New Ecologies between Rural Life and Visual Culture in the West of Ireland: History, Context, Position, and Art Practice.
Can a mode of trans-disciplinary visual inquiry shifting and subjective, serve as an enquiry into location, an interrogation into the mechanics of belonging, and a reflection upon the bottom up - local/rural to the national/global?
The answer to this question is focussed at the X-PO project, which seeks to extend this discourse into the stresses affecting the social ecology of a local community, particularly regarding the relationship between locals and incomers. By renovating and creating this resource/space my intention is to allow for reflection and consideration about ways in which to move on from the legacy of conflict. This surfaced during a long divisive and bitter environmental dispute, fifteen years ago, at a local mountain called Mullochmore. Representations of the west as romantic, sacred ‘other,’ neutered heritage, detached and dislocated from the complex realities of rural life further complicate matters. This resurfaces regularly in media representations of the west as a rustic, ‘authentic’, uniquely Irish, space.
The opportunity to rent a defunct post office in the parish of Kilnaboy offered a uniquely relevant site for this research. The rural post-office used to represent a community contact point. The one at Kilnaboy was run by a man called Mattie Rynne, short-wave radio enthusiast and self-taught linguist, and was permanently closed in 2002. My project has documented and archived the contents of this site: empty and derelict since closure and beginning the process of creating a local history archive. The space, now open and functioning, is in active use for arts led projects and community events, providing a laboratory/testing ground for the arguments of the thesis.
The thesis describes and sets this project into a context, one that reflects upon histories, contexts, positions and socially engaged arts practices of both local and wider significance. The issues raised in the thesis and its arguments cover post agricultural practices such as the shift to the tourist, heritage and leisure industries and the impact of this in social and ecological terms. It is a central argument of this thesis that expanded and inclusive definitions of arts practices play a key role in this new formation.
The physical demonstration of this body of work (the thesis) will take the form of an archive /set of documentation using video, paintings photographs and found objects together with a written text providing a critical account/argument of the role of socially engaged ‘activist’ arts practice in a unique and specific site.