:30-4pm: Coffee Break

4-5:30pm: Keynote Lecture, Professor Nigel Routlet, Peatlands, Carbon and Climate Change, Heaney Lecture Theatre (G114) Cregan Library

6:30pm: Conference Dinner: All Hallows College

Saturday 7 May 2016

9:30-1pm: Conference sessions and tea breaks

1-2pm: Lunch and GSI AGM Meeting

Saturday 7 May 2016, 2.30 pm at Glasnevin Cemetery. Field trip: Joyce’s Ghosts in Dublin with Professor Luke Gibbons.

Joyces ghosts

2:10pm: Leave SPD Cregan Library OR meet at 2:30pm at Glasnevin Cemetery entrance.

Ending point: Gravedigger’s pub at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Luke Gibbons will introduce us to the relations between landscape and memory in James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Luke Gibbons’ marvelous Joyce’s Ghosts: Ireland, Modernism and Memory (Chicago University Press, 2016) identifies many spectres in Ulysses. Some of these feature as the kind of uncanny traces that disturbed Joyce himself. There is a sort of unfinished business that allows conversational scraps, unbidden memory, and the names secreted or suggested by elements of the landscape, to trouble us with a reflection at which we shudder but can not quite master. Of course, we do not share all the contextual knowledge that Joyce imagined his Dubliners carried around as sly half-knowns, and for this reason Ulysses is incomplete for us in quite a different way than it was for his first, and ideal, readers. Luke Gibbons’ forensic research conjures some more of these ghosts for us. We will walk through part of Glasnevin Cemetery and review the issues of memory, landscape, and identity in Joyce’s writings. This place was particularly dense with history and memory for Joyce, most dramatically, but not only, in the ‘Hades’ chapter of Ulysses. We will end at the Gravediggers pub for some final reflections on memory, conviviality and the ghosted stories in Joyce.

Bodies Politic Symposium, 25 February 2016

The symposium was over-subscribed and about one hundred people attended at Renehan Hall, Maynooth University, for a day of papers, performance and discussion about some of the arts projects addressing the commemoration of 1916. The event had very welcome support from Maynooth University as part of the work of the Commemorations Committee and of the Research Development Committee. The symposium was curated by Fearghus Ó Conchúir and co-organised with Gerry Kearns and Lian Bell as part of the Casement Project. The continuing programme of the Casement Project is reported on its Facebook page.

Bodies Politic photo by Ste Murray
Bodies Politic Symposium, photograph by Ste Murray (used with permission)

The five projects under review were ANU and Coisceim Dance Theatre’s These Rooms (an site-specific performance piece presented by Owen Boss and Emma O’Kane, in conversation with Karen Till, Maynooth University); In the Shadow of the State (a programme of meetings and installations curated and presented by Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones, in conversation with Lisa Godson, National College of Art and Design); Embodied (a set of dance performances curated by Liz Roche, and presented by Liz Roche, Jesse Keenan and Liv O’Donoghue, in conversation with Finola Cronin, University College Dublin); Future Histories (a live art and video installation curated by Áine Phillips and Niamh Murphy, and presented by Áine Phillips and Niamh Murphy, in conversation with EL Putnam, independent scholar); and The Casement Project (a dance event with associated academic and creative programme curated by Fearghus Ó Conchúir, in conversation with Gerry Kearns, Maynooth University).

The day was opened with poetic reflection upon the embodied character of art from Sheila Pratschke (chair of the Arts Council). It included several moments of bodily reconnection led by Fearghus Ó Conchúir. There was a conversation between Lian Bell, of #WakingtheFeminists and Roslaeen McDonagh, feminist, traveller and disability activist, about solidarities and disabled activism in the arts and society. There were also dance performances from Liv O’Donoghue and Jessie Keenan. The day was a way of taking stock of the challenges facing artists and other activists as they looked ahead to the year of the centenary. Fearghus Ó Conchúir has put some of his own reflections upon his own blog.

Liv O'Donoghue performing as part of Bodies Politic photo by Ste Murray
Liv O’Donoghue performing at the symposium. Photograph by Ste Murray (used with permission).

Our discussions returned to questions about bodies and inclusion. In the first place, abstractions like the nation implicate real bodies in asymmetric relations with each other. Thus the patriarchal assumptions of imagining the nation as something like a nuclear family reinforces all the sexist relations characteristic of the sorts of families that common-sense imagines to be the reference point for the nation as family. If we think differently about families we might think differently about nations. With In the Shadow of the State, Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne not only demonstrate the everyday sexism of common sense, but in their work with the academic Lisa Godson they have also highlighted the violence done unto women by the purportedly objective practices of medical science.

Throughout the day people were asking about the sorts of bodies that are made welcome within the national narrative. Clearly the queer body of Roger Casement has often not been made welcome, and yet the language of equality in our Proclamation of the Republic invites the greater generosity that would celebrate the integrity of his claim to a right of free sexual expression. It might also attend to the erotic and democratic energy of a desire that foreswore the racism of the time to see in men of the Congo or of the Putumayo the embodiment of a common manliness. The links between anti-colonialism and sexual liberation have yet to receive sustained attention but The Casement Project creates an opportunity for such a conversation.

Some of the speakers at Bodies Politic photo by Ste Murray
Some of the speakers at the Bodies Politic Symposium. Back row left to right. Liv O’Donoghue, Jessie Keenan, Karen Till, Fearghus Ó Conchúir, Finola Cronin, Gerry Kearns. Front row. Roseeen McDonagh, Jesse Jones, Sarah Browne, Owen Boss, Sheila Pratschke, Liz Roche. Photograph by Ste Murray (used with permission). 

These Rooms treats the violence of the 1916 Rising itself. It was an intimate violence that was forced into the domestic spaces of north Dublin as troops avoided the exposure of the street by tunneling their way through houses. As Karen Till remarked in her discussion of this piece, this intimate clawing into unknown spaces uses the hands to learn in a manner rather similar to the way Jacques Derrida describes the navigations of a blind person. This thoroughly embodied way of learning is difficult to appreciate without an empathy that comes from a work of imagination aided by the props of dimly-lit terraced rooms and the craft of a theatre company that provokes just this quality of reflection upon the forgotten bodies encountered in those spaces, the bodies of the female residents who had not fled in advance of the worm-like progress of the British troops.

The pieces that are curated as Embodied respond to a competition sponsored by An Post which challenged artists to find a manner to commemorate the Proclamation with performances in and around Dublin’s General Post Office, the place where the Proclamation was first proclaimed. With dance performances the artists have again explored the connection between texts and bodies. The power of the body to register and perhaps recover lost voices was evident in the works presented and in Finola Cronin’s anticipation of the fuller performances to come. The evanescence of performance might seem to contradict the seeming permanence of textual archives but in responding to Future Histories, EL Putnam drew upon the writings of Rebecca Schneider to suggest that in the repetition of bodily gestures or performances, there is a trace that remains as something rather like an archive. Repetition carries its own risks and freedoms and embodied reflections upon future archives may stimulate new ways of creatively reanimating those, such as the Proclamation, that may seem to have been made solid by their context.

Bodies Politic was only an interim report on the conversations between artists and academics about commemoration and performance. As these projects progress towards performances in the settings for which they were intended, the discussions will also continue to be gathered later as a set of essays both for the Casement Project website and then as an edited volume.

Bodies Politic was supported by  the Maynooth Research Development Fund and by the Maynooth Decade of Centenaries Events Fund.  It is part of The Casement Project, which is produced by Fearghus Ó Conchúir in association with Project Arts CentreThe Casement Project is an Open Call National Project in ART:2016, the Arts Council’s programme as part of the Ireland 2016Centenary Programme. It is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, and is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Its creation is also made possible through the generosity of Dr R. Martin Chávez and supported by Dance IrelandThe Place Theatre, London, The British LibraryNational University of Ireland, MaynoothDublin City CouncilMicro-Rainbow InternationalThe National Archives, London. The presentation of The Casement Project in London is supported by Culture Ireland.

Gerry Kearns, Geography, Maynooth University

Roger Casement at the National Concert Hall

Wonderful Casement material at the National Concert Hall last night. As part of the 1916 Series, Imagining Home, last evening was given the theme ‘Into Europe.’ Curated by Fintan O’Toole, the performances included Owen Roe delivering the speech that George Bernard Shaw had written for Casement to deliver at his treason trial. This speech was described in a recent column in the Irish Times, https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/bernard-shaw-to-roger-casement-put-on-the-performance-of-your-life-1.2584577, but to hear it delivered with a moving blend of resignation and brio by Owen Roe was yet a revelation. Shaw would have had Casement admit all the facts of the case but then insist that as an Irishman he could not really be convicted of treason against a British monarch. Casement would also have insisted that Irish men and Irish women throwing themselves against unimaginable odds was no less and no more an expression of nationality that the futile efforts of the British army at Gallipoli that were currently exciting British patriots. Casement did not accept Shaw’s offer, and while his speech from the dock after sentencing is dignified, the challenge that Shaw threw upon the jurors had given Casement an opportunity of a different measure of immortality; one that these centenary celebrations are steadily restoring to him.

After this performance, came the premiere of Fintan O’Toole’s own new piece about Casement. With the images of a black circle (recalling the rubber tires that move modernity) and of a proffered hand (the stump of a mutilated worker, or the handshake of a perpetrator), O’Toole’s “The Nightmare of Empire/The Dream of Europe” channels Casement’s excoriating attack upon imperialism. In a thrilling performance, Olwen Fouéré drew the full draught of indignation, worried complicity, and principled defiance from O’Toole’s text. Quite an evening.

[Photograph of Olwen Fouéré, from Facebook page of Frances Marshall Photography. https://www.facebook.com/FrancesMarshallPhotography/ Used with permission]


Eulogy for my Mum


We buried my Mum yesterday
Christina Mary Kearns (née Foy)
born Dublin 26 October 1931
died Luton 20 February 2016

Goodbye Mum,
having put it there,
you take with you
some of the best
of each of us.

Like Dad,
you were raised
first in the tenements of north Dublin.
born at home,
at 16 Upper Gloucester street,
to Mary and Jack Foy,
in a house demolished when
your family was moved about
a mile up the road,
‘into the country,’ as you told me,
and a corporation house
on Carnlough Road,
and the luxury of your own front door,
your own garden where,
during the War,
the Emergency,
your father grew vegetables
to feed a growing family.

Like Dad,
you had seen poverty
as a child,
and you and Kevin based your family
on a prudent economy, where,
as you told Kevin,
the children would always come first,
and Kevin,
also cherishing your children delicately,
and handing to you each week, with respect,
an unopened pay packet,
helped you gift your children,
and then also your grand-children,
and then also your great-grand-children,
the confidence of unqualified love.

Well Mum, Chris,
you, too, had the confidence that
comes from love without stint
after you married Dad,
the man of whom you told us with pride
that people, like once a bus conductor,
and another time a neighbor,
would remark to you:
‘That man loves you, he does.’
And, he does.

So Mum,
leaning on each other,
in a strangers’ land,
you and Dad, Kevin,
raised a family in England.
Homesick, certainly,
but grateful for the civility of
a National Health Service
for your family,
and free education for your children,
even University,
for your sons;
an opportunity that you yourself, Mum, Chris,
would certainly have relished,
with your cultural enthusiasms,
Tchaikovsky and Chopin,
and the appetite for learning,
that saw you defy your father
and insist that being a young woman
should not close to you the chance
of education
beyond the years of compulsory schooling.
And from those days, Mum, Chris
you kept a heavily thumbed book on domestic science
yhat grounded your
always analytical approach to baking
producing in turn, our own greedy appreciation of your craft.

And Mum, Chris, while you
expected a lot of those you loved
you only ever asked that they do their best,
and whereas you urged all
to careful thought and patient reading,
you, yourself, Mum, Chris,
were humble in the face of all that was unknown to you,
and I suspect you believed, unknown
even to those with more leisure for learning
than you had been allowed.
For, all who knew you at all well
knew of your devotion to the
mysteries of your Catholic faith
and your particular veneration
of the Virgin Mary and, indeed,
the family Bible,
given to you by your sister Theresa,
contains only two bookmarks,
both dating from the day of your marriage:
one is a blessing from a friend, a nun,
and the other is
a prayer card of
the Legion of Mary.

So, Mum, Chris,
I know that
by your own lights
you can only have had pride
in a life lived
in faith, and in love,
in comity, and in good cheer
for you are ever
quick to take the opportunity for a joke,
mindful of every good fortune;
a lady for whom the teapot
that watered conversation
was always warm.

So, Mum, Chris,
I think of your ambition,
your loyalty,
your knowing laughter
and open smile,
but mostly of
your example–
of neighbourliness,
of married love,
and of tender parenting–
and I hope that,
while much that is best
about all of us
surely needed you to sow its seed,
the very thought of you
will nourish it yet,
and I hope that we can say goodbye
and know that we always
bear some witness
to your cherished memory.
Suaimhneas síoraí dá hanam.
Rest in peace, Chris, Mum.