A Site of Knowing:Unknowing
2 - 13 April 2013 | The LAB, Foley Street, Dublin 1
Curated by Etaoin Holahan
The LAB, Foley Street, Dublin 1
In 1895, at a time when Ireland was experiencing a crisis of national and cultural identity, which permeated society from the domestic to the political, a tragic event occurred in Co. Tipperary. A rural home became a place where this conflict of identity was played out in the most extreme form, resulting the the murder of Bridget Cleary at hands of her husband Michael and witnessed by her family. 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 revert to the widely known and deeply rooted oral tradition; fairy-lore (associated with the older Irish belief system). Convinced, to whatever degree, that “she had been carried off by the fairies and an evil spirit put into possession of her body”, all those present looked to the rituals within fairylore tradition to bring their Bridget back.
After the act of killing his wife, Michael Cleary waited on Kylenagranagh Hill (near the fairy fort) over three days, believing she would be returned to him.
It is this period of time and place that is the focus of this exhibition.
The installation explores the conflict of identity experienced by Michael Cleary as he attempted to reconcile his actions with his beliefs. Despite being a relatively educated man, the external pressures imposed on Michael from within his home and from society, led him to put his faith in the fairy narrative, resulting in an internal struggle between two systems of belief over these three days of uncertainty.
Helena Tobin’s practice explores notions of memory, trauma and place. Her current work is concerned with sites and events surrounding the burning of Bridget Cleary. In collaboration with curator Etaoin Holahan this installation focuses in on the time Michael Cleary spent waiting for his wife on the side of Kylenagranagh Hill. Through video and audio recorded at the site and the ritualistic depositing of clay from Kylenagranagh Hill every three days (mirroring the three nights that Michael Cleary waited) this installation seeks to emphasise the viewers awareness of place, time and duality. The transparency of the trapezoid in contrast with the internal struggle of two realities highlights the problematic relationship between what is known and what is seen.
This exhibition was part of Public Gesture – a series of exhibitions organised by final year students on the MA in Visual Art Practices (MAVIS)
Images copyright of the artist. Photos by Michael Holly