A Celebration of History at IMMA

The Irish Museum of Modern Art is extremely fortunate to be housed in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, one of the finest 17th-century buildings in Ireland. Most notably, the RHK was open as a retirement home and infirmary for nearly 250 years for generations of military veterans who lived and died here. However the history of the Kilmainham site also includes ancient burial grounds, early Christian monuments, a Viking settlement and a medieval monastery.

North Range view of Courtyard

While our focus may be on modern and contemporary art, we are constantly drawing inspiration from our historic surroundings. This Sunday 14 June, on the concluding day of SUMMER RISING: The IMMA Festival, we are focusing on the exploration and celebration of the heritage of the RHK.

IMMA is thrilled to have commissioned Doireann Coady & Grace Dyas of THEATREclub to create a new performance work in response to the historical resonances of the site. The resulting work, A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! (a famous horse), is a durational piece that will be performed throughout the afternoon. Their official descriptor is as exciting as it is mysterious:

There’s a famous war horse buried in the Formal Gardens at IMMA. His name was Vonolel and he was decorated by the Queen and he was buried with full military honours.

This was a place where soldiers came to live after war. We want to look at everything that happened here all at once. We are staging a four hour performance set just outside Heaven’s gates which takes place on the grave of Vonolel (the famous horse).

THEATREclub rehearsals
THEATREclub rehearsing their performance.

There will be analogue tetris. There will be an inexhaustible post dramatic post traumatic text performed by actors seated at a table. There will be thirty songs that feature horses, horse play and horsing around. There will be a live horse acting as  Vonolel (the famous horse) but he is not famous, he’s from Meath St.

Essentially it’s a horse party, a party for a horse. It’s four hours long, but you don’t have to watch the whole thing. You can come and go. Bye bye.

We have been resident here in IMMA’s Studios the past two weeks. During that time we have been researching the site with the help of the Office of Public Works and the staff here at IMMA. ‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! (a famous horse)’ is our response to the site. – Doireann Coady & Grace Dyas of THEATREclub

It is an honour to be able to support the creation of new works that spread the history of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

In addition to the THEATREclub performance, there will be two free guided tours on the grounds focusing on the heritage of the site:

Tour of Bully’s Acre: Dublin’s Oldest Cemetery, 1-2:15pm
Join historian and author Paul O’Brien (OPW) as he tells the story of this little known graveyard in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and last resting place of Robert Emmet and many generation of Dubliners. Limited spaces. Book here

Tour of the Formal Gardens, 3-3:30pm
Cathal O’Sullivan (Craft Gardener, OPW) discusses the heritage and vistas of the formal gardens. Meet at the fountain, no booking required.

Finally, the museum houses a fantastic exhibition on the history and quirks of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Old Man’s House, created by the Office of Public Works, is located off the courtyard in the West range and is open museum hours.

The mixture of new and old at IMMA and the RHK is something to be embraced and celebrated, and we’re proud to be a part of this fantastic history.


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