X-PO started life as a public art project that sought to actively engage individuals and communities in Killinaboy 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.
X-PO Kilnaboy, County Clare. Photograph Deirdre O'Mahony 2017.
In order to openly reflect upon these challenges Deirdre O’Mahony re-opened the former post office in order to activate a public discussion on space, place and ideas of ‘community’ in the locality. The building is a familiar, non-institutional space, the former home of post master Mattie Rynne for the best part of seventy years. Re-opening it enabled different ‘publics’ and individuals to come together and give time and space to re-viewing, recalling and reimagining social and cultural priorities and possibilities.
X-PO Short Film by Fergus Tighe/Galavanting Media
Four separate archives covering different aspects of local knowledge have been created and are kept on site.
The Mattie Rynne archive of the former postmaster, John Martin 'Mattie' Rynne
The Peter Rees Archive drawn from over 25,000 photographs documenting Kilnaboy and Corofin parish life since the 1980s
The Rinnamona Research Group archive of new research into the local effect of the 1930's Harvard Irish Study, when an authoritative anthropological study made by Solon Arnesberg and Kimball, much of which was based on a townland in Kilnaboy, Family and Community in Ireland.
The Killinaboy Mapping Group archive who have named and traced the occupancy of every house and ruin in the parish of Kilnaboy.
The Killinaboy Mapping Group archive Photograph Martina Cleary © Deirdre O'Mahony 2009.
X-PO was directed by O’Mahony during the first year, who activated the space through a programme of events, talks and exhibitions. The archives were fundamental to the activation process; groups and individuals assembling, collating and audiencing alternative histories and narratives related to individuals and histories. Teams of local participants took on the project in 2008 and have since developed, funded and managed X-PO since 2008. Drawing participants from a broad constituency, X-PO lays no claim to be representative - it is rather the act of participation that is at the core of the project. X-PO is still running from mid-September to 30th May, closing for the summer, the busiest time in the farming year. Initially funded by the Arts Council and SuperValu, now, like other local activities, X-PO is dependent on the generosity of visitors and clubs who use the space on a weekly basis.
Conversations at X-PO often revolve around ways of growing food, particularly potatoes. This extended into the particular uses of tools, and skills, how to “read” the soil in order to plant and harvest at the correct time. The extent and depth of knowledge led to the idea of making a pamphlet on growing potatoes. As increasing numbers of GIY rural and urban gardeners turn to smallholding, the potential was clear for this kind of specific, tacit farming knowledge to be made visible. The depth of tacit cultivation knowledge shared by some at X-PO led to the genesis of the SPUD project.
To read Deirdre O'Mahony's writing on X-PO, click here for links. New X-PO website under construction.