2 April 2022
By Elaine Murphy
The Parish: an exhibition by Michael Holly with the Clonakilty GAA Community – Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, Gallery – 2 April to 12 May 2022
Coming up at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre is a fascinating exhibition that takes Clonakilty GAA as its starting point to explore the GAA as an integral part of Irish culture and community. The GAA is the most ubiquitous cultural, community and sporting institution in Ireland, with a presence in almost every parish. However, it has seldom been the focus of creative work. Clonakilty-based artist Michael Holly spent over three years documenting the many and varied aspects of the Clonakilty GAA community, examining the impact of the presence of the GAA on a rural community, and how it may define what it means to be rural and Irish in an increasingly culturally homognised and globalised society.
Since early 2019 Michael has been closely interacting with the regular activities of the Club, recording footage and sound using principles of ethnographic/ observational filmmaking, encompassing and representing the scope of a GAA club as a community organisation. He recorded a range of activities, including sporting activities (training, matches etc.) as well as social events, fundraising events, a funeral, award ceremonies and religious services. From early 2020 he focused on the Ladies Football Team and continued interacting with the Club and conducting interviews as restrictions allowed throughout Covid-19.
Michael’s research focused on developing an innovative way of making a documentary film about and with a group of people. It is innovative in that its participatory approach has the welfare and benefit of the community at its core. Michael sought to collaboratively develop a system of collecting and showing sensory information using video images and sound, that can become a new way of knowing and understanding a community, while providing the community with a new way of knowing and understanding themselves.
The Parish is an exhibition at Uillinn of video installation and a discursive space for considering the unique place that the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and its affiliated organisations such as the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) have in Irish society. With its values of physical discipline, personal sacrifice through volunteering, community participation and consolidation of Irish identity, the GAA has, in many ways, come to define what it means to be a part of a community in contemporary Ireland.
A programme of talks and discussions will take place around the exhibition at Uillinn including presentations by photographer Paul Carroll on his photobook Gaelic Fields, and journalist Ger McCarthy on his book Cork LGFA: Game of My Life.
Michael Holly is an artist, nonfiction filmmaker, researcher and lecturer based in Cork, Ireland. His work involves parafictional and nonfiction investigations into how identities are formed, and into the relationships that people have with culture, landscape, history and ecology. He is an Irish Research Council funded PhD candidate in Film & Screen Media at University College Cork. The Parish forms part of his creative practice-led doctoral project.
For further information on the exhibition and events see www.westcorkartscentre.com and Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre social media.