The solo exhibitions of Brian Hand and Sean Lynch, shared some common ground, each unearthing peripheral stories from the archives of recent Irish history, and delivering them into the present moment. Found within these processes of re- enactment were monuments and protests, punctuated with artifacts, revealing the Irish character within a changing cultural landscape.

Sean Lynch presented two artworks, installed in separate but adjoining rooms. On entering the first room I was immediately aware of some audio; a voice-over piece, emanating from behind an L-shaped, constructed partition. Dear JJ, I read with interest...inhabited the expanse of the room, with the partition allowing the viewer to circulate attentively around it, in the act of piecing together fragments of a wandering narrative.

On 24th April, 1986, JJ Toomey, of Bishopstown, Cork, submitted an appeal in the letters section of the Irish Times, for information regarding the erection, and subsequent disappearance, of a most unusual monument he had seen on the summit of Carrantuohill, Co. Kerry, in the summer of 1983. The monument in question was a ‘High Nelly’, a lady’s bicycle, lashed to a pole, bearing a plaque which read “In memory of Flann O’Brien and The Third Policeman.” What was the nature of this eccentric effigy, and who put it there?

Below and between the sections of audio could be heard the enticing and nostalgic clunk of a slide projector. Loaded with archival research, circumstantial evidence and snippets of local gossip, the projected images and voice-over narrative documented a cor- respondence, gradually unravelling the mystery of the bike, and the people that had made its journey possible. Some locals speculated that the bike would be used as a generator for a lighting system on the newly erected metal cross. The summit of Carrantuohill is the highest point in Ireland and the closest place to heaven. I began to feel happy that these slides exist in the world.

Sabine Schmidt from Hattenheim, Germany, replied to Toomey, describing how she and a friend had carried the bike up the mountain and tied it to the pole. She sent photographs which documented the journey (which were displayed in the exhibition). Meanwhile, Michael Kellett from Raheny replied to Toomey, claiming he had carried the bike. Were there two bikes? Two separate monuments to Flann O’Brien?

It transpires that Kellet made the journey with his two sons and met the couple along the way (later identifying himself in Schmitt’s photographs). Observing their struggle, he offered to help them by strapping the bike to his rucksack. Kellet’s rucksack and climbing boots were displayed in the exhibition on plinths, and exuded an indexical presence.

In retaining particles from that trip up the mountain, do Kellet’s boots form part of this monument to Flann O’Brien? Maybe the mountain ‘absorbed’ some of the monument? The search for the missing bicycle continues...

The continual cracking of your feet on the road makes a certain quantity of road come up into you. When a man dies they say he returns to clay but too much walking fills you up with clay far sooner (or buries bits of you along the road) and brings your death half-way to meet you. It is not easy to know what is the best way to move yourself from one place to another.[1]

Bringing thoughts of the metaphysical with me, I journeyed into the adjoining room, where Latoon was on the telly. No flat-screens or slick HD monitors, but a proper big telly, displaying content which may well have been broadcast into the living rooms of Irish people in the late ’90s. An epic beard signified the presence of a Eddie Lenihan, who relayed the story of a whitethorn bush in Latoon Co. Clare, which came under threat in 1999 with plans for a €90 million road scheme. Lenihan protested that the bush was an important meeting place for fairies, (or the ‘good people’), and declared that motorists using the proposed new road may may be subjected to great misfortune or even death. Clare Co. Council eventually agreed to re-direct the road so that the site could be avoided.

Lynch described the fairy bush as “an object that gets absorbed into folklore (and) worldwide media coverage, surviving the onslaught of a motorway.”[2] Lenihan’s protest also functioned as a request, asking people to resist the allure of progress and efficiency, stating that in getting to a place quicker “you lose the stories that mean something along the way, the stories that tell you about life.”

Lynch’s work displays a geographical aesthetic, which provides a departure from the ‘native genius’ and his “rootedness in a remote and unique landscape,”[3] ultimately offering access to a larger global narrative. Lynch’s interest in “unusual idiosyncratic histories”[4] articulates a desire to highlight stories which seem out of place in the context of current national and European political agenda. His process is less about ‘identity building’, and more concerned with the ruptures that can occur in the void between progress and cultural survival.

Exiting Lynch’s space, I noticed a flag hanging from a pole on the wall facing me - a purple, white and green tricolour, wafting in the breeze provided by a fan. It beckoned me across the landing and into room 1, the site of Brian Hand’s solo show. The entrance was proclaimed by a banner, suggesting the word ‘ANACHRONY’, comprised of letter formations composed from hatchets. Before crossing the threshold I was aware of some music, possibly an Irish ballad, and paused for a moment to consider what the room may contain. An ‘anachronism’, as I understand it, relates to something that is out of its time or context. The flag, the banner, the music – could this be a modern take on Republicanism? On entering the room I observed that the space was also partitioned, in this scenario a central black- out space was created by a shroud of black curtain.

The large rooms in The Dock, although bright and spacious, to my mind, have occasionally proved challenging in the past, in terms of providing the viewer with a lasting engagement with the work on display.


Sean Lynch and Brian Hand

The Dock, Carrick on Shannon, 8th April - 11th June 2011.

LEFT: Letter by J.J. Toomey, printed in The Irish Times, Thursday 24th April, 1986.

MIDDLE: One canvas bag, courtesy Michael Kellett Bottom Image: Photographic enlargement of a photograph, posted by Sabine Schmidt to JJ Toomey July 1986, (56 x 46 cm) Courtesy JJ Toomey.



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