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.
X-PO Archives Click image for archive page
Killinaboy Mapping Group Archive
Rinnamona Research Group Archive
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.