IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art

“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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Critical Response: Will the Mistresses Tools Dismantle the Master’s House? Dr Tina Kinsella on Prof Griselda Pollock

Across our programme this year there is a focus on exploring human sexuality, gender and identity growing from core themes in several of our exhibitions, including most recently  Patrick Hennessy De Profundis and The Passion According to Carol Rama. As part of this focus IMMA presented a day-long seminar entitled Sexuality, Identity and the State (click to listen back on soundcloud) and a talk by internationally acclaimed feminist theorist and art historian Professor Griselda Pollock.

In this blog Dr Tina Kinsella responds to Griselda Pollock’s talk Re-thinking the Twentieth Century with Carol Rama and Modernist Artist-Women : Creative Practice as Dissidence in the Feminist Century. You can listen back to the original talk on our soundcloud channel.

Will the Mistresses Tools Dismantle the Master’s House?
Griselda Pollock on Creative Practices as Dissidence in the Feminist Century

By Dr Tina Kinsella 

Carol_Rama_ 04

The Passion According to Carol Rama, Installation view IMMA, 2016. Photo Denis Mortell.

Creative Practice and Critical Dissidence

As art theorist and cultural analyst Griselda Pollock confirmed in her recent lecture at IMMA, her enterprise has always been to navigate a critical position through dominant art historical, cultural and institutional discourses. For almost forty years Pollock has made a series of major theoretical, methodological and curatorial interventions that significantly contribute to feminist, postcolonial and queer scholarship in the arts. Alongside her longstanding collaborator Rozsika Parker, Pollock was a founding member of the Women’s Art History Collective (1972) which sought to address the omission of women’s creative practices in the art history canon. Continuing with this theme, in 1981 Pollock and Parker published Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology. Providing a commentary on the modalities by which oppressive ideologies systemically engender the art history canon, Old Mistresses made a seminal contribution to feminist art historical critique by investigating the structural hierarchies of the canon that contribute to the exclusion of women artists in specific ways.

In her lecture, delivered in response to IMMA’s current exhibition entitled The Passion According to Carol Rama, Pollock elaborated on this feminist methodology she has developed that probes the ways in which (i) art history is structured by dominant discourses that support masculine dominance of the canon and (ii) thereby contribute to the way in which women artists are excluded by institutional structures. She names this methodology critical dissidence, a mode of disagreement that approaches the discourses of the histories, theories and institutions of art as well as the aesthetics of creative practice from a non-androcentric, non-masculinist and non-patriarchal perspective. Continue reading