Deirdre O’Mahony, The Quickening, 2024 / video still / Cinematography by Tom Flanagan / Courtesy of the artist
Deirdre O’Mahony: The Quickening
Mar 29 – Jun 23, 2024
Douglas Hyde Gallery of Contemporary Art
Dublin, Ireland

The Douglas Hyde Gallery of Contemporary Art announces The Quickening, a powerful new artwork by ground-breaking artist Deirdre O’Mahony. Bringing together urgent conversations, original music and moving image, The Quickening responds to issues facing farming, food production and consumption, in the face of present ecological and climate crises. A nationwide project, the culmination of over three years of research, it opens in an ambitious exhibition at The Douglas Hyde on March 29 with a Walls & Halls Tour in community spaces and farms in Carlow, Waterford, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wicklow, and Wexford, from April 18 to May 4 2024.

Deirdre O’Mahony explores the politics and possibilities of place through sculpture, painting, installation and collaborative projects. From setting up community spaces amongst a charged local conflict, to her large-scale paintings produced by tracing the shadows of boulders on Mullaghmore Mountain in the Burren, she forges a path for art to bring together diverse communities and form alternate forms of knowledge. For O’Mahony, art is a critical space to explore the human and the more-than human.

The Quickening emerged from gathering together and conversations. O’Mahony’s Sustainment Experiments feasts generated open and frank discussions between farmers, scientists and politicians which transcribed, have become a libretto for this impactful new work. The libretto was developed by O’Mahony and writer Joanna Walsh, and is voiced and accompanied by singers and musicians, Branwen Kavanagh, Michelle Doyle, Siobhán Kavanagh, Ultan O’ Brien and Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, each with a distinctive pitch, style, pace and vocabulary.

Voices are central. Together they communicate the reality of farming life and the centrality of soil to our lives; as they deliberate over sowing and harvesting, extreme weather, volatile demands of the market, food regulation, and anxious, increasingly polarised discourses around food. All the while, other voices insist on being heard; breathing animals, the movements of insect and soil creatures. The viewer is made aware of the assembled, complex and collective roots that unsettle opposition between human and more than human.

This awareness is deepened by the accompanying moving imagery captured across rural Ireland from multiple perspectives. Varied viewpoints show the land and its many inhabitants affected by the unseasonal droughts, floods, and eroding, brought on by accelerating climate change. We are at a critical moment. As O’Mahony states, “The Quickening represents a polyvocal response to the most urgent questions affecting land and its inhabitants, giving voice to the invisible protagonists that shape our earth’s future and an idea of being-in-common that encompasses all earthly inhabitants.”

The Quickening will be presented at The Douglas Hyde in Trinity College Dublin, opening on 29 March and running until 23 June 2024. It will tour to six rural locations in the East and South East, among them barns, farms and community centres as part of the Walls & Halls Tour. Each screening includes a respondent and Q&A session which will focus on a particular aspect of the film, developed in partnership with local farming communities, Art Centres and County Arts Offices.

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