Click Here for 2019 CV
Deirdre O’Mahony’s research output for the CERERE public artwork has taken several forms. A discussion process called Mind Meitheal that provides public space for a multi-actor, culturally driven knowledge exchange, a specially commissioned artwork from artist Sadhbh Gaston and three short films that have documented some of the engagement process.
Sadhbh Gaston Grain 1 - 5. Artworks commissioned and made for Teagasc Cerere, 2018.
Deirdre’s research took her to farmers, seed suppliers, millers, bakers and scientists, who are all engaged, or want to engage with, heritage cereals. Visits to farmer Kate Carmody in North Kerry resulted in a filmed interview in which Kate outlines the importance of biodiversity on her farm, and her experiments in diversification through the cultivation of Donegal Oats, hemp and other heritage seeds. The film can be seen HERE.
Through face-to-face meetings and conversations it became apparent there was a need for a space in which different actors could share their experience and knowledge. In response she has devised two Mind Meitheal multi-actor events in partnership with cultural organisations.
SNA Diagram of all of the networks connected through the Mind Meitheal in Galway. Design Kaye Toland
The idea of a Mind Meitheal originally came to life in the context of efforts to sustain the social, cultural, economic and natural land/scape of the Burren at X-PO. The Mind Meitheal process was used to surface questions, ideas and responses from diverse groups using the space about issues around farming and maintaining the ecology of the Burren and subsequently used by the artist in a number of different rural contexts.
Mind Meitheal in Fingal, September 2018 Photograph Tom Flannagan
The first Mind Meitheal took place in Fingal in partnership with Fingal Public Arts Office in a field later planted with Einkorn and Emmer wheat. Participants included Áine Macken Walsh, Senior researcher Department of Agri-Food Business and Spatial Analysis, Teagasc, Michael Melkis Co-Founder Irish Seedsavers. Michael did much of the work to preserve Irish Heritage cereals in Ireland, Anne Mullee a curator of All Bread Is Made of Wood for Fingal Public Art office made by Fiona Hallinan and Sabrina McMahon, Jessica Gleman the school of Archeology at UCD whose research topic is Behind the Brew: The Materiality of Alcoholic Fermentation in Early Medieval Ireland, Dominic Gryson, Farmer, who has preserved and cultivated historic varieties of wheat on his farm in Cornstown in north County Dublin and Gerry Clabby, formerly Heritage officer in Fingal. Link to film HERE
Beetroot Violet and Spelt Meringue made by The Domestic Godless for Gruts Buffet, Tulca at Sheridans Galway CERERE Mind Meitheal Event 2018
The second took place as part of the Tulca Visual Art Festival, Syntonic State curated by Linda Shevlin, in Galway which was also the Teagasc's 2018 CERERE national event. Held alongside The Domestic Godless' feast of landrace cereal based dishes, Gruts Buffet, the Tulca Mind Meitheal featured a specially designed Social Network Analysis (SNA) diagram and pamphlet by designer Kaye Toland. Link to film HERE The following day a range of people; farmers, seed producers, scientists, archeologists, historians organic growers and seed saving experts gave different perspectives on heritage cereal production.
Mind Meitheal Galway as part of the Teagasc CERERE national network event November 2018.
Commissioned Artwork: Sadhbh Gaston was commissioned to create a series of artworks Grain 1 – 5, that references heritage and forms of knowledge considered obsolete through her use of labour-intensive embroidery techniques. These techniques are less about an intuitive creativity and more about careful planning, precise execution, and patient persistent focus.
Sadhbh Gaston TGC 101 Rye, embroidered cross stitch on linen 2018.
This process allows the accumulation of stitches to represent the kind of repetitive and necessary work of farming. Cross stitch also walks a line between tradition and technology as embroidered images produced in this way appear pixelated, like a low quality digital image. The addition of narrative through the text panels, plays with how information can be passed through practice, oral tradition, texts, and digitally. Each of the stitched images of Irish landrace and heritage cereals, is accompanied by the story of that particular seed’s cultivation and its relevance of today, illuminating why growing heritage cereals in Ireland makes sense in terms of sustaining biodiversity, and developing better public understanding of locally-sourced healthy food.
CERERE Pamphlet designed by Kaye Toland Download HERE
One day I was showing the sea to a girl who was seeing it for the first time; she declared that she thought a field of potatoes was a far more impressive sight. Francis Picabia, Yes No: Poems and Sayings, translated by Remy Hal,l Hanuman Book #39 2001
Deirdre O’Mahony began the SPUD project in 2009, initiating a research process that led to collaborative projects, commissioned artworks, events and installations in Ireland, Europe and the USA from 2011- 19. A publication on the project with texts by Catherine Marshall, Sinead Phelan and Deirdre O'Mahony will be published in 2020.
The potato is a potent image to evoke in relation to food and food security in Ireland, exposing, as it does, conscious and unconscious attitudes to land and alterity within and beyond the nation state. SPUD was initiated in order to present a more nuanced understanding of the potato’s role in Irish culture, in relation to food security and globalised food production. SPUD research follows four strands; indicating unconscious attitudes towards rurality, the land, identity and otherness in Ireland; re-imagining the relevance and use-value of tacit agricultural knowledge to food production today; tracing the potatoes’ importance to global food security; reflecting on new seed developments, seed diversity, seed sovereignty and cultural rights. By looking back to the Irish Famine, further back to the colonial violence that brought the potato to Europe, and connecting it to migration, famine and food security today, SPUD makes use of the potato to map controversies around these threads, providing an understandable and accessible entry point for a public discourse on sustainability, food security and tacit cultivation knowledge.
Trial + Error Exhibition and archival installation.
The Persistent Return supported with a project award from the Arts Council exhibited Ireland and the Netherlands 2018
X-PO SPUD Pamphlet and Potato Cakes Grizedale Arts' Coliseum of the Consumed project for Frieze Artfair 2012
SPUD: London with artist Nadege Meriau
SPUD X: Irish National Irish Famine Museum. Curated Linda Shevlin.
SPUD Workhouse Union: Research residency and project Curated By Hollie Kears and Rosie Lynch, Workhouse Union.
A Village Plot Irish Museum of Modern Art, part of the Grizedale Arts A Fair Land Residency Programme;
Potato/Batata: A Pan-Atlantic Parmentier Exchange with artist Frances Whitehead.
SPUD Morocco Exhibition and food event with the Anna Lindh Foundation nominated by EVA International.
SPUD Jiwar Research residency with Jiwar Creation and Society Barcelona.
SPUD Learning Space Occupy Space, Limerick.
The Perishable Picnic was the outcome of Deirdre O’Mahony’s residency in Lynders’ Mobile Home Park, Portrane County Dublin, part of Fingal Arts Office’s Resort Residency programme. The picnic celebrated the history of fruit growing in North County Dublin. A giant ceramic, strawberry jam pot made by Glasgow-based artist Garnet McCulloch was the centrepiece for a feast of strawberry foods, drinks, and conversation.
Roger Lamb (Lamb’s Fruit), Ray McLoughlin who recently completed significant research into the Lamb Farming History at Trinity College Dublin, Gerry Clabby, Heritage Officer for Fingal and Deirdre O’Mahony discussed the history of fruit farming focusing on the impact of Quaker Farming practices, ethics and investment in the area through an industry that once played an important role in the local economy and community. A screening of archival film footage from the Lamb Family collection and a reading by local author Peig McManus on her experience of strawberry picking in the area as a child put the feast into context and accompanied the day’s discussions. The food was devised with local chef Wayne Hand from locally sourced ingredients.
Speculative Optimism installed in the MERL archives, Photograph Deirdre O'Mahony 2017
A film produced while on the Welcome Foundation Livestock residency in 2017 at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), University of Reading.
The project began with the proposition, is ‘carbon-neutral’ beef possible? Research into the effect of different kinds of forage on animal and soil health was being conducted by two groups at Reading University, the LegumePlus Project and the Diverse Forages project at the Centre for Dairy Research (CEDAR). Both projects included research into Sainfoin, a variety of forage once used extensively in the south of England. Sainfoin has many beneficial effects. It is an efficient wormer, grows in near drought conditions, bees love it, and it fixes nitrogen in soil and it can reduce methene production within a mixed diet. Sainfoin fell out of use with the modernisation of agriculture but is now under investigation for its potential use-value given climate change, a global shortage of nitrogen and the collapse of bee colonies.
The residency provided access to the MERL archives to investigate references to historical forages like Sainfoin and review some of the extensive collection of historical documentary films produced to teach increased efficiency in agriculture. The resulting essayistic film was shot in the museum archives, at the University of Reading’s Hall Farm and a Cotswold Seed’s Honeydale Farm and factory and points to the history of changing agricultural policies that now requires farmers to be economically efficient, practice environmental sustainability and maintain the visual premium and heritage value of landscapes. Some might argue this is an impossible task. Refusing a singular position or narrative, the film relies on unconscious visual associations inspired by the imagery to provide unexpected insights into the complexities of global food production today.
Produced and Directed by Deirdre O’Mahony; Editor: Connie Farrell; Camera: Tom Flanagan; Sound Bob Brennan; Additional Camera: Deirdre O’Mahony; Design: Kaye Tolland
Particular thanks to: The Staff at the Museum of English Rural Life; Cotswold Seeds Ltd., Honeydale Farm Dr. David Humphries, Dr. Anna Thompson CEDAR, University of Reading Hall Farm. Dr. Irene Muller-Harvey and the LegumePlus Project, University of Reding, Alex Lasater, The Dale Lasater Ranch, Matheson, Colorado, USA.
Exhibited:Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), Reading UK (2017) Galway International Arts Festival (2018)
Iarsma: Fragments from an Archive
A collaboration between choreographer Ríonach Ní Néill, composer and musician Tim Collins, academic Nessa Cronin and visual artist Deirdre O’Mahony. The research project was initiated by Dr. Cronin for NUIG.
NUIG Archive, film still by Tom Flannagan from the Iarsma film made by Deirdre O'Mahony 2016
Iarsma: Fragments from an Archive, is an Artists in the Archive project initiated by Nessa Cronin in 2015. A group of artists were commissioned to jointly work collaboratively on the theme of landscape in relation to the Tim Robinson Archive at NUI Galway. Composer and musician Tim Collins, dancer and choreographer Ríonach Ní Néill, and visual artist Deirdre O’Mahony worked with Nessa over a six month period to form the Performing Landscapes Collective which seeks to explore and investigate new ways in which studies of the Irish landscape could be encountered, envisaged and re-imagined through various disciplinary lenses and arts practice.
The X-PO Mapping group at X-PO, NUIG Archive, film still by Tom Flannagan from the Iarsma film made by Deirdre O'Mahony 2016
Invited to participate in a collective event at NUIG the artists and academic used their skills and knowledge in a performance and film event. The film was directed and produced by Deirdre O’Mahony on location in the Robinson Archive, and included the Killnaboy Mapping Group at the X-PO project who have added to the knowledge initially gathered by Robinson in his map of the Burren. The score was composed and arranged by Tim Collins including the newly commissioned pieces, ‘Anthem: Ómós Tim Robinson’, ‘The View from Above’, ‘Sir Donat’s Road’, ‘Sheas sí an Fód’, and ‘Labyrinth’. Ríonach Ní Néill’s recorded and live movement segments, ‘Bird in the Archive’, ‘Léarscáil an Cheathrú Rua’, and ‘my foot is my pen’ utilise contemporary dance environmental research and embodied mapping practices.
Iarsma was initiated as a platform to unpack questions as to what is a landscape archive using the Tim Robinson Archive as the site for exploring alternative ways in which we know and make place. Not only is the material in the archive of importance in itself, but its informational and institutional architecture determines the very nature of our encounter, and frames the way in which we store, catalogue, disseminate, manage, engage, navigate, walk, think, dance, sing and write about knowledge, its place and its praxis. As a practice-led research project, Iarsma marks the culmination of the first phase of work with the Robinson material and is an attempt to explore one fragment of the archive, to ‘fly off into wider spaces’ with ‘an unknown language’ and ‘an untried art’, in a very different way.
Sir Donat's Road, film still by Tom Flannagan from the Iarsma film made by Deirdre O'Mahony 2016
Curated by Lene Noer and Birgitte Kristen for Aarhus 2017 European Capital of Culture.
Panoramic image of the village in January 2017 Photograph Deirdre O'Mahony
Drawing on methods evolved through public art projects in rural Ireland, Deirdre O'Mahony began Groundworks in January 2017 in the former community centre in the village of Aasted Northern Denmark. An inland village, it is surrounded by fields of cereal grown on an industrial scale for the pig industry, also located in the area. Many of the residents are getting older and would like to be able to move to live near families in cities and town. As services decline and increasing numbers of young people move away for jobs, homes have lost equity, and become difficult to sell. In order to open up a public conversation on what might be achieved through the Groundworks a series of workshops were held in January 2017 on collating and using local archives. A collection of local newspaper cuttings became a useful resource through which to examine issues facing the village in its struggle to remain a living, self-sustaining community.
Selecting the archive. Photograph courtesy of Grasslands, 2017.
The collated history was re-presented on the walls of the hall alongside large scale drawings made by the artist and a participant. All residents were invited to a meal to introduce the project and review the archive. Many were taken by the simple process of using overhead projectors to make large scale images and requested that on the next visit, workshops be given.
Magrid Tved working on a projected image of protests at the closure of an ancient road to the sea. Photograph courtesy of Grasslands, 2017.
A village meal was held at the end of the week-long process and an invitation issued to all. Every seat was filled and the event prompted a call for more workshops in April leading to further workshops on making murals, drawing from the collated cuttings and images. A final selection was made and murals now cover much of the village painted by participants; a statement on how they see their place, their history and their future.
Dinner of Irish Stew in the village hall January 2017. Photograph courtesy of Grasslands, 2017.
Painting the murals: Artist Leo Sagastuy Solis, supported the group as their paintings became increasingly ambitious in scale and complexity.
The first mural was made on the outside of the old furniture factory in the centre of Åsted, painted from a 1982 newspaper photograph of Frilev Sieg in his Messerschmidt car. Frilev came to see the work being made, returning for a celebration to mark the first mural the next day.
Bo Futterup in front of his portrait painted on the side of his garage, from a newspaper cutting about the construction of a playground in Asted.
More on the Grasslands Website HERE
A film-based artwork commissioned by Bealtaine as part of VOLTage in association with Clare County of Culture and glór. Supported by The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíonn.
Produced and Directed by Deirdre O'Mahony. Duration 00:36:42
Speaking off camera, older citizens of North Clare talk about the memories, values and behaviours they hold dear - that are and were important in achieving a strong sense of contentedness in their lives. The film captures the wit and wisdom of one generation, offered to another.
First Citizens Speak was based on an idea by Corofin GP, Dr. Fergus Glynn who acted as mediator for the project.
Deirdre O'Mahony, The Family, inkjet print on archival paper, 2016
At the core of this project is the idea of one generation sharing their accumulated experience and knowledge with present and future generations. How do we develop the emotional and psychological skills to navigate a time of unprecedented social, cultural, political, environmental and economic change?
The oldest citizens of the state experienced profound change, from the birth of the state and the end of a way of life that was built around mutual dependency and shared labour, to the independence and autonomy of a globalised post-modern world. How they navigated and processed those changes, and the ways that were found to maintain health and wellbeing, are deeply relevant to us today.
Launch of First Citizens Speak, glór, May 2016. Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Eamonn Kelly Photographer.
We recognize the skills and talents of family and community forebears, but assume that among them, few were artists, philosophers, writers or singers of world renown. Despite the gift, we may conjecture that the opportunity for the expression or recognition of it was not theirs. Yet we may know of the local songs and tunes passed on from mother to daughter, or the footwork needed for intricate dances learned from uncle, father or neighbor and we might be able to recall the names of local men and women who were great story tellers, singers, and musicians. We may remember a carefully built stone-‐wall, filigree lace work, neat rows of flowering new potatoes heaped with fine brown earth, a brightly painted garden gate, a pail of fresh water, a hand stitched jacket, the iron wheel rim forged for a locally built cartwheel, a kitchen-‐garden planted with onions, cabbage, gooseberries and rhubarb with next season in mind, the soft coat of a well-‐fed calf, an old churn bursting with meadow flowers, or the round bundles of reeds that miraculously manifest as a sturdy thatched roof.
This is the work of living in and with time, products of moments of solitude and contentment while part of a communal life that is underpinned by service, concern and care for others. Alongside them, we may have watched our foremothers and forefathers, learning by eye and ear, observing and listening as deeply and as unconsciously as a child. When we pay attention to the stories of lives and the conditions of their living, the tender overlap of the generations emerges, creating the moment of transmission. This then is the responsibility of our work in the present: to make visible and tangible the daily practices, philosophies and creative force of our forebears and the impact of those experiences, their wisdom and knowledge of the human condition, on our own lives. The gift is always passed on.
Dr Anne Byrne is a sociologist with an interest in narrative, biography, visuality and collaborative research methodologies, teaching and researching in the School of Political Sciences and Sociology, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies at the National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
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