SPUD | A Village Plot

Irish Museum of Modern Art: March - August 2016



On Sat 19 Mar A Village Plot unfolded on the front lawn at IMMA. Decorative potato ridges were made using traditional planting techniques by the Loy Association Ireland.The project is the latest manifestation of the SPUD project and is a research stage of the A Fair Residency collaboration taking place this year between IMMA and Grizedale Arts

A Village Plot IMMA


Exploring notions of traditional knowledge, self-sufficiency and relationships between agriculture and identity, the project seeks to publicly investigate the idea of merging Land and Art as ‘Useful-Art’. The Deirdre O’Mahony and Loy Association members were on hand to share their extensive knowledge and to demonstrate traditional techniques for converting a lawn for practical crop growing. For more click HERE

Frank Mc Nally An Irishman's Diary the Irish Times "The Art of Potatoes" Wed May 25th 2016 



SPUD |   The Big Dig  National Irish Famine Museum Strokestown 2015 


The Big Dig was an event-based collaborative, famine memorial that took place on the church lawn between Strokestown house and the Mahon Family mausoleum in the park grounds of the Irish National Famine Museum on March 29th 2015 and the beds cared for by participants from March to August. A harvest event and  presentation took place in late August 2015.

This 4 min. film tracks the progress of planting and harvesting the potatoes with guidence froom members of the Irish Loy Association who kindly offered help and instruction on how to make a potato ridge or 'lazy' bed. This name, often seen as derogatory, is believed to derive from the French verb lessez or 'to leave', as once made and earthed up, the bed, with a bit of weeding, can be left to its own devices. 

Curated by Linda Shevlin

Funded by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaionnunder the Curator in residence scheme and and Roscommon Arts Office 2015

Particular thanks to Linda Shevlin, John O'Driscoll, the Staff of the National Irish Famine Museum, Padraig Cunningham, the participitants and volunteers who dug and looked after the potatoes, the Irish Loy Association and Tadhg Leonard .


SPUD | Making Neighbourhood Residency, Barcelona  


     SPUD presentation and workshop on container planting at Mercat de Pagès Barcelona. Photograph Mireia Estrada Gelabert 2015

Deirdre O'Mahony is presently undertaking a residency with Jiwar Creation & Society, Barcelona. The residency provides an opportunity to reflect upon parallels between the violence that structured the economic and social conditions of the Irish Famine and the economic consequences of globalization playing out through migration today. It further demonstrates the use-value of potato container planting which produces a large crop within a limited space and is very relevant for small urban gardens, apartment balconys and patios. Thus tacit rural knowledge becomes available to urban communities through artistic cultural interventions. For updates on the residency click here.

The Jiwar residency is supported by Barcelona City with travel support from Clare County Arts Office



SPUD | the future is in the bag - a  research residency at The Workhouse Union, Callan County Kilkenny.  

Group Shot Future in the bag sm

Participants at the Workhouse Union Callan Container Potato planting, April 2015. Photograph Rosie Lynch.

A SPUD Food and Film event was held at Fennelly's Callan in April, followed by a day of potato container planting, the future is in the bag in the courtyard of the Workhouse Union.

The next phase will take place in July 2015. For more click here

Workhouse Union is a project curated by Hollie Kearns and Rosie Lynch and funded through a project award from the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaionn. 


SPUD | the big dig Comissioned project at the Irish  National Famine Museum Strokestown, Roscommon 

Best Strokestown house and ridges

The Big Dig: Potato ridges planted in an X in front of Strokestown House. Photograph Linda Shevlin 2015

The Big Dig is an event-based collaborative, famine memorial that took place on the church lawn between Strokestown house and the Mahon Family mausoleum in the park grounds of the Irish National Famine Museum on March 29th 2015. This event was followed by a presentation on the SPUD project  and a harvest event in September 2015. For more click here

Curated by Linda Shevlin and funded: The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaionn and Roscommon Arts Office 


  SPUD_Pamphlet_no_2_Revised_sm.pdf Download of information on projects


 SPUD Animation  


 SPUD 3-D animation, How to make a Lazy Bed, produced by Deirdre O’Mahony and designed by Cian Brennan and features an audio track by Phil Gaston. It is based on information provided by Clare-based farmers, Tom Barry, Tom Keating, Michael Malone and Francis Whelan for SPUD, a simple, effective way of showing how to grow a superfood in small spaces, a test of the effectiveness of cultural activism in transferring place-based, tacit knowledge to urban populations. 

In April 2014 SPUD Deirdre O’Mahony was nominated by EVA International Biennial of Contemporary Art curated by Bassam El Baroni, to attend the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) Network Activity exploring 'ART as an instrument and expression of social change’ in Taroudant, Morocco. In response to the brief, O’Mahony invited some of her SPUD artist collaborators, Frances Whitehead and Nadege Meriau to exhibit some of their potato works Merieu's two films Lifelines 1 & 2 made for SPUD London and Whitehead’s Diaspora Papa map of the global spread of the potato. These were seen with O'Mahony's production of the 3D animation, Spud Posters of interventions in X-PO County Clare, and Anna Lindh delegates and students were served Irish potato cakes. 




7 SPUDearningspace OccupySpace2013

SPUD LearningSpace, HQ/OccupySpace, Limerick December 2013

Potato Mash: Audio Track for SPUD Animation by Philip Gaston  

hear it here: Potato Mash.mp3 


Potato Pamphlet  by Deirdre O’Mahony produced for the H_Q Limerick, Occupy Space Common Ground exhibition

Download SPUD GIY Pamphlet.

Potato Fruit



September 2013 SPUD Harvest at X-PO

harvest Xpo3

Spud harvest at X-PO, Butes (best variety), Golden Wonder and Roosters.

SPud harvest xpo 1

Harvesting at X-PO Photo Barry Foley

Spud Installation X-PO Deirdre O'Mahony with Frances Whitehead.


29/8/2013: SPUD: London, a harvest event by Nadege Meriau and Deirdre O'Mahony at the Florence Trust, London. (MORE)\

MOPE Potato cakes

M.O.P.E. (Most Oppressed People Ever Potato Cakes London  


SPUD: Lead Artist/Project Organiser: Deirdre O’Mahony (IRE):


SPUD Collaborations 2013: 

Research: SPUD Installation Kilnaboy Deirdre O'Mahony with Frances Whithead (USA)


Image 4 DOM

SPUD Installation at X-PO May 2013 Photograph Martina Cleary

Deirdre OMahony  Frances Whitehead Diaspora Pappa map and installation X-PO 2013

SPUD Installation with Frances Whitehead's Diaspora Papa Map. Photograph Martina Cleary

DEIRDRE OMAHONY Spud Archive X-PO 2013

SPUD Installation at X-PO May 2013 Photograph Martina Cleary


SPUD UK Grizedale Arts (UK)

SPUD LONDON Nadege Meriau, Florence Trust (London)

SPUD @ X-PO, Killinaboy (Ire)


SPUD provides space for an investigation and aesthetic reflection on sustainability, food security, changing landscapes and rural/urban relationships. It is a transdisciplinary, collaborative project between artists and farmers, agencies and institutions curating and making new work and working with different rural and urban publics. The project uses a range of object based and dialogical aesthetic processes to reframe and make visible the relevance of rural tacit cultivation knowledge to urban publics today. This knowledge is still extant amongst older farmers but becoming increasingly redundant in post-productivist landscapes. SPUD will also reflect upon the paradigmatic shift presently underway from the rural as a site of food production to an arena of cultural production. The project emerged from O’Mahony’s practice in the west of Ireland where her research has focused on re-thinking the relationship between politics, ecology and activism through an extended, durational, process of engagement. The X-PO (ex-post office) project was set up five years ago as a self-sustaining space in which to engage in an extended collective, process of reflection and re-imagination on rurality, community and belonging in an increasingly fragmented, deterritorialised world. The creation of archives related to the personal and collective history of the site has been fundamental to the activation process, pointing to ways that aesthetics, both dialogical and object based, can make visible underlying, often unacknowledged, power relations governing representation, participation and local democracy in rural Ireland. At X-PO conversations often revolve around ways of growing food, particularly potatoes. The extent and depth of tacit cultivation knowledge shared by some farmers led to the idea of doing a new project on the potato, SPUD in 2009 and the creation of a pamphlet on aspects of potato cultivation and its contemporary relevance to urban communities.

Coincidentally O’Mahony met Chicago-based artist Frances Whitehead at that time and they shared an interest in the role that artist’s knowledge can play in devising pragmatic, innovative solutions for a sustainable futures. Whitehead has worked for a number of years with CIP, the International Potato Center a research-for-development organization based in Lima, Peru and the artists began to pool research, sharing ideas on potato cultivation and its contemporary relevance to food security, particularly in cities. SPUD became a frame within which to examine role artists might play in making visible the relevance of rural (village) culture to urban publics today. The history and social influence of the potato has been a source of a considerable amount of research within environmental and development studies and now SPUD adds to this discourse. The project reflects upon the inversion (or equation) of culture and agriculture, of rural and post urban, of artist and agri+culturist, connecting rural knowledge to urban sites through culturally driven knowledge transfer. It is a critical reflection upon the continued importance of tacit, cultivation knowledge in addressing the most pressing problems of contemporary life. Expanding the enquiry, O’Mahony located other artists, institutions and agencies to contribute and in 2013 the first SPUD gardens were made in London, at Grizedale Arts in Cumbria and at X-PO in County Clare. 




Potato Variety: Tibeten,  Flowers July 2013. Photograph Deirdre O'Mahony

Potatoes thanks to Irish Seed Savers 


SPUD Project:

The idea is simple; make a series of rectangular potato gardens following traditional methods used by farmers in County Clre.


  • Make available traditional farming knowledge to contemporary urban publics and demystify simple food production.
  • Activate and stimulate food production in urban and rural sites.
  • Reflect upon the migration of the potato, its history and impact in different cultures and its future potential as a crop that can address current food security issues.
  • Produce SPUD pamphlets that serve as an aesthetic, pedagogical and critical platform for the project’s actions.
  • Initiate transdisciplinary research into the cultural framing of food production and the maintenance of seed stocks and scientific and tacit cultivation knowledge.
  • Produce SPUD Pamphlets for each site.

Beneficial Outcomes

  • Re-value traditional farming knowledge and its contemporary use value in relation to sustainable food production.
  • Examine the paradigmatic shift within rural landscapes from food production to post-productivist, leisure sites and labor supply sources.
  • Prompt a change in public attitudes to food and food production.
  • Prompt questions on what urban planning needs to learn from rural knowledge in relation to future food security.
  • Provide qualitative research though academic papers to inform agricultural, rural and urban policymaking.
  • Give symbolic form to the interconnected and interdependant nature of rural and urban relationships.




Francis Whelan Planting Potato crop April 2010






Dromoher, Kilnaboy, Co. Clare, Ireland