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 | X-PO , Killinaboy Mapping Group and the The Peter Rees Archive An Udder View 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 SPUD. It is tempting to include the former postmaster Mattie Rynne as a co-collaborator in this process; the archive of his belongings exhibited at the opening of X-PO signposted a way of being-together that, Janus-like, faces inwards and outwards, looking at the local and the global.
Since 2008, from September to June, X-PO has been run by 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 archeology as well as film screenings and occasional exhibitions.
The project provides a very visible 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 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 1830s, and traced the roads, bothereens and paths, many of which have long fallen into disuse.
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