Click Here for 2019 CV
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 project. It is tempting to include 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, 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 new public art project, Folk Radio, an artist-led radio station based in the former post office was commissioned through Clare County Council’s Gaining Ground programme. Led by artist Tom Flanagan, individuals and groups are making sound recordings, audio works and programmes exploring the hinterlands of North Clare. Tom has also recorded interviews with people who have been active at X-PO over the past decade, and podcasts of these and further original sound works including the X-PO Heritage Talks series will be added to the Folk Radio website on the Listen/Watch page as the project progresses. 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.
Archive1: The Mattie Rynne Archive.
John Martin ‘Mattie’ Rynne was postmaster of Kilnaboy for over fifty year. From all accounts he led a solitary childhood, and ill-health led to his removal from school at the age of twelve. He took care of his mother until her death in the 1960s and lived alone in the building until his death on 17th January 2000. The postmaster was a circumspect and discreet man who insisted his customers wait outside the post office while he dealt with each individual and the Post Office in Kilnaboy used to be the busiest in North Clare. While people waited, local news was exchanged. He left the Post Office building to James Maher, who was the last postmaster of Kilnaboy and it closed in 2003. The building remained shut until 2007 when it was re-opened as X-PO.
The first action at X-PO prior to opening the space was to document the contents of the post office, both the ‘public’ office space and the private living space. The private half of the house was left much as it was when Mattie died. The post office still contained his many books and journals, manuals and tapes. I cleaned, collated and catalogued the contents. The collection of books, papers, objects and his own archive of newspaper clippings revealed an intellectually curious, private man who was passionately interested in the world at large. Mattie communicated to the world beyond Kilnaboy on his short-wave radio, indicating a desire to communicate with the world decades before the advent of the internet. The unmistakable tones of BBC World Service presenters resonated in the background when doing business in the post office. Documents and old jotters contained essay assignments for correspondence courses run in the UK in the 1960s: there were writings on numerology and essays on “The Social State” and books on history, politics, astrology and self-help. There were course books for in ‘Radio Inspector and Practical Equipment’ and ‘Advanced English’ and objects, that also spoke to a life of intellectual enquiry. There were eighty-five cassettes of recordings made by Mattie from BBC language courses in French, German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish going back to the early 1970s.
Link to Film on Mattie Rynne Archive
Archive 2: The Killinaboy Mapping Group:
The Killinaboy mapping group has been meeting since X-PO opened in 2007 and are currently putting together a website of their decade of research. This digitization project has two core elements – firstly, to make their work more widely available, and secondly, to create a digital archive of their work for future generations. The Mapping Group archive The Full Story? has been displayed at exhibitions, contributed to community mapping workshops, and been discussed in scholarship in the fields of Visual Culture, Irish Studies, and History. Most recently, it featured in the Iarsma project, and been recognised within heritage and academic scholorship for the important contribution the group have made in bringing together the oral history of place with scholarly research.
Link to Mapping group page: Killinaboy Mapping Group
Archive 3: The Rinnamona Research Group
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.
In the 1930s, Ireland was the focus of an extensive survey known as ‘The Harvard Irish Mission’, produced by scholars from Harvard University who conducted a detailed study of family and community in three rural locations, one of which was Rinnamona in Killinaboy parish. The resulting publications, The Irish Countryman by Conrad Arensberg and Family and Community in Ireland by Arensberg and Solon Kimball, are considered to be ‘classic’ scientific texts and remain influential within sociological and anthropological academic spheres. The local response to both texts was mixed. The books were widely read in the local community and, for some, the revelation of the private lives of their forebears was unexpected and unwelcome.
In the course of her research, sociologist Dr. Anne Byrne (NUIG) came across some of the original diaries kept by Solon Kimball when he stayed in Rinnamona. Handwritten in pencil in a school copy book, Kimball gives an intimate record of a rural community in the 1930s. He details the evening gatherings of the older men whom he refers to as ‘the Rinnamona Daíl. Anne made contact with some of the successors of the Rinnamona Dáil – Mary Moroney, Sean Roche, John Ruane and Francis Whelan – and they came together in early 2008 to read through the diary and decide how best to deal with the new material.
Two of the group were already actively using X-PO and, having seen the opening archival installation, asked to make a public re-presentation of their version of the story of Rinnamona in the 1930s. An account of the history, academic context, exhibition-making process and re-presentation of the project is given in papers Anne Byrne and Deirdre O'Mahony with the cooperation and permission of the Rinnamona Research Group
An Udder View: The Peter Rees Archive.
Peter Rees,Udder Creamery Truck Peter Rees Exhibition 2008
A further archive that emerged though X-PO was that of local photographer and truck driver Peter Rees. Like his father, Rees collected milk from farms throughout North Clare and was known throughout the county for his distinctive appropriation of the Coca-Cola logo on his Udder Cola creamery trucks. Passionate about photography from an early age, Peter carries his camera in the cab of his truck and has documented the social events, incidental happenings and changing landscape of the parish on his daily run. An Udder View was a collaborative project between Rees and I. His collection is a ready-made archive of parish life organised chronologically in albums in a small office in his house. Several evenings a week over a four-month period, we went through one-hundred and twenty-three albums, selecting approximately a thousand photographs for the exhibition.
Whether driving his truck, or through his involvement in the local organizations Rees has served as the unofficial recorder of the public affairs of the parish. He has documented meetings, boat festivals, cattle auctions, housing developments, political rallies, the school fancy dress parades, pranks played on newlyweds, the decade long history of protests at Mullaghmore - the daily life of a rural locality. We reviewed several methods for exhibiting the images and eventually decided to scan and reprint selected photographs, re-presenting the archive in two forms; in albums and projected as a slide show offering an opportunity for both a public and a private reflection.
Link to film on Peter Rees' Archive
Peter Rees, An Udder View Exhibition at X-PO 2008
Tangled Web. A Space for Lismore project St Carthage Hall 2020
Oak Grove Lismore, Photograph Deirdre O'Mahony 2019
Across 2020 Deirdre O’Mahony will work collaboratively with groups and individuals 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.
Beginning in late 2019, Deirdre will hold walks that explore the natural and human ecologies of the forest. Each walk will take different approaches - deep listening, sensory, tactile, smell and taste investigations to overcome habits and understand and experience the woodland differently. The programme of walks will look to the human and non-human history evident in the forest; tree harvesting, farming, hunting etc. Participants will be given an encounter diary and asked to record observations and investigations in whatever form is best suited.
The information gathered during the physical experience of the forest will be further informed by evening discussions led by individuals with different experiences of the forest- history, bioarchaeology, commercial use, plant life, animals, insect life, flora, fungi and mushrooms. This will feed into workshops into botanical drawing.
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 the estate forest.
The project will result in an archive exhibition in early March 2020 at St Carthage Hall.
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
Supported by the Irish Partner in CERERE, Teagasc Rural Economy Development Programme, led by Áine Macken-Walsh.
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)
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
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