Seven for a Story
Curated by Sheena Malone
In 1930s Ireland, the Schools Folklore Scheme was established to preserve local stories in a fledgling nation which was trying to forge its identity as a relatively-recent independent state. During this period, stories were collected by schoolchildren from 5,000 primary schools countrywide and today it remains one of the largest collections of ethnological material in the world. Many of these tales have become forgotten in local consciousness but the archives tell tales of rebellion, local history, folklore, fairy rings, curses, folk medicine and locals imbued with cures for illnesses.
Taking relevant 80 year old archival material as it starting point, this project was centred on the small country village of Allenwood. Instead of stories with beginnings, middles and ends, its tales are layered, fragmented, incomplete and infinite, existing and surrounding everyday life, silently embedded in its geography. In the archives, names of people today only known as elders, can be reencountered through their writings as schoolchildren. This long term project uses this archival material to trace the evolution of the townland’s landscape, scraping away and excavating layers of history, migration, industry, personal and collective memories, local folk knowledge and superstition, which through rapid modernization, indifference and sometimes embarrassment has been lost.
This exhibition aimed to foster discussion regarding the appreciation and preservation of local history and local idiosyncrasies. Through evolution and use, new traditions and belief systems are created, entangled with the old, but adapted to cater for the contemporary audience. But how do newer customs sit alongside embedded traditions? Do cultural practices lose their purposes and through evolution does meaning shift to meaningless? With culture constantly evolving, the project will bring a temporary culture to the spatial boundaries of the exhibition space, only existing for its duration.
For my primary degree, I studied History or Art and Italian which was followed by a hastily chosen masters in Palladio and Palladianism. During my time at university, I was heavily involved in set design in UCD’s Dramsoc, a highly renowned student drama society which led to my involvement with several fringe theatre productions upon graduation during this time, I also worked in the education department at the National Gallery of Ireland.
My professional engagement with contemporary art began in 2005 when I was offered a position in the Douglas Hyde Gallery, a public art gallery situated on the campus of Trinity College Dublin. During my time there I co-curated two exhibitions ‘Preponderance of the Small’ and ‘Holding Together’ and had wonderful opportunities to work with a high calibre of both Irish and international artists. In 2011, I moved to Sweden to participate in the Curating Contemporary Art Programme at Stockholm University where my thesis ‘Exhibiting the Hidden’ looked at the representation of the ‘occult’ in contemporary art and presented the work of Nadine Byrne in an exhibition ‘Between Worlds’.
In Stockholm, I interned at Magasin 3, organized the Meetings programme at the Supermarket Art Fair and as a board member became involved in the running of Detroit Stockholm in addition to curating several shows in the space. Additionally in recent years, I have returned to some of my theatre roots by performing ‘The S.I. Witkiewicz Portrait Painting Firm’ at Absolute Fringe Festival, Dublin; Stoff, Stockholm and at The English Theatre Berlin. Future projects include ‘Couchsurfer’s Paradise’, an exhibition taking place in the homes of strangers; ‘Ritual Play’, Verkstad Konsthall, Norrköping, and ‘Faraway Longings’, Irish Embassy Berlin.