IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art

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Calling Participants! CVLTO DO FVTVRV comes to IMMA as part of ‘Wilder Beings Command!’


Artist Stephan Doitschinoff, currently exhibiting at IMMA as part of As Above, So Below: Portals, Visions, Spirits & Mystics, will return to IMMA this July to present the CVLTO DO FVTVRV procession, a parade conceived in partnership with philosophical society CVLTO DO FVTVRV. The parade will be part of an exciting outdoor evening of performances at IMMA titled Wilder Beings Command! 

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ROSC 50: A Collaboration Between NIVAL and IMMA

An Introduction to NIVAL, the National Irish Visual Arts Library

This year IMMA and NIVAL are collaborating on ‘ROSC 50‘; a project that seeks to examine the pivotal and sometimes controversial Rosc exhibitions held in Ireland from 1967 to 1984. We asked Meghan Elward Duffy, who joined IMMA earlier this year, to take a first time trip to NIVAL to explore the archive and write this introduction to the National Irish Visual Arts Library.

Within the buzzing and somewhat quirky campus of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) on Thomas Street, Dublin lies a small yet significant library dedicated to preserving the record and memory of contemporary art in Ireland and that of Irish artists abroad. This is the National Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL) and is an important resource for historians, artists, designers, and anyone wishing to learn about the history of contemporary art and design in Ireland – be they hobbyists or professionals.

Though I had visited the campus of NCAD many times before, this marked my first visit to NIVAL. And, aside from knowing exactly where I was going, I would have skipped over it completely had I not been looking for it.

While located within the campus of NCAD, the library is open to anyone who seeks information relating to contemporary art and design in Ireland. No student IDs or special library cards are required to visit or view the materials and the atmosphere of both NIVAL and NCAD is open, friendly and incredibly accessible.

The mission statement of NIVAL is as follows:

NIVAL collects, stores and makes accessible for research an unparalleled collection of documentation about Irish art in all media.  NIVAL’s collection policy includes Irish visual art from the whole island as well as Irish art abroad and non-Irish artists working in Ireland.   Information is acquired on artists, designers, galleries, arts organisations and institutions, critics and other related subjects.

NIVAL was unusual in that it was born from necessity and desire. I was surprised to learn that NIVAL wasn’t a natural or intrinsic part of the NCAD campus, but a passion turned requirement from an NCAD librarian who saw an opportunity and a calling.


NIVAL’s origins are humble and small. Having been formally established in 1998, the library began in the 1970s as a personal record and archive by NCAD Librarian Edward Murphy who began organising records safely into a humble metal filing cabinet in his office. Not only was this collection of personal interest to Murphy, its beginning was also a response to a perceived demand for documentary resources for the study of Irish visual art.

Between 1995 and 1997, the collection grew from the preexisting collection of Edward Murphy and his work within the NCAD library. Additions to the small archive were made by donations by The Hugh Lane Gallery, The Arts Council as well as other cultural institutions. Additionally, many materials were donated by private individuals, artists and other visual arts practitioners, researchers and professionals. Today, the library accepts personal donations from artists, collectors, and other enthusiasts and constantly looks for ways to grow their collections; be it through subscriptions to current periodicals, personal donations of books and ephemera, or acquisitions of materials. 

The library is an important part of the NCAD campus. The main room contains full floor-to-ceilling bookshelving, with publications catalogued and stored according to the dewey decimal system. In an adjacent room, rows and stacks of filing cabinets are organised alphabetically and chronologically by artist or event, making all information easily accessible to the library staff and visitors. Materials can be requested in advance and viewed in the reading room, which currently displays many of the materials associated with the Rosc exhibitions, in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of the first Rosc in 1967.

The Rosc Exhibitions: IMMA and NIVAL in Collaboration

Information relating to the Rosc exhibitions is abundant within NIVAL through publications, ephemera and materials from the exhibitions, and the personal collection and correspondence of individuals such as Dorothy Walker.

While conducting research for his book The Poetry of Vision: The Rosc Art Exhibitions 1967 – 1988 author Dr. Peter Shortt spent countless hours trawling through the records contained within NIVAL to inform and develop a narrative that would then become the first book to ever be written about the Rosc exhibitions. As said by Peter Shortt himself in the introduction:

The aim of this book is to provide, for the first time, a comprehensive art-historical, factual and analytical account of all six Rosc exhibitions of international contemporary art and associated exhibitions of ancient and other art, which took place in Dublin approximately quadrennially between 1967 and 1988.

It is with these materials and with a similar intention of evaluating the narrative of contemporary art in Ireland that NIVAL and IMMA were able to tell the story of Rosc in the current display in the Project Spaces of IMMA and through the year-long initiative that is ROSC 50 – 1967 / 2017.

When preparing for ROSC 50 – 1967 / 2017, the curators worked alongside researcher Dr. Brenda Moore McCann to review the records from NIVAL, the RTE Archives, and the Irish Photographic Archive and to prepare a revised narrative that would be entered back into NIVAL for the future. While the exhibition space is lined with a comprehensive timeline of the Rosc exhibitions, the space is also fitted with a viewing station that broadcasts archive video material from RTE, and a selection of primary source material and ephemera from the NIVAL archives.

It was important for visitors and researchers to understand how the Rosc exhibitions contributed to the formation of IMMA. IMMA was officially opened at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in 1991 and became the national institution for contemporary art in Ireland.

Adding to the Archive

As Rosc signalled a significant change in the nation’s approach to contemporary art, IMMA and NIVAL are encouraging visitors to tell their stories from Rosc. Within the exhibition space itself, visitors are invited to write down their memories and experiences and add to the growing and changing narrative. Those unable to share their experiences in person are invited to email stories and photographs to or to share their experiences with us publicly on social media with the hashtag #ROSC50.

We’ve already heard from so many people. We’ve received stories of children – now grown adults – who were given a day off from school specifically to visit a Rosc exhibition. We’ve heard from artists who were inspired by the Rosc exhibitions to join the arts and become artists themselves. Do you have something to share? Let us know and don’t hesitate to add your story to the national archive and narrative of the Rosc exhibitions.

“The devastation of the people”: an interview with Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Duncan Campbell, The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy, 2016 (still). Photo courtesy of Rina Yang

On a recent return to Ireland in late March, at the invitation of the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes appeared for two speaking engagements to discuss her first major piece of work ‘Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics‘ (1979/ 2001) and how it has served as a source of inspiration for artist Duncan Campbell.  Campbell’s latest film work The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy was, in part, inspired by Scheper-Hughes’ debut. In IMMA on the 30 March she spoke with Campbell and Professor Luke Gibbons (acting as discussion moderator) reflecting on her experiences of tracing the social disintegration of a remote village in Ireland and her later attempts to reconcile an honest ethnography with the community. The talk held at IMMA was recorded and can be listened at the end of this blog post or on SoundCloud by clicking here. She then traveled to Cork on 3 April 2017 to speak with IMMA Director Sarah Glennie at University College Cork – School of Applied Social Studies.

Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics is an objective study of rural Irish life in the small town of ‘Ballybran’ in the 1970s. Plagued by social and individual problems, Scheper-Hughes was intrigued by the social life of the villagers and how their culture, language, religion, values, interactions, and way of life contributed to the community’s daily life and overall slow, yet steady decline through illness, emigration and isolation. Scheper-Hughes took particular interest in the prevalence of mental illness in rural communities, especially amongst men who often suffered from severe depression and schizophrenia.

While Scheper-Hughes was staying with us at IMMA we invited Dr. Lisa Godson, Co-Director, MA Design History and Material Culture, NCAD to meet with her and to write this blog about the occasion.

Militant Anthropology

Since the start, Nancy Schepher Hughes has been drawn to tough subjects. Over the past forty years, her path-breaking writing has included: mental illness in Ireland, the violence of everyday life in Brazil, the experience of AIDS in Cuba and death squads in South Africa. As an anthropologist dedicated to fieldwork, her publications follow on from lengthy research undertaken while dwelling among those she writes about, who usually live and suffer in challenging and difficult environments. Her courage is almost legendary, and stems from an approach she outlined in The Primacy of the Ethical’ (1995) an essay in which she advocated for a ‘militant anthropology’ that is grounded in political commitment. She contrasted this new ‘barefoot anthropologist’ with the traditional ‘neutral, dispassionate, cool and rational, objective observer of the human condition.’

This ‘militant’ approach has impelled her beyond the conventional boundaries of ethnographic fieldwork, particularly with her investigations into the global trade in human body parts including tissue, corneas and kidneys ‘harvested’ from the living and the dead. As well as numerous academic works, her activism includes the establishment of Organs Watch, an organisation that tracked the commodification of organs for transplant around the world, and her research led directly to the criminal prosecution of traffickers based in Israel and New York.

The Devastation of the People

For her first major research project, Scheper-Hughes and her family lived among the bachelor hill-farmers around An Clochán/Cloghane  in Co. Kerry. The village was imperfectly disguised as ‘Ballybran’ in Saints Scholars and Schizophrenics (1979), the study she produced (she now says ‘too quickly’) on her return to the USA. The book influenced Duncan Campbell’s IMMA commissioned artwork The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy (open until May 7 2017) and remains one of the most explosive commentaries ever published on Irish rural life. Starting as an investigation into the high rates of mental illness in Ireland, it addresses incest, schizophrenia, celibacy and the sorry figure of the younger son who was both patronised as the fool of the family and relied on to stay at home with his ageing parents, his life-chances limited, his ambitions atrophied.

Saints, Scholars (as she calls it, finding the full title ‘a little tacky’) was praised by academics; the author received the Margaret Mead Award for bringing anthropology to a broad audience. But among her readership were those she had studied and analysed, many of whom were appalled at the depiction of their community. When she was involved in the daily life of the village, certain locals were willing to speak to her, and some so keen that they ‘really were upset if I didn’t come every week so we could talk.’ In fact, she almost named her book The Confessional Conscience. But there was a tension between personal volubility and an intense desire for privacy: ‘pouring their heart out’ face-to-face did not prepare the informants for seeing their words permanently fixed in reproducible print. As Scheper-Hughes now says, by publishing and disseminating their intimacies they ‘felt I had violated them.’

As well as the figures of Valerie and Walter, the ethnographic film-makers who ventriloquise extracts from her writing, Campbell is informed by Scheper Hughes’s account of the dislocating effects of modernity. Shortly before she arrived in Kerry, the Irish Land Commission had introduced a voluntary retirement scheme that ‘devastated families’ by forcing subsistence farmers off the land, and she diagnoses at least some of their woes according to this loss.

The scheme was informed by Irish politicians wanting to adhere to European policies that encouraged consolidation and capitalization of farms, a process viewed by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) as a ‘war against peasants’. Scheper Hughes sets her work alongside his study of celibate farmers in Les Bal des Célibataires/The Bachelors’ Ball (2002; trans. 2008) as well as John Berger’s fictional trilogy Into their Labours on the European peasant experience (1991). She knew Bourdieu, and says ‘we exchanged notes and said that it was a tragedy because people lost the meaning of their life, it became so demeaned as though they were rubbish people that could be thrown out, they were people that could be dispended, disregarded’.

Above: Still from The Village, Mark McCarty, Walter Goldschmidt, Colin Young.

When we met on her visit to IMMA in March 2017, she had seen The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy ‘two and a half times’ already. By the time of her public conversation with Duncan Campbell the following evening, she had been back to view the work twice more. Schepher Hughes felt that the film showed ‘the devastation of the people very very well’. She was captivated by the scene that showed empty lobster pots being drawn from the sea – ‘why are the fish disappearing? Where have the salmon gone? Where are the mackerel?’


The revisiting of Campbell’s work echoes the theme of return that marks later editions of Saints and Scholars in such a painful way. The ‘twentieth anniversary’ version (2001) contains a lengthy preface in which she situates the original book within the context of her competing and even contradictory responsibilities as anthropologist and neighbor. In this, she recounts an intense visit back to ‘Ballybran’ in 1994. Schepher Hughes hoped she would be able to explain why she wrote the book as she did, and anticipated some kind of healing. But although some villagers had whispered or written thanks to her for telling the truth, she was advised to leave before the planned meeting, and departed without any reconciliation.

The new epilogue ‘Crediting An Clochán’ is in part a response to a villager’s remark that ‘ya just didn’t give us credit’, and in it she recounts some of the happier aspects of life in West Kerry in the 1970s. These include friendliness, safety and egalitarianism between men and women. Her resolution to re-visit, to explain, to historicise and contextualize the work has been admired, this tenacity one aspect of her bravery. In a way, it seems, that early experience in Ireland informed her later ‘barefoot’ approach that tries to harmonise the pressures of advancing academic knowledge with directly serving those she writes about. But a sadness remains, and Scheper Hughes says ‘before I die I want there to be a reconciliation and I don’t know what it will take but I’m going to keep at it.’


Listen to Nancy Scheper-Hughes talking to Duncan Campbell at IMMA.

About the Author


Lisa Godson is a historian of design and material culture, and also researches and writes about contemporary design. She studied History of Art at Trinity College Dublin (BA 1994) and History of Design at the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum, London (MA 1998, PhD 2008). Godson has held tenured lecturing posts in a number of institutions including DIT and the Royal College of Art, where she was lead tutor in critical studies for MA design interaction, product design and industrial design. She was RCA Teaching and Learning Fellow and devised the college Virtual Learning Environment RCAde. She was NCAD Fellow at the inter-institutional Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media (GradCAM) 2009-13, where she was part of the team that developed and taught a pioneering structured doctoral research programme and chaired two research seminars, in historiography and theories of contemporary design. Read More

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Studio 10 Adult Programme at IMMA

studio 10 blog photo

Studio 10 at IMMA

If you’ve ever wanted to experience something more creatively hands-on in relation to IMMA’s exciting programme of changing exhibitions, there are several programmes that use exploratory art-making to give you a richer understanding of the artworks and exhibitions on show in the galleries. Developed and run by IMMA’s Engagement and Learning  department (previously called ‘Education and Community’) these programmes are facilitated both by invited artists and art practitioners and our in-house facilitators from IMMA’s Visitor Engagement Team. These art-making activities focus on creative process and experimentation and are incorporated into a whole range of programming that caters for families, children, teenagers, third level groups, and adults.

For this blog we spoke to Caroline Orr (Engagement and Learning) and Joan Walker (Visitor Engagement Team) to hear more about one of the longest running of these programmes – “Studio 10” . This art-making workshop series takes place in three or four week blocks on Friday mornings, 10am to 1pm, in an autumn/winter and spring/summer schedule.  Each block focuses on a single current exhibition and explores the themes and techniques used in the making of the artworks presented in the galleries.  This involves several visits and tours to the gallery spaces, and lots of discussion, which then leads to a practical session of making in the studio. Officially called the Adult Gallery/Studio Programme it has become known as “Studio 10” – the number of the IMMA studio in which the art-making takes place. “Studio10” is free of charge and you don’t need to book in advance, you can just drop along on the day. For more information about the current dates and topics please see our website

To give you a better idea of what the workshops feel like, we’ve taken a closer look at a recent project developed by the group.  In November 2016 Studio 10 was exploring the work of Jaki Irvine’s new work: If the Ground Should Open.” which was on exhibition in the Courtyard Galleries. An IMMA Commission, the work is a multichannel video and sound installation commemorating the often forgotten role women played in the 1916 Easter Rising. Using themes from this work such as commemoration and the role of memory Visitor Engagement Facilitators Barry Kehoe and Joan Walker devised a specific workshop for Studio 10 participants to make their own collaborative video work. Joan describes how the idea came about and how the film was made:

Joan tells us more:

The idea for this workshop began by honing down the Jaki Irvine piece to its essential core, which is to honour the name of a remembered person. In her case it was the memory of the women who played important roles in the 1916 Rising. To say a person’s name can be powerful, even in general conversation. It makes us pay attention, it’s grounding and it makes us feel recognised.

When Barry and I took this idea to the Studio 10 group our first step was to ask the group to think about someone who had meaning for us; perhaps someone we loved, honoured or respected. This could be someone from the past or the present, someone known intimately or even someone we had never met. We sat quietly with our memories, letting them flow to the surface and allowing the chosen person’s name to fill our heads, fill our mouths with its vibrations and then to whisper and speak out that name and indulge in its vowels and rhythms. The next step was to take a pencil to paper and begin to write the name and then to progress this further by doodling with the name, playing with it, decorating it, growing it on paper. We spoke about illuminated texts where initials are glorified in gold and jewel like colours or the bright primaries of pop culture and writing the name like a popstar or in love hearts like sweethearts, the type carved in trees or graffiti on to bathroom doors.

Soon there was spontaneous writing, drawing or collaging. There was complete silence in the studio, the concentration was immense as everyone, locked in their thoughts, began a visual memorial to their chosen name.

At our next session the following week we introduced a selection of percussion instruments, to pick up from the music at the centre of Irvine’s work. We gathered in a circle and began to improvise with sound. In their own time each person allowed their special person to come forward in their mind and let it flow to their hands and their instruments so they could honour that name in sound. Immediately some people began to sing, hum or shout out their chosen name. The Studio filled with wonderful sound and the cacophony was all the time being recorded on a mobile recording desk.

Following this it was time to record the actual speaking of the chosen name. During the recording process many participants recounted cherished memories of their person. Neither Barry nor I could have anticipated the outpouring of honesty, emotion and rich tales that would go on to weave this wonderful tapestry of sound and vision.

The next and final stage was to photograph the drawings which were combined with the recordings to produce this truly heartfelt memorable piece of art.