Click Here for 2019 CV
X-PO 2017 photograph Deirdre O'Mahony
X-PO started life in 2007 as a public art project in the former post office in Killinaboy, County Clare. It was initiated by Deirdre O’Mahony as a social, cultural and community exchange where different forms of knowledge - farming, artistic, local, place-based - could make unexpected creative connections. In the first year working with different groups and individuals the artist collaborated on a series of archival exhibitions that reflected different aspects of rural life today. Beginning at the most local level X-PO showed how collaborative exhibition-making can give a voice to, and make visible often disregarded, tacit, local knowledge. The Mattie Rynne Archive, Rinnamona Research Group, Killinaboy Mapping Group and the The Peter Rees Archive all took place in the first year of the project. Subsequent exhibitions include Wise Ways Kilnaboy, Penning the Mart by Megs Morley, Senan Kileen's An Clochán and Deirdre’s SPUD and Abandoned Clare projects. It is tempting to include former postmaster Mattie Rynne as a co-collaborator in this process; the archive of his belongings exhibited at f X-PO signposted a way of being-together that, like the post office building, faces both inwards and outwards, looking at the local and the global.
Since 2008, opening from September to June, X-PO has continued, run by a team of interested participants who have further developed, funded and managed the project. There are weekly clubs in singing, mapping and Irish, regular talks on local history and archaeology as well as film screenings and occasional exhibitions. Drawing 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, providing a public space in which to discuss, agree, disagree, and challenge the changes underway in what are increasingly socially fragmented, rural communities. It has been a catalyst for further projects by O'Mahony such as First Citizens Speak a film about North Clare residents who grew up as the first citizens of the Irish State, and the home for weekly gatherings by the Kilnaboy Mapping group who have named the occupants of the houses of Killinaboy Parish going back to the earliest records and traced the roads, bothereens and paths, many of which have long fallen into disuse. The project has since been recognised as an important socially-engaged artwork and named as the artwork for 2007 in the RIA/Irish Times centenary publication Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks.
In 2019, X-PO took a new turn. A public art project, Folk Radio, an artist-led radio station based at X-PO was commissioned through Clare County Council’s Gaining Ground programme. Led by artist Tom Flanagan and curated by Anne Mullee with curatorial advisor Deirdre O'Mahony, individuals and groups are making sound recordings, audio works and programmes exploring the hinterlands of North Clare. Tom has recorded interviews with people who have been active at X-PO over the past decade, and podcasts of these and further original sound works will be added to the Folk Radio website. Folk Radio will go live with analogue FM radio broadcasts in February 2020 over a set period of 14 days. To celebrate the launch of the station, a live broadcast event will be hosted by Folk Radio at X-PO, inviting local artists, community groups, politicians and policy makers to a series of talks and a discussion forum on the potential of radio and creative practices, and the challenges of rural life in North Clare. Here is a link to Deirdre's interview with Tom Flanagan for Folk Radio.
Rinnamona Research Group at X-PO. Left to Right: Sean Roach, Mary Moroney, Deirdre O'Mahony, Francis Whelan, Anne Byrne absent John Ruane. Photograph Ben Geoghegan 2008.
Tangled Web. A Space for Lismore project St Carthage Hall 2020
Oak Grove Lismore, Photograph Deirdre O'Mahony 2019
in 2020 Deirdre O’Mahony will work collaboratively with groups and individuals at in a series of talks, walks and workshops. Using St Carthage Hall as a base, the group will return from investigative trips to produce a deep mapping process of the complex human, natural and social ecology of the forests around the Lismore region.
The information gathered during the physical experience of the forest will be further informed by discussions led by individuals with different experiences of the forest- history, commercial use, plant life, animals, insect life, flora, fungi and mushrooms. This will feed into workshops, botanical drawing and other ways of recording the forest ecosystem.
By working in Lismore over a three–month period the intention is to map the traces of human and non-human histories that still remain in the land. Deirdre hopes to meet and engage with farmers, forestry workers, hunting enthusiasts, wildlife experts, recreational users, foragers, and anyone with an interest in forests.
The project will result in an installation and archive exhibition from 28 February to 8 March at St Carthage Hall.
Heritage cereal growing at the Department of Agriculture, Backweston Farm, Leixlip, County Kildare. Photograph by Caroline Burgess 2018.
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.
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 by Kaye Toland 2018
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 Grain 1 - 5. Artworks commissioned and made for Teagasc Cerere, 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.
Sadhbh Gaston TGC 101 Rye, Embroidered cross stitch on linen 2018.
CERERE Pamphlet designed by Kaye Toland Download HERE
Supported by the Irish Partner in CERERE, Teagasc Rural Economy Development Programme, led by Áine Macken-Walsh with funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under Grant Agreement n° 727848
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)
Selected by Brian Duggan, Sarah Glennie, Jenny Haughton & Declan Long, Pallas Projects, Dublin, Ireland.
Potato/Batata: A Pan-Atlantic Parmentier Exchange
2016 Hybrid Part 2. Irish/USA Exchange Regional Arts Centre Donegal, Ireland.
2013 T.U.R.F. (Transitional Understandings of Rural Futures). Limerick City Gallery of Art
2013 A Letter to Lucy. Pallas Projects, Dublin, Ireland
TENSE 9 Artists Limerick City Gallery of Art, Ireland 2012
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