Michael Collins’ Flying Column (working title)
What do you want to make?
I plan to make a collection of short videos that explore Irish identity through a postcolonial lens. The short videos or sketches will predominantly feature myself as a performer. I will act out scenarios from various points in Irish history, some may be fictional but take place within specific historical contexts. These performances intend to tackle the Irish condition from different historical standpoints. It is satirical. It is vaudeville. While the sketches and characters take place at different points in history, a common theme throughout is media, iconography and national narratives. This work speaks to the visual and verbal language of Irish media and colonial media. The format is directly related to the sketch shows like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, hence the title. The sketch show format allows me to play with short, vignette-like videos.
How do you plan to make it? I plan to make the majority of this work independently i.e I will be the cameraperson, the performer and the writer. This is a method that suits my way of working and informs the materiality of the work. I have made test shots in my bedroom using simple costume and set design and the low tech nature of the work speaks to a broader media context.
The characters within the sketches are in the process of being designed and fleshed out already. I have been building a database of sorts that describes the characters, their contexts and their personalities. This character info then informs the script and the performance. You can see the character development and scripts here Character Traits & Scripts
What is your timetable? My plan is to amass this collection of sketches throughout the year building up a collection or archive that builds a wider world that my artwork exists in. I believe that I can make a lot of this work in the Netherlands. I am also considering shooting some scenarios in Ireland. Over the Christmas break I will be in Ireland and I hope to use that time to shoot site specific sketches. More specifically there are some dates and times in regards to production.
- Before the 23rd of December
Have at least three sketches filmed. they do not have to be complete but must be fully thought out. in script and production.
- 23rd of Dec - 9th of Jan
Film in location in Ireland. need to flesh out the dates and locations and scripts for this.
- 9th of Jan - 17th of March
Finalise what has already been shot, edit, correct reshoot if needed and also prepare script and scenario for filming in Ireland for St.Patricks Day. The main reason for this excursion is to film on st.patricks day but can also be an opportunity to reshoot or correct for december's shoot
Why do you want to make it? I have often been asked through the course tutors and through application forms What is at stake in this artwork? Or What is the Urgency?Currently I would struggle to describe these answers in a condensed and clarified way but I can undoubtedly say that there is a lot at stake and a specific urgency within this work for me as an artist. This work of dissecting and satirising Irish folklore / pop culture / iconography feels to me as a method of understanding the Irish psyche and how intertwined it is with colonialism. I am finally drawing the parallels between what I previously thought were unconnected nodes of interest. I am boiling down my memory and the narratives and myths that I have grown up with, into a base of wider understanding of Ireland. I don’t know how big this work will be, perhaps it will grow into many characters and timelines. There must be a greater question at stake, an Irish question. One pervasive question that I am interested in is about the Irish narrative, the narrative that makes up the Irish identity and state. Our events, our landmarks, our blunders, our disgraces and our martyrs. How have these been synthesised into the Irish psyche and lens. There is a large disparity between Irish revolutionary ideology and what The Republic of Ireland actually became. Within this negative space are the subjects that I want to unpack.
Who can help you and how? I am interested in exploring archive material and seeing how that can be sewn into the artwork. Dialogue will be an integral part of this artwork. I will be speaking to the camera in the majority of the sketches, and the audio is something I may need assistance with. Or at least I may need to consider it before I film rather than afterwards. Folklore and anecdotes will be used as a tool to introduce and engage with certain subjects and I may need to collect more of these stories from friends or strangers in Ireland.
Relation to previous practice The Property Ladder (2018) was a project made from the creative partnership of myself & friend Lorcan Rush. The project was a satirical reaction to the rapidly changing landscape of Dublin. We felt alienated by the massive developments of the city during an extreme housing crisis and hotelification. This work for me is the most comparable of my previous artworks. Though by contrast I think the research I am engaging now is more thorough and nuanced. The Property Ladder was born of reaction and of gut feeling towards a specific site. With this project I want to stop and investigate my reactions and gut feelings further, to deconstruct, to ask myself why do I feel this way and uncover the greater symbolism behind my points of interest. Relation to a larger context Iconography and Iconoclasm plays an important role in Ireland. We place much power upon the symbols that we surround ourselves with. The first act of the Irish Free State in 1922 was to repaint the post boxes or ‘red brit boxes’ to green.(Harrison, Irish Times, 2017) The Free State being the political equivalent of a premature infant could not afford to paint them all in one particular shade of green, so they were painted in a variety of shades, whatever was available.
My thesis will run parallel to my graduate project and research. In my artwork I am researching characters, icons and media. I am making a sketch show that satirises and speculates upon Ireland’s history and its potential future. Media and national narratives are themes I want to explore. How do Irish museums construct our collective identity? I want to place Irish history, folklore and art under a contemporary lens, finding specific nodes to unpack and creating new dialogues. My thesis shall have an essayistic mode of address.The tone will be personal and it is important that my voice come through the text. I am telling a story of my country, using the mythology and folklore that I have inherited from my friends, family and my own lived experience.
Here are some examples of the nodes that I would like to address and unpack within the thesis. Perhaps some of these examples will manifest into my practical artwork though I imagine not all will.
- Paddington 2 (2017) is a film much loved by critics and audiences. Its appeal is bolstered by its cutesy British tone. There is an arc in the plot, where Paddington finds himself in prison and it’s all very funny and light hearted. The filming location is Kilmainham Gaol, an historic prison in Dublin where several of our revolutionary leaders were executed by British soldiers after the Easter Rising of 1916. James Connolly was badly injured in the failed revolution and as a result he could not stand for his execution by firing squad. He was tied to a chair, blindfolded and shot in Kilmainham Gaol. Did he die so a cute CGI bear can dance with Hugh Grant?
- In Dublin Castle, a tourist attraction and landmark in the city centre is a very busy corner of the city. However in the basement of one of the old buildings is the little known Revenue Museum. The Revenue Museum has a collection ranging from postal stamps, bootleg football jerseys to a reproduction of the toilets used to examine the faeces of drug mules in Dublin Airport. Taxation, it’s an inevitability, what does The Revenue Museum omit in its collection if Ireland is a tax haven?
- Another Example: Across Ireland there are towns with grand Georgian era districts. Well preserved and handsome, they are often preserved by Georgian Historical Societies. Some of these societies even go so far as to reenact aristocratic life in the Georgian period. Is this love of the Georgian era a fetishisation of our colonisers?
further notes of interest can be found in my Notes on Eire it is where I collect narratives to unpack..
I would like to get into contact with some of these organisations and institutions and create a dialogue, which would serve as primary research for the thesis. I do not know what the conclusion of this research will be. Though I think that the research may actually obfuscate rather than clarify, which, in a sense, illuminates how intricate and complex Britain’s colonisation of Ireland was and is.
- Darran Anderson. “Body of Evidence: A History of Irish Iconoclasm.” Architectural Review, 28 June 2019, www.architectural-review.com/essays/body-of-evidence-a-history-of-irish-iconoclasm. Accessed 18 Nov. 2022.
- Fallon, Donal. “Dispelling the Myths about the Bombing of Nelson’s Pillar.” TheJournal.ie, 22 Dec. 2016, www.thejournal.ie/nelsons-pillar-destruction-myths-2647389-Dec2016/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2022.
- “Frank McCourt v Gerry Hannan | Late Late Show 1999.” Www.youtube.com, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Mb8Mb0p808&list=PLAZX52kq5sYpN7AY1eN5u7ON11dOHLERv&index=2. Accessed 18 Nov. 2022.
- Harrison, Bernice. “Design Moment: Green Post Box, C1922.” The Irish Times, 18 Mar. 2017, www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/interiors/design-moment-green-post-box-c1922-1.3004436.
Documentary about the crumbling leftovers of the protestant ascendancy class in Ireland
An Irish poverty apologist attacks Frank McCourt for telling lies about Ireland
In 1985 Ireland experienced three different accounts of holy apparitions
19th Century Peasant faction fighting reenactment, I am interested in historical reenactments as this is essentially what some of my performances will be
Bone Setter, a quack for physical bodily ailments
Sean Lycnh, an Irish artist whose work I find very inspiring, though I think his work is of a drier nature, it is still quite humorous
highly inspirational piece. Walshe's research seems very thorough and they present their work in an amusing yet to the point manner. would be interested in creating a dialogue with them.