A Site of Knowing:Unknowing

July - August 2013 | Fennelly's Curates, Callan, Co. Kilkenny

Curated by Etaoin Holahan as part of her Fennelly's Curates programme.

This site-specific installation by Helena Tobin explores the tragic story surrounding the murder of Bridget Cleary at the hands of her husband Michael in 1895. And specifically focuses on the conflict of identity experienced by Michael Cleary as he attempted to reconcile his actions with his beliefs. Through video and audio recorded at the sites and clay from Kylenagranagh Hill this installation seeks to emphasise the viewer’s awareness of place, time and duality.

Having fallen ill, the situation surrounding Bridget reached a tipping point when the failure of medicine and religion (symbols of a modern society) to aid her, led her family to believe, to whatever degree, that “she had been carried off by the fairies and an evil spirit put into possession of her body”. After killing his wife, Michael Cleary kept vigil by the fairy fort on Kylenagranagh Hill for three nights, believing she would be returned to him.

Helena Tobin’s practice explores notions of place, belief and memory, specifically how tragic or uncanny stories and histories become embedded and manifest within the landscapes in which they occurred. Such events often live on through an ambiguous narrative; a world between fact and fiction, truth and myth. In asking the viewer to dwell in these places, to consider the beliefs and mystery that continue to surround them, the artist invites a questioning of their contemporary relevance - why they still hold emotional power and continue to live on in the contemporary landscape and psyche.