Monday, July 30, 2012

No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear...

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou--THOU art Being and Breath,
And what THOU art may never be destroyed.

(read entirety)
(c. 1848. Believed to be Emily's final poem, it is said that Emily Dickinson chose this poem to be read at her own funeral.)

After the portrait by Branwell Brontë, c. 1833, in the National Portrait Gallery

Today marks 194 years since the birth of the indomitable Emily Brontë (July 30 1818 - December 19 1848). Wuthering Heights, her only published novel still continues to draw new generations of readers under its spell.

A creative genius, a girl of the Yorkshire moors who created some of the most detestable and compelling lovers in literature. The unique power of her works, is that it remains contemporary, and continues to inspire reinterpretations.

Wuthering Heights was written under the pseudonym Ellis Bell between October 1845 and June 1846, two years before her death and published in July 1847. It was not printed until December 1847, after the success of her sister Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre. A posthumous second edition of WH was edited by Charlotte in 1850.

I blogged about Emily on International Women's Day last year.

A mid-19th century portrait purporting to be of Emily Bronte (more info)

'Why, she's a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there — not in heaven — not perished—where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you — haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always — take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!' (Chapter 16)

The most well known portrait of the sisters by their brother Branwell Brontë, c. 1835. Emily is on the left, behind Anne Sometimes referred to as 'The Pillar Portrait'.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte's biographer says of this portrait: "The picture was divided, almost in the middle, by a great pillar. On the side of the column which was lighted by the sun, stood Charlotte, in the womanly dress of that day of jigot sleeves and large collars. On the deeply shadowed side, was Emily, and Anne's gentle face resting on her shoulder. Emily's countenance struck me as full of power; Charlotte's of solicitude; Anne's of tenderness. The two younger seemed hardly to have attained their full growth, though Emily was taller than Charlotte; they had cropped hair, and a more girlish dress. I remember looking on those two sad, earnest, shadowed faces, and wondering whether I could trace the mysterious expression which is said to foretell an early death. I had some fond superstitious hope that the column divided their fates from hers, who stood apart in the canvas, as in life she survived. . . . They were good likenesses, however badly executed." (Gaskell, 'The Life of Charlotte Brontë', Ch.7)

Emily was also a poet, Poems by Currer, Ellis and Action Bell was published in 1846, containing twenty-one poems by Emily and by Anne and nineteen by Charlotte. Charlotte later revised and published some unseen poems of Emily's in 1850.

My first battered and mass produced Wordsworth Editions copy of 'Wuthering Heights'. I first read this when I was 10, but it only moved me inevitably when I was 16.

Read more:
Emily Brontë's poetry
Comprehensive Emily Brontë biography
Emily Brontë portrait goes under the hammer
Brontë Blog: To Emily on her birthday
Two portraits of Emily Brontë appear in 2011

I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. (Wuthering Heights, Chapter 34, closing lines.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

eva International, 19 May - 12 August, Limerick City

Since being founded in 1977, eva International has gained national and international acclaim, and is recognised as Ireland’s preeminent exhibition of visual art. Previous curators include Brian O'Doherty (1980) and Barrie Cooke, John Kelly, Brian King (1977). 2012's theme "After The Future", curated by Annie Fletcher examines how certain artistic practices provide an active invocation of the present and speculate how we arrived here in the first place. The first eva held in two years, a very successful marketing strategy, has created quite an online buzz around the exhibition, with a regularly updated twitter, that encourages user engagement.

Artists’ projects were selected through an international Open Call for proposals and exhibitions take place in both gallery and non-gallery spaces. A programme of talks, workshops and events accompanies the exhibitions and provides further opportunities for audiences to engage.

Young Model were invited by the organisers to attend the exhibition. Linda Hayden, Assistant Education Curator at The Model and maintainer of the successful Young Model/Young Curators project, invited me to join them on the day. I accepted without hesitation as I was keen to see the exhibition, before it ends on August 12th, and public transport services in the West of Ireland are just as bad as our broadband connection (irregular, delays, etc), so I was doubtful that I would see it at all!

Young Model beneath 'Construction X', Luc Deleu, 1994/2012, made up of 9 shipping containers, in Arthur's Quay Park.
This installation must be the iconic centrepiece of eva, it stands proudly in the centre of Limerick city, probably the most accessible piece of art within the whole exhbition. People have engaged with it in a variety of ways - our guide Aoibheann joked that everyone in Limerick's facebook profile picture features them posing with it! This work was first exhibited at eva 1994, the use of shipping containers alludes to Limerick's industrial past as a busy port. Judging by the streets of Georgian houses, you can imagine that Limerick was once an affluent port city. Currently, it has one of the highest rates of youth employment in Ireland.

Sam Keogh, 'Monument For Subjects To Come', 2011

Doireann Ní Ghrioghair, 'Ruins', 2012

Sanja Iveković's 'Shadow Report' (2012) is perhaps the most distinctive installation at eva, the crumpled, ominous looking sheets of paper are strewn throughout the exhibition, creating an urgent coherency between each space. The Croatia-born artist first created 'Shadow Report' at MoMA, but adapted it for an Irish context.

All the above are exhibited at 103-104 O'Connell St., a NAMA owned building, loaned for the purpose of the exhibition (you can see the unfinished walls in the background of these pictures), and it hoped that this space can be utilized for exhibitions in the long term, rather than reverting back to the disused state they were previously, a concrete legacy of the economic downturn Ireland is continuing to experience.

There was too much to squeeze into our brief visit but we did manage to head down to Faber Studios, an artist collective run from what I believe used to be a former hardware store. Their project 're-possession' promotes the value of reuse and a culture of exchange in the community. Re-possesion aims to explore "the psychological impact of loss through personal stories (tragedy), the methodical documentation of objects (taking inventory), and the rehabilitation of the object by the craftsperson (resurrection)"... more information can be found here.

They have opened a temporary workshop in Faber Studios, inviting members of the public to create their own objects from the lost and found objects they hold there.

Inventory of lost and found objects at Faber Studios

Objects are catalogued individually and stored in categorized boxes, for the public to choose from

Faber Studios has the advantage of large windows for display of objects and for curious public to look in at the creative folk creating!

Some of the whimsical objects created by the public who have passed through Faber Studios

José Carlos Martinat, 'Vandalized Monuments: Power Abstraction 4', 2012
Our final pit stop was up to the 10th floor glass platform of Riverpoint to see this piece by José Carlos Martinat. The visitor was invited to "vandalize" the piece, a challenge we accepted with glee (this piece was pure white at the opening of the exhibition). The structure of the piece challenged questions of power, which are subverted by the audience at the artists' prompting, by "vandalising" this work of art.

One of the installations I found most compelling was Gavin Murphy's video installation entitled 'Something New Under The Sun' (2012). Pivli Takala's 'The Trainee' (2008) captured all our attention, produced in a collaboration with Deloitte and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. For the project, the artist was working for a month as a trainee "Johanna Takala" in the marketing departement of Deloitte where only few people knew the true nature of the project. During the month long intervention an initially normal-seeming marketing trainee starts to apply peculiar working methods, her fellow employees began to act up in response to her behaviour...

I felt invigorated after viewing the exhibition, I hadn't been to an event on such a large scale for a long time. The enthusiasm of everyone involved was infectious, the Director Woodrow Kernohan introduced himself to our group when we arrived and our guide Aoibheann McCarthy, from the Limerick City Museum of Art was patient and attentive throughout the day, which is admirable when dealing with a boisterous group of 16 and 17 year olds.

Yael Bartana, 'And Europe Will Be Stunned', 2010, Limerick City Gallery of Art

It is hoped that the event can become biennial, funding permitting, so all eyes on Limerick, a city evolving and adapting, even through the bad times. We could do with taking some lessons from them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Céide Fields, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo

Last Saturday, July 14th was eagerly anticipated on my part! The Sligo Field Club arranged a field trip to the Céide Fields in Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. For me, the Céide Fields are symnomous with its iconic visitor's centre, the image of which was reproduced on the Telecom Éireann calling cards in the nineties (if my memory serves me correctly?).

Remains of excavated stone wall can be seen in foreground. These would have been buried in up to 4 metres of peat, accumulated over thousands of years.

The visitor's centre, designed by Mary McKenna, is an acclaimed building, which received Ireland's most prestigious architectural award, the RIAI Triennial Gold Medal for 1992-1994, presented by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

The pyramid shape was selected, as a unified peak growing out of the bog to form a natural extension of the landscape. The landscape and building join and are connected by the external steps.

Upon entering the visitor's centre, this beautiful centrepiece is adjacent to the entrance, right at the base of the glass pyramid. It is a 4000 year old Scots Pine retrieved from the bog while it was being excavated in the 1970s.

These silk banners are an artistic interpretation of the Céide Fields story. First we see the forest which came to the edge of the cliffs. The forest is felled and replaced by the stone walls, house enclosures and tombs of the Céide Fields farming community of 3000BC, before becoming enclosed in the peat* over thousands of years.

Dad started off the day by making a beeline for the café almost as soon as we arrived whilst I was still gazing in awe at the Scots Pine. Here he is enjoying a slice of rhubarb pie with cream, washed down with a pot of tae. The café is lovely, spacious with wonderful sturdy wooden seats and tables (covered in awesome "wood grain" oilcloth that fooled my Dad, har har). This is a small moot point but nothing spoils a great design more than those horrible grating plastic seats in museum/gallery cafés that are a horrid reminder of primary school/every soul destroying waiting room ever. There was a fluidity here that I felt really comfortable lounging in, even though I had no cake (one of my rare "I shall abstain" moments). In short, I always rate somewhere coupled with the merits of its bookshop/café.

The interior of the centre is fresh and modern, hard to believe this is almost 20 years old, a mark of great design.
The centre and its interior are constructed from natural materials; sandstone, oak and glass, it was a combination of local work and resources initiated by a local archaeologist, Dr. Seamus Caulfield (Retired Associate Professor of Archaeology at UCD) and the Office of Public Works (OPW). The centre is one of over 60 Heritage Sites run by the OPW.

In 1989, Dr. Caulfield (then Professor at UCD) launched a project to build a visitor centre on the site which opened to the public in 1993. It was a fantastic privilege to have Dr. Caufield as our guide for the day. It was his late father, Padraig Caulfield who discovered the Céide Fields while cutting for turf* in the 1930s. Seamus went on to study archaeology and later excavated the site in the 1970s, with a team of archaeological students.

The Céide Fields are the oldest known field systems in the world, over five and a half millennia old. The remains of stone field walls, houses and megalithic tombs are preserved beneath a blanket of peat over several square miles.

Recent Shell To Sea tensions are not forgotten in this historic landscape. Maud Gonne gave a speech here to the local farmers during the Republican Uprising, and stayed in the local hotel where we had our lunch - that had been a railway hotel at the time - built so to accomoate the expansion of the British Empire.

Dr. Caulfield took us to his village of Béal Deirg (anglicised as Belderg), a Gaeltacht village. The Céide Fields encompass Béal Deirg, where remains a pre-historic farming site, that we also visited. Seamus Heaney stayed with the Caufield's as a guest and conceived a poem inspired by the village and its history (the last of Heaney's bog poems, found in his book North published in 1975) -

They just kept turning up
And were thought of as foreign'-
One-eyed and benign
They lie about his house,
Quernstones out of a bog.

To lift the lid of the peat
And find this pupil dreaming
Of neolithic wheat!
When he stripped off blanket bog
The soft-piles centuries

Fell open like a glib:
There were the first plough-marks,
The stone age fields, the tomb
Corbelled, turfed and chambered,
Floored with dry turf-coomb.

A landscape fossilized,
Its stone wall patterings
Repeated before our eyes
In the stone walls of Mayo...

Seamus reflected upon the complicated nature of his profession as an archaelogist - there are never any definite answers, each new discovery only raises more questions. One of the most pressing questions remains unanswered - Béal Deirg was a fishing community in pre-historic times, so what made them change to farming - was it a social or environmental cause?

Dún Briste (The Broken Fort), a magnificent sea stack off Down Patrick Head (in the Atlantic Ocean) with evidence of medieval settlement. Seamus Caufield, along with a small group landed there via helicopter some years ago, the first people there for centuries.

The ruin above is the remains of a lookout post, used to watch out for enemy aircraft/boats in WW2, these were conceived to protect Ireland's neutrality during the War. These posts were manned by soldiers and the institution they formed was called the Coast Watching Service.

Seamus was a fascinating host, he had a rapt audience in us. You could acutely sense his passion for the landscape, his roots here and its pre-history. He made a particularly interesting comment on Cultural Heritage; the pattern of population distribution in Ireland has remained almost unchanged since pre-historic times, outside urban centres (and Ireland remains largely rural). A "village" is perhaps what with associate with Emmerdale, but in Irish terms it is a homeland, a number of houses scattered throughout a valley, they do not necessarily exist in a nucleated arrangement. Forced villagisation has been taken place only in the 19th and 20th centuries throughout some Western societies, and more recently in the developing world, often argued for due to the need for "protection". Such protection was unnecessary in the West of Ireland, due to the rough Atlantic Ocean on its side. Seamus described our cultural heritage as "Céide planning", as we continue to live in a similar arrangement to our Neolithic ancestors. He estimated that around a third of Irish people still live this way. Putting this unbroken legacy into perspective left me stunned and gave me goosebumps.

Another thing I found myself reflecting on afterward, was the question of the interpretive exhibit. It is the standard exhibit found in most museums, more often older regional museums with limited resources and funding. It is usually comprised of reconstructed living quarter, replete with museum mannequins and reconstructed living quarters, as well as artistic time scales. Seamus explained to us as he briefly lead us through this exhibit that due to the evolving nature of archaeology, new research constantly outdates the information presented here, which is now twenty years old. This is one of the difficulties of housing an archaeological museum, due to our ever advancing scientific knowledge, the limits of static exhibits becomes increasingly apparent. Can it therefore be called a museum, when a museum's purpose is to host artefacts, but for archaeological "artefacts" how can we preserve and how these when our knowledge of their use may change and evolve, and there are not the resources to constantly update whats there. Anyhow, that is a conversation for another day, and I do not have an archaeological degree. One of my good friends has worked at Knowth for a number of years so I'm sure we'll have this conversation over a bottle of wine at some point!

A snap of the group at the tomb excavated by Gretta Byrne, shortly after she completed her Masters field report on the area, in the 1970s. Gretta is currently Manager of Céide Fields Visitor Centre and Archaeological Site.

Seamus left us with these words: "If there's a car in the drive, knock on the door." (His house is by the small port I have pictured above). Which acurately summarizes his welcoming nature, he's an Irish gentleman, proud of his history.

* peat is a highly organic material found in marshy or damp regions, composed of partially decayed vegetable matter: it is cut and dried for use as fuel, known as "turf". It is a non renewable source of energy, a fossil fuel.

Details on opening hours and admission prices can be found here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Novelty is the spice of life

I was once a teenage (wannabe) goth. This "black period" lasted for about a year and a half, til I entered a confused ~kawaii/fruits phase, like so many internet kids before tumblr. I still have an eye for colour, or quirkier patterns, I'm not sure if my attraction to odd prints and styles is a remnant of these days. I get a kick from finding something unusual on the rails, and charity shops are the business for this.

I picked this skirt up in my favourite charity shop in Sligo town for €2.50, its viscose (don't google that!), with a very nineties interpretation of an art deco/1920s print. It's about 2 sizes too big so I've attempted to belt it in. I've been wary of maxi skirts this long time for fear of looking like a banshee (imagine for a moment the combination of my hair down, with a long dark skirt and my usual ghostly "away with the fairies" expression, just no). However, the distracting pattern of this skirt made this long skirt a little less serious, and less "fashiony" (is that even a word?) that some of the trendier maxi skirts I had been eyeing up. Ana is a girl who can rock a maxi skirt. FYI Georgia is a novelty print goddess.

Skirt: thrift (probably 90s) / High tops: Cheap Monday / Belt: Monki / Top: H&M

Still feel a bit awkward ~posing as of yet, but its not hurting anyone, so whatever. The third picture is meant to be ridiculous, if I was a lookbooker I could photoshop me into space or something, but I didn't because I want to taken seriously (debatable).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Arts and Crafts

I don't think my City friends give much thought to what I get up to in the West, but I'm having a blast as of late! Last week was the annual Cairde festival in Sligo. It's an annual week long arts festival that "celebrates diversity". It is comprised of cultural events for families, and grown ups, there were art exhibitions, plays performed in the woods, a cabaret show, too many gigs to mention, a vintage fair and the frolics concluded with a party in the park on Sunday just gone.

Barra Cassidy's exhibition was held in the Yeats Society building

My desk can't be seen for the amount of event guides covering it at the moment. I have to be selective or I'd be burnt out. I managed to go to "Burlesque Fantastique"; a cabaret show hosted by Lady Veda, an art exhibition (see above) and The Frivolous Fare, where I left my heart behind with a set of mint 1970s Babycham glasses. Retro Rummage, based in Dublin, is a specialist in vintage & retro home wares. If I ever have an apartment, (or a job!) of my own (a pipe dream these days) I will certainly be looking this guy up. My Dad, who accompanied me, looked over the retro goods, unmoved by my cooing and exclamations of joy. He'd seen it all before, having been a student in the 1960s and lived in Dublin during the 1970s, this was the stuff of his student flat days.

I wanted to wear my new wedges that I'd acquired a couple of weeks previously. I wore them with my favourite casual vintage dress. I was drawn to this as it reminded me of the Arts and Crafts style of dress, it fits like a pinafore, it buttons up at the back and ties at the waist, and it incorporates all my favourite autumnal colours. The trench has been well loved, but I've yet to find a summer jacket that will replace it yet - its the perfect colour, style and length. The search is ongoing.

1970s cotton empire waist dress (label David Silverman) / trench: h&m (circa 2009) / shoes: fly london / bag: ollie & nic (circa 2010)

Monday, July 9, 2012

A vintage suit

Ah, another chapter approaches. I was feeling blue these past couple of weeks, but to shake myself out of my gloom I have to remind myself that to get somewhere I have to do something about it. So, while not-blogging I was kept myself occupied reading new blogs. I found myself increasingly reading blogs with a definite vintage theme, and it occured to me, that while I make no claims to be a fashion blogger, I am passionate about vintage fashion (while acknowledging fashion history). This is not reflected in my day-to-day uniform of jeans and high tops. So when I dress up why not share it!

It got me wondering, what of the vintage scene in Ireland? It's far more fluid and apparent in our nearest neighbours, the UK. There has been an increase in vintage fairs and stores here in the Republic in the past few years. Events like Film Fatale have done much to bring some vintage glamour back to Dublin, once a month. However, where are the vintage bloggers? I only know of Little Ruby Robin, Vintage Irene and Enchanted Vintage Ireland (whose base is here in County Sligo). If anyone can make me some recommendations, please comment, because I'm not sure where to look.

I am the proud owner of some lovely vintage and retro garments in my wardrobe (bought at what my purse could stretch to at the time). I do pull them out and shake some life into them should an occasion call for it. (The definition of 'vintage' is something I'd like to touch upon at a later stage, a lot of stores are getting it wrong). So, while I do not possess a DSLR (a battered 2009 Canon Ixus for me), an SO with photo skills to snap and touch up for me, I won't left that deter me, so I'm going to go ahead and make some outfit posts, because I can. It's empowering in a way to have a platform to share these on, even if only for my blogger friends, because we have a mutual interest, that we discuss and indulge in across continents. My vintage 'scene' is primarily online, and with that in mind, I'm going to start sharing more, put more effort into it, instead of cooing over my friends vintage finds. So it begins.

1960s silk dress & jacket (label Wanda Zaklika, London), tights; uniqlo, shoes; melissa, bag; accessorize (circa 2007)

I loved being ridiculously matchy matchy with this one, turquoise and purple feature heavily in my wardrobe and fashion is about having fun, so I threw in this pink floral bag to clash with the whole outfit in acknowledgment of my OTT-ness (I hope you appreciate my posing). It was a wonderful coincidence having all these separate pieces, that go together (or not) so perfectly. I love 1960s suits, so often when buying vintage the individual pieces have been broken up to be sold separately, so its a thrill to find a two-piece. Check out the artistic inclusion of industrial silver stove pipe in background. I love this dress, it doesn't fit perfectly, its quite loose on the hips and waist, so I wear it a lot. I'm having trouble washing it though, because a lot of the dye ran last time I hand washed it. There's a some cigarette burns on it too, but while it baffles my mum, I appreciate all these flaws as part of its character and reckon the lady who wore it in a past life had the craic* on the regular.
I like to think of this of 'junior librarian goes for cocktails with co-workers'. In fact I was going over to a get-together of co-workers on Friday for a ladies night. Gin and champagne were consumed (sensibly, obvs), and I made my chili chocolate truffles.

*Just to be clear, this is the type of craic I'm talking about.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What's in a room

One of the significant stages in a friendship with someone, for me, is being made privy to their bedroom (don't even go there). A woman's bedroom particularly, is a highly intimate and often a creative space, as Virginia Woolf famously alluded to. Especially a bedroom you've grown up with, it reflects one's interior landscape, it demonstrates how you've grown, matured (or retained that childish spirit if the case may be!)

I've been meaning to post these pictures for a few months, and during this blogging lull seems an appropriate time. Oddly, however many stories I read and movies I watch about vagabond types, when I relocate (which I have done more than a couple of times since I turned 18) I tend to bring a lot of stuff with me. I don't consider myself materialistic for consumerist objects, but for the nostalgia that certain things invoke - books, ornaments, boxes of postcards, certain dresses. I need to create a home around me. I can't think surrounded by bare walls. At some point though, even for an extended period of time, I would like to take a risk and be romantic, and pack my life in a suitcase.

Although my living situation in Glasgow turned out to be less than ideal for the remaining months of my stay, I felt most safe in the privacy of my room.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Mucha imitation mirror picked up for £2 in Salvation Army on Dumbarton Rd. Smash Hits 88 record which cost me about 50p (purchased merely for the year of my birth). More lovely postcards, I think these are all from the same person, you know who you are! Crucifix from Glenstal Abbey in Limerick, purchased to remember a great weekend of tree hugging.

My wardrobe with garish colours and questionable lurex suits peeping out, as well as many beloved vintage dresses.

Postcards from friends and picked up from places.

I've had that throw for as long as I can remember, its cozy and homely. The cushions are generic ikea, while the Totoro plush is a gift from a friend and really cheered me up at a time when I needed it.

I've been itching to blog, and have a few ideas for future posts, but after a weighty/academic post such as the last one, I feel a little disingenuous by following those up with a frothier "filler" post. I want to start dealing with some heavier topics but I'm not sure that this is the forum to express them, because I don't want to isolate a potential readership. It's hard to achieve that balance, and maybe that's the secret to successful blogging. I'm not convinced.

Past bedroom posts:
My Sligo/teenage bedroom
My first Glasgow flat