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.

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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Open House Junior at IMMA October 2016


Open House Dublin at IMMA, 2016

This October IMMA hosted an exciting workshop for teens, as part of Irish Architecture Foundation’s Open House Dublin.The session was an exploration of space and time by an impressive group of young people, and was facilitated by Paola Catizone and A. Legarreta (‘maken’) from the IMMA Visitor Engagement Team. As we look back at the year that was we wanted to capture some of our highlights, so have asked Paola and  maken to share their memories of the event.

The overall theme for the workshop was Time, Space and Presence, which takes as its cue the current exhibition IMMA Collection: A Decade. This collection exhibition is framed by a defined period of time – the last decade – and  includes many works that are time-based or time-related. Many of the works also underline the importance of ‘presence’.

In our workshop we engaged with several different spaces at IMMA: the grounds; the West Wing Gallery to view A Decade, and Studio 10 – one of the studio spaces on site. We focused on the contrast between linear time (where time is an absolute physical reality, and where the passage of time is independent of consciousness) versus ‘being in the now’, and on the effect of architectural space on human daily experience.

We started in the grounds of IMMA with maken, using a Time Machine…


Open House Dublin at IMMA, 2016

We built a Time Machine with the group. Yes, we did.

Participants assembled at the base camp/Studio 10 to meet their crewmates and be briefed on the space-time hopping planned for the day. The usual safety announcements were made, including the possibility that we would all be vaporized in the time machine, accidentally transported to Mars, etc, etc.

304 seconds later (4 seconds behind schedule, but we are at IMMA, not NASA), we left base camp. The Krono-nauts, aka Time-travellers, marched in formation to the designated launch site South of the RHK Clock Tower (yes, most appropriate). As we marched, we signaled our presence by our team flag – a pair of futuristic wings that flapped in the air as we walked. We carried with us our very own home-made Time Machine, which, conveniently, had been designed to fit into a bucket (see image above). The Machine consisted of an ‘electomagnetic’ gold-silver ‘aeronautical’ drapery, 16.2m long, threaded with our own imaginary experimental metal alloy, immanite™…  and we were off!

After announcing the first destination, the Krono-nauts were asked to close their eyes. With a din of strange machine-sounds (closely resembling the ding-ding of a pantry-bell and the gong of… well… a meditation-Gong), we navigated through the space-time continuum, for what really and truly felt like 5 seconds. Without opening our eyes, like human-compasses, the crew were instructed to turn their bodies south-east to face the exact location. When they opened their eyes, the pilot described the building/ structure/ site they were beholding…

This space-time jump was repeated a number of times. Among other destinations we travelled to….

…the year 974, the outskirts of Dubh Linn in Hibernia. A hut Built by a young hermit called Maignenn, later known as ‘the place of Maignenn, or… ‘Kill-Mainham’.

…1679, Paris, France. ‘Les Invalides’ building. Officer Arthur Forbes falls in love with this military retirement home and persuades king Charles II to build a replica in Dublin.

…1880, Kandahar, Afġānistān. The site of an anti-colonial battle. A burial place will be erected in the IMMA gardens for a member of the British colonial troops at Kandahar. The warrior, who received a medal from Queen Victoria, was Volonel, an Arab horse.

…1940, Berlin, Deutschland. Detlev-Rohwedder building, the largest office building in Europe, headquarters of the Reich Air Ministry. A nameless secretary files a photograph of the RHK taken by the Luftwaffe. The file, called ‘Operation Green’, holds tactical information for a Nazi invasion of Ireland.

After several such space-time jumps, and safely returned to the launch-site, Krono-nauts were told that they had all now become Human Time Machines, with the ability to take other people back in time to all those places they had learned about, simply by repeating the stories they had heard.

We then moved to the West Wing to explore Old and New” tour, with Paola

Amanda Coogan, Medea, 2001, chromogenic print from digital file, mounted on diabond, 92 x 123 cm, edition 2/3, IMMA Collection

Within A Decade, we looked at works by Mark Dion, Kevin Atherton, Amanda Coogan, Corban Walker, Alexis Harding, Dennis Mc Nulty and Philippe Taaffe as each one of these works invites reflections on the passing of time, with materials, media and use of space carefully and deliberately chosen by the artists to create sharp contrasts between present and past. Each art work inhabits the surrounding space on its own terms, sparking up a dynamic between contemporary art and historical architecture. The walls of the RHK are soaked in history and yet they comfortably host artworks that, while  in conversation with the past, are of the present and speak to it.

Atherton’s performative video installation is one of IMMA’s latest acquisitions supported by The Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA Collection. It consists of projections of two videos featuring present time Atherton in dialogue with his younger self, one filmed in 1978 and another in 2014. The older film has been re-edited to simulate this dialogue, and the arrangement of the projections within the room forces viewers to turn to look left and right, to follow the conversation, in a way that makes us participate in the performance.

Harding examines time from a different perspective. By using two painting mediums –oil and emulsion—with different drying times the artist can exhibit wet, dripping paintings which continue to form and change as you watch them, changing over time to dynamic effect.

McNulty’s multi-media installation, also supported through the Hennessy Art Fund, takes as its point of departure texts from Olaf Stapleton’s fictitious timeline for ‘Last and First Men‘, which he displays in a looped LCD. The timeline imaginatively extends from prehistory to a dystopian future threatened by a solar catastrophe. The windows in the room are partially covered by orange gel sheets while foil plaster boards reconfigure the shape of the walls and an acapella version of  “The sun always shines on TV” by Norwegian 1980s band A-ha is the looped sound track. We find ourselves immersed within a sensory environment that hints at a future human existence lived in synthetic, manmade spaces surrounded by a threatening external world, no longer habitable.

In the studio


Open House Dublin at IMMA, 2016


Open House Dublin at IMMA, 2016


Open House Dublin at IMMA, 2016

Having looked at the work in the galleries and explored the grounds the group decamped to the studio where they were invited to respond to the exhibition in ways that were physically active and sensorily rich – breaking away from a traditional reliance on the use of paints and crayons to make art.

The workshops started with an ice-breaker name-game, a visualization on architectural space, and a movement exercise by Augusto Boal. In another exploration we imagined the world at various stages in the next 1,000 years, a sci-fi fantasy as a response to Dennis McNulty’s installation, with the resulting texts jumbled up and read anonymously: “I don’t think there will be a planet Earth in the future”, one read, and “Aliens will live among us”, another. The group also created an installation built by writing their hopes for the future on coloured strips of paper, and attaching them to thread crisscrossing the Studio space: “Clean water for everyone” and “Infinite Knowledge” could be read. The process was simple but the result was visually and emotionally impactful. It was a privilege to witness this young group’s hopes and thoughts on the future. May all their hopes come true!


Open House Dublin at IMMA, 2016



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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.


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The Gordon Lambert Archive Project (Continued)

This is the second of two blogs by Ciara Ball from IMMA’s Visitor Engagement Team introducing Gordon Lambert and his life as a collector and patron as documented through his archive.  A selection of material from the Gordon lambert Archive was on display during National Heritage Week.

Image of suitcase -detail- Photographer Chris Jones

Gordon Lambert’s suitcase, Photo by Chris Jones

Throughout the early 1980’s Gordon Lambert travelled to meetings and exhibitions as a member of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art and continued to support Irish artists and build his own collection. Influenced by his experiences with the International Council and the desire to make his art works more available to a public audience his attention became increasingly focused on the need for a national museum of modern art in Ireland. By the time of his retirement from Jacob’s  in 1986 he had become a prominent figure in a growing movement to create a national museum. By the next year the project had gained the approval of then Taoiseach Charles Haughey and with the promise of Gordon’s artworks as the basis for a nation collection debate began about the best location for a new museum.  A city centre site on the Quays known as ‘Stack A’ and the recently restored Royal Hospital Kilmainham divided public opinion until Haughey ended the discussion by announcing IMMA’s establishment in the Royal Hospital in October 1987.

Scanned 1992 Gordon Lambert Exhibition at IMMA reduced 2

Gordon Lambert exhibition at IMMA, 1992

IMMA opened on May 25th 1991 with an inaugural exhibition entitled Inheritance and Transformation. A large selection of works from the Gordon Lambert Collection were first shown in their new home the following year. Over the intervening twenty five years the IMMA Collection has formed the basis of numerous exhibitions, both onsite and in venues throughout the country as part of the museum’s National Programme.

As well as serving on the advisory committee and the first two boards of IMMA during the 1990s, Gordon was a board member of the Art Committee of the Ulster Museum and the Ireland – America Arts Exchange Foundation. He was made an Honorary Doctor in Laws by Trinity College Dublin in 1999 and ended the decade by receiving a Business2Arts award for lifetime commitment to the arts in Ireland.  Despite ill health in his later years, evidence from the archive attests to his continual engagement, through print and correspondence when not possible in person, with all aspects of Ireland’s cultural life, and with the enjoyment and commitment which had always driven him to add so much to it.

Scanned colour photograph GL  with artworks by Arp 2

Gordon Lambert at home with his Collection

Material from the Gordon Lambert Archive was on display during National Heritage week. The cataloguing of the archive is ongoing. For more information please contact Ciara Ball  or Nuria Carballeira, Collections Department, IMMA.  Visitors who are interested in Gordon Lambert can also find the works from his collection donated to IMMA here.



‘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