IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art

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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.

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“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.

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To Be Determined (for Jean) – Dispatch from week one of the Emily Jacir workshop at IMMA


Workshop participants in session with David Lloyd and Emily Jacir at IMMA

This month we are presenting “To Be Determined” a workshop with artist Emily Jacir in conjunction with her current exhibition at IMMA – Europa (26 November 2016 – 26 February 2017). Conceived and organised by Jacir the workshop is based around a student exchange and we are delighted to welcome her students from the International Academy of Art Palestine, Ramallah to Dublin. They are in IMMA to work with Irish students from colleges around Ireland including Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD); Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Centre for Creative Arts and Media (GMIT  CCAM); the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Dublin and Dublin School of Creative Arts, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

The workshop is taking place over two consecutive weeks in IMMA and also in a number of locations around Ireland, including Belfast, the Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry/Londonderry (CCA Derry~Londonderry), and the Burren College of Art, Co. Clare. Jacir has invited a number of artists and writers to contribute to the workshop including Gerard Byrne, Shane Cullen,Willie Doherty,David Lloyd, Declan Long, Conor McGrady, Áine Phillips, and Maggie Royanye. Below we hear from Emily Jacir and the participants in the programme, both artists and students, on their reflections after week one.

IMMA are hosting a brilliant initiative right now, as part of the extended Engagement and Learning programme around Emily Jacir’s show. Together with the museum, Emily has brought together a group of nine students, from the International Academy of Art Palestine, GMIT, LSAD, DIT and NCAD, for an intensive series of discussions and reflections around the politics and the art of Ireland and Palestine through the prism of Post-Colonialism. Parallels as well as differences are being teased out in the IMMA artist residency studios, as well as on bus trips to Belfast, Derry, and the Burren School of Art, where students are tapping into a network of ties that Emily has built up on Ireland and abroad with some of the more challenging and interesting Irish artists, including Willie Doherty, Shane Cullen, and writers like David Lloyd, and Declan Long. I’m involved, and really enjoying it.

Gerard Byrne (Artist)


Artist Emily Jacir with workshop participants in her IMMA exhibition Europa

My workshop To Be Determined (for Jean) kicked off last Sunday January 23rd at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. My students from the International Academy of Art Palestine, Ramallah, joined Irish students from colleges around Ireland to take part in a workshop I designed and organized in conjunction with my show at IMMA Europa (26 November 2016 – 26 February 2017).

It was very important for me to conduct this workshop in tandem with my show for many reasons but namely because of the long relationship I have with Ireland its impact on my work. Many of the themes which run through my exhibition at IMMA are being touched upon in this workshop. Additionally the colleagues I have invited to contribute to my workshop are people I have been working with for decades and almost all have worked in Palestine. So the workshop is not only built along the lines of my own research, explorations and interests but also in line with a long history of exchange and collaboration with Willie Doherty, Conor McGrady, Gerard Byrne, Shane Cullen, and David Lloyd among many others.

In my view this workshop also joins an enduring history of solidarity between Ireland and Palestine and so we will also be investigating not only that history of solidarity and collaboration but also the current situation of Palestinian prisoners (the role of prisoners in both Ireland and South Africa played crucial roles in ending those conflicts) as well as popular techniques used by the Irish (and also South Africans) which have served to inspire Palestinian efforts to resist occupation.  As Europa opened during the centenary of the 1916 Easter Uprising and with the shared history of British colonial rule in Palestine and Ireland (remnants of which still abound today) it was especially crucial to me to bring these students and thinkers together to examine these histories in a critical way.

This workshop has been such an amazing experience, from the trips to historically significant sites in Dublin, Belfast and Derry to the interaction with other students from Ireland and Palestine. The sharing of different views, opinions and ideas it has provided so much food for thought and source material for the development of artistic works. The warmth and hospitality of the accommodation has only been exceeded by that of all the people I have met at this workshop. – Conor Burke (GMIT – CCAM)


Workshop participants on the Falls Road in Belfast

It has been amazing to meet the other students from Palestine and Ireland; sharing our perspectives and discussing our ideas has been mentally stimulating. The seminars, lecturers and visits to Northern Ireland taught me more about the conflicts and history, as well as learning more about the history and present of Palestine. Overall, the workshop has been overwhelmingly rich and fascinating, and I’m honoured to be a part of it. – Tuyen Tran (DIT)


At the core of this workshop is a focus on the events and discourse surrounding the Easter Uprising of 1916 in Dublin. For this reason it was essential to me to organize a visit to Kilmainham Gaol (above) and the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (where IMMA is housed) upon arrival in Dublin so that the students would understand the site and buildings in which we are working in and having our discussions in. I invited my colleagues to lead seminars that would interrogate themes such as resistance, the right of return, martyrs, independence, remembrance and commemoration from a variety of different perspectives.  We kicked off the first half of the week with a fantastic seminar led by David Lloyd called “Founding Violence:Rethinking Easter 1916”.

In investigating the postcolonial condition of Ireland, we are examining how this violent colonial history and these invasive disruptions of social, cultural, religious and political orders play out in contemporary Ireland today and how it continues to shape our present condition.  Wednesday we headed to Belfast for a tour of the Falls Road Murals guided by a former political prisoner. This was followed by a seminar with former political prisoners from the Republican and the Loyalist communities, as well as a former British soldier.


After our return to IMMA we continued the workshop with a couple of seminars led by artist Gerard Byrne exploring the role of the artist in imagining the state. In smaller group meetings with Gerard, the students were able to start to process the impact of the workshop in relation to their own practices. Declan Long’s seminar on Friday “Ghost Stories: Contemporary art and the uneasy peace of post-conflict Northern Ireland” (above) presented us with various forms of concrete examples of art projects.

We completed this first week with a trip to Derry, which included a seminar with Willie Doherty at CCA (where we were hosted by CCA Director Matt Packer and Curator Sarah Greavu . Willie spoke about his practice and his very personal relationship to this place and then led us on an intimate walking tour of Derry which included the sites of his works, as pictured below.


Being in Ireland made me realize even more that fighting against injustice, oppression and discrimination is a global fight and not only a Palestinian one, regardless of demographics, geography, culture or religion. Also, listening to all these historical and social struggles the Irish overcame drew a very promising picture of freedom in the near future for Palestine.

Also, being around the liberal and distinguished minds of the Irish and Palestinian students, and having the opportunity to visit the outstanding artworks at IMMA has been a great influence and motivation on me.

In short, I just loved the smiling faces, the loving hospitality and the passion for politics I’ve seen in the Irish. – May Marei (IAAP)


Workshop students and participants eating lunch together in IMMA’s artist studios

You can hear more from Emily about her current exhibition at IMMA here (video) The exhibition is free of charge and runs at IMMA, Dublin until 26 February 2017.


About the Author


Emily Jacir. Photo John McRea, 2016.

Emily Jacir’s recent solo exhibitions include IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), Dublin (2016 – 2017); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Darat il Funun, Amman (2014-2015); Beirut Art Center (2010); Guggenheim Museum, New York (2009). Jacir’s works have been in important group exhibitions internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA); Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; dOCUMENTA (13) (2012); 5 consecutive Venice Biennales, 29th Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2010); 15th Biennale of Sydney (2006); Sharjah Biennial 7 (2005); Whitney Biennial (2004); and the 8th Istanbul Biennial (2003).

Jacir is the recipient of several awards, including a Golden Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007); a Prince Claus Award (2007); the Hugo Boss Prize (2008); the Herb Alpert Award (2011); and the Rome Prize (2015).

In 2003 O.K. Books published belongings. a monograph on a selection of Jacir’s work. A second monograph was published by Verlag Fur Moderne Kunst Nurnberg (2008). Her book ex libris was published in 2012 by Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln. In 2015 The Khalid Shoman Foundation published A Star is as Far as the Eye Can See and as Near as My Eye is to Me the most extensive monograph to date on Jacir’s work in English and Arabic. The most recent publication on her work are Europa which accompanies the exhibitions at Whitechapel and IMMA. Earlier this year NERO, Roma published TRANSLATIO about Jacir’s permanent installation Via Crucis at the Chiesa di San Raffaele in Milano.

She has been actively involved in education in Palestine since 2000 including PIVF and Birzeit University. Over the past ten years she has been a full-time professor and active member of the vanguard International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah. She conceived of and co-curated the first Palestine International Video Festival in Ramallah in 2002. She also curated a selection of shorts; “Palestinian Revolution Cinema (1968 -1982)” which went on tour in 2007. Jacir is on the faculty of Bard MFA in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.


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‘Foreign Body’ – a poem by Cherry Smyth in response to Jaki Irvine’s ‘If the Ground Should Open…’

Cherry Smyth, poet, curator and art writer, is one of the collaborators in Jaki Irvine’s new work If the Ground Should Open…, a major new commission for IMMA presented on the occasion of the centenary of the historic Easter uprisings of 1916. In this blog Smyth discusses her response to Irvine’s work and presents her poem Foreign Body which is performed within the first and eponymous track of Irvine’s new work, currently at IMMA.

A one-off live performance of If the Ground Should Open…, in its entirety, takes place on Tuesday 13 December at 7pm in the atmospheric surrounds of the Great Hall at IMMA, where the footage for the original sound and video work was developed. Cherry Smyth will participate in this live performance alongside the other project performers which include Louise Phelan and Cats Irvine (vocals) ; Sarah Grimes (drums); Jane Hughes (cello); Izumi Kimura (piano); Hilary Knox (bagpipes); Liz McClaren (violin) and Aura Stone (double bass).

Book Tickets €8 euro including post performance reception.

Foreign Body – a poem by Cherry Smyth written for Jaki Irvine, If the Ground Should Open (2016)

When Jaki Irvine asked me to respond to her book Days of Surrender (Copy Press, London, 2015), two things hooked me: the notion of bystanding, inspired by those who claimed to be ‘innocent bystanders’ in Dublin in 1916 and the name Elizabeth O’Farrell, which kept ringing and echoing back as Mairéad Farrell.  Who draws the line of innocence and who chooses to cross it?  I like to think I could have been Elizabeth O’Farrell, risking gunfire in the streets, sacrificing safety and I shudder to think I could have been Mairéad Farrell, an active member of the IRA, jailed for ten years for bombing a hotel and then assassinated by the SAS.  Where does the choice lie?  And how does history choose its heroines?


Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar

I had been haunted by Mairéad Farrell’s death since 1988 and knew I could only understand her lack of choice if some part of me became her through a poem.  I wrote about this process more fully in an essay entitled Bystander.

I am interested in how art and poetry can build a space that can hold everything: the collapsed and derided financial system, the failed and deluded electoral system and the ongoing, troubled and troubling project of a united and independent Ireland.  Jaki Irvine’s If the Ground Should Open… creates this kind of space, a space we didn’t know how much we needed until it appeared, a space that has the audacity to put anomalous things together and make a moral resonance.

If the Ground Should Open… presents a big, bleak space, with a mournful coaxing of sound and women’s voices.  The traditional white space around a poem, Irvine juices with music, colours with sound that lifts my poem, Foreign Body, into a new auditory landscape.  This allows others to inhabit the world of the poem in a much fuller and more powerful way.  It is a world of deep (and deepening) frustration with how women’s power and wisdom are dulled, ditched or destroyed by patriarchal culture.

‘The mouth is engineered by gender’ writes Vahni Capildeo in her striking new collection Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet, 2016) and Irvine captures this wonderfully in the phone excerpt of a corrupt, male banker cackling with glee set against visceral female keening.

I write poetry to face the ugliness of contradictions, of moral ambiguity, to stay looking when others have turned away, to inhabit the room they want to evict us from.  Poetry can do what nothing else wants to: call to account, act as a witness.  It relieves the passivity of trauma; it can transform and heal to write what is in front of you.  You are no longer helpless, no longer a bystander.  The vision in your head is outside of you and others can enter it and be held and changed there.

Foreign Body

In 1988, a girl went to Spain.
An Irish girl.  It was March.
Some would say woman.
But she was a girl, a good girl,
to those who knew her.  Clear-eyed, pale.
The mimosa was out.  She rented
a white Ford Fiesta.  A friend gave her a gift.
Carefully wrapped.  She put it in the boot,
parked in a multi-storey carpark.
The friend’s name was Libya.

The girl was 13 in 1970.
Some say it was the platform boots.
Others that it was boots on the ground.
She couldn’t breathe.
The streets were made empty.  She couldn’t
run across her own street.  Boots on the ground.
New platform boots.  Some say it was the CS gas.
She couldn’t see across her street.
The street’s name was the Fall’s Road.

1973 and she liked disco.  The sounds
of Hot Chocolate.  The sounds of binlids
battering the tarmac.  An alerting clatter
to her friends across the street, to hide
their gifts, to move their treasure.
Some say she got in with the wrong crowd,
others that she got an education.  Everyone
with an accent was suspect and everyone
had an accent.  On the streets, a foreign body,
making the local foreign, making who you had
tea with disappear.  That’s 10,000 teacups,
never a judge, never a jury.  Making a schoolgirl
put on a black skirt, a white shirt, a black tie.
It was not a school uniform.  Taking 3000
women and kids to march into the curfew
with bread and milk to break it.

Some say she was walking down a street in Spain
that was a street in Britain.  Some said it in Spanish,
others in English.  The word for ‘prone’ in Spanish
is ‘propenso’.  It was broad daylight, with two friends.
Some said a bad lot.  Some said they had time to look,
put their hands up.  Others that the shooters kept
shooting when they were prone.

The Special Air Service does not deliver air.

Ten years in Armagh, had taught her nothing,
explained everything.  She couldn’t breathe,
wouldn’t wear the uniform.  She wrote with shit,
spoke hunger to the world’s airwaves.

Some called it a war, but she could not be called
a soldier.  Some said she was a criminal, but there
was no trial.  Some called her above the law, but
the execution lawful.  Bare-headed in the spring sun.
Bare-handed on the Spanish-British street, travelling
under a false name that the border control already knew.
A foreign body on a Gibraltar avenue.

i.m. Mairéad Farrell, 1957-1988 (aged 31)



Cherry Smyth is a Northern Irish poet and art writer, living in London.  Her first two collections were published by Lagan Press: When the Lights Go Up, 2001 and One Wanted Thing, 2006.  Her third collection Test, Orange, appeared with Pindrop Press, 2012.  Her debut novel, Hold Still, Holland Park Press  came out in 2015. She writes regularly about art for Art Monthly and has written catalogue essays for Elizabeth Magill, Siobhan Hapaska, Brigit McLeer and Orla Barry, among others.  The hallmarks of her work are ‘precision, linguistic inventiveness and joy’, The Irish Times.




If the Ground Should Open… by Jaki Irvine continues at IMMA in the Courtyard Galleries until 15 January 2017. Foreign Bodies is one of eleven tracks which make up the work. Admission to the exhibition is free.

A one-off live performance of the work takes place on Tuesday 13 December at 7pm,. Tickets €8, which includes booking fee and beverages after the performance. Book here.

Watch Jaki Irvine talk about her work in this video introduction to her exhibition.


‘Ogle’ A new poem by Doireann Ní Ghríofa after Carol Rama’s ‘L’Isola degli occhi’

Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual writer working both in Irish and English. She frequently participates in cross-disciplinary collaborations, fusing poetry with film, dance, music, and visual art. We are delighted to be able to publish, for the first time, a new work by Doireann written in response to the current retrospective of Carol Rama here at IMMA (closing 1 Aug 2016). Doireann introduces the work below, and the poem follows.


Carol_Rama_ 06

Pictured here on the far right is Carol Rama, L’isola degli occhi (The Island of Eyes), 1967, Plastic eyes, synthetic resin and enamel on canvas, 120 x 160 cm, Private Collection, Installation view at IMMA, photo Denis Mortell.

An Island of Eyes

A first encounter with the work of Carol Rama is a shock, a visceral jolt, an astonishment. As I walked through IMMA’s retrospective of Carol Rama’s life work, I was reminded of a quote by Philip Larkin– “Poetry is nobody’s business except the poet’s, and everybody else can f*** off.” Plucky and boisterous as she was (and no stranger to poetry herself), I feel that Carol Rama would have enjoyed this quote as applied to her art, in fact I can almost imagine the spark in her eye, her hoarse chuckle.

Yet despite the irreverence of that quote, Carol Rama’s work is our business, for it challenges us, it provokes us, it questions us. If art can be considered a reflection then Rama’s work is particularly human, for here we are, in each piece, flawed and messy, muddled and bizarre. Here is the life-work of a woman with guts. Rama is an artist who was driven by her loyalty to the depiction of desire, and to the bodily urge to make and to create. Each work is a challenge, a dare. It isn’t pretty. Rather, Rama is driven to attend to her own instincts, bloody and filthy, foul and true. There is little sense here of attempting to pander to an audience, or seeking approval. Nothing about Rama is easy.  It’s difficult to gaze into the glorious mess of the human psyche. Continue reading