FIRST CITIZENS SPEAK! A Visual Arts Commission with Deirdre O Mahony, glór, Ennis

Thursday 5th - 28th May, Free of Charge.

Opening Thursday 5th, 6pm by Catherine Marshall art writer, curator, formerly head of collections at IMMA.

Artist Deirdre O’Mahony has been commissioned by Bealtaine and VOLTage to develop ‘First Citizens Speak’, in response to Bealtaine’s 2016 theme. The project focuses on older members of a community in North Clare - the memories, values and behaviours they hold dear- that are and were, important in achieving a strong sense of contentedness within that community.

The project involves GP Dr Fergus Glynn (based in North Clare) as interlocutor, anthropologist Anne Byrne and local members of the North Clare communities as interviewers and mediators.

At the core of this project proposal is the idea of one generation sharing their experience, knowledge and accumulated wisdom with present and future generations. How do we develop the emotional and psychological skills to navigate a time of unprecedented social, cultural, political and economic change? The oldest citizens of the state have experienced periods of profound change -from pre-modern rural life built around mutual dependency and shared labour - to modern technologically-driven independence and autonomy - to the present day globalised post-modern world. How have they navigated and processed those changes and still maintain a sense of personal ease and contentedness? This was the question asked by local GP, Dr. Fergus Glynn, when he approached the artist in 2012 to know if she and others at X-PO, would be interested in doing a project with older members of the North Clare community. He observed that that sense of connectedness to the world that he encountered in his oldest patients is becoming increasingly difficult for the rest of us to attain. In his email he suggested an idea for a project proposing



Deirdre O’Mahony is an artist, academic and occasional writer. She received a BA in Fine Art (Painting) from St Martin’s School of Art London, an MA (Research-based) at the Crawford College of Art Cork and a PhD from the University of Brighton titled New Ecologies between Rural Life and Visual Culture in the West of Ireland: History, Context, Position, and Art Practice. She is a full time lecturer at the Centre for Creative Arts, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.

Dr. Fergus Glynn has run the Corofin Medical Centre for many years and is the originator of the idea for this project. Corofin Medical Centre is also a teaching practice for doctors to receive training. Fergus’ brother, Liam is also a GP and runs the medical centre in Ballyvaughan. Fergus is away at present but emailed me to say he is delighted that the idea is once more under consideration and would be happy to be a part.

Dr Anne Byrne (NUIG) Drawing on the ideas of curator Nuno Sacramento, central to this project is the role of a ‘shadow’ ethnographic voice, who can strengthen the ethical and methodological implications of art-making, particularly in practices that involve social and community-based groups. For Sacramento, the Shadow Curator is a critical methodology that strives to strengthen the mission of the art institution and its appointed producer/curator's practice. In other words, it creates a mirror that when held up against a practice, highlights opportunities for critical development. In this instance, the Shadow Ethnographer’s role is to highlight the ethical issues around the engagement process and subsequent representation. Anne has been an active participant in collaborative exhibition making at X-PO.

X-PO: Participant members of X-PO were involved in the early discussions on this project in acting as intermediaries and mediators for the project and are interested in playing a role in this project. X-PO started life as a public art project that sought to actively engage individuals and communities in Kilnaboy in County Clare, by giving time and space to re-viewing and re-imagining the social and cultural priorities in what is a rapidly changing rural landscape and an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Burren. Kilnaboy is a scattered parish of a few hundred households. A national school and a church are all that it possesses in the way of civic amenities. Once there were a couple of shops, a blacksmith, and a Post Office. But, like much in rural Ireland today, that was once upon a time. The changing face of farming and the necessity for many of a long daily commute to and from work in nearby towns and cities have presented a challenge to rural communities like Kilnaboy.