Current Research Practice -



This project is currently forming part of my doctoral thesis submission as a creative-practice research candidate at the Scottish Centre for Island Studies, University of the West of Scotland. 

 

My PhD research title is “POINTS OF DEPARTURE AND A REMEMBERED EDGE”: REPRESENTING THE DIASPORIC CULTURAL MEMORY OF THE IRISH WOMAN THROUGH CREATIVE-PRACTICE ENGAGED RESEARCH.


Through an artistic positioning this research is an exploration of the heritable memories of migration within the Irish Diaspora, specifically the narratives of the women who were engaged in these journeys. This interdisciplinary engagement is opened up and explored through the biography of my Grandmother, Agnes Flynn (nee McBride) who lived within a peripheral environment – the coast of Northern Donegal - with shoreline as a continual symbolic edge. Significant to my grandmothers tale is that she fled from an edged landscape which she felt ‘contained’ her as she ran away from home at the age of fifteen, arriving in industrial Glasgow in the 1930’s. In many ways this displacement is something which is repeatedly experienced as a cultural memory which is inherited through subsequent generations. The idea that we belong somewhere, and that the place from where you belong is somewhere that your family had to depart from bred a notion in me that the place where I now was represented something of a holding ground; somewhere that housed me but that was separate to the land ‘where I came from’. This obviously was a feeling which was steeped in the fables weaved by family members and of a cultural people who represented to me a poetic lineage filled with a variety of romantic, tragic and courageous trials.
 
Immersed within my creative handling will be this translation of a diasporic cultural memory, and the collective awareness of this distanced ancestral backdrop. Central to this study is the documentation of myself forming engagements with the thematic concerns of the research, namely notions of separation, loss, distance, absence and the internal and external boundaries of a personal sense of landscape.
 
This art-practice engaged research combines the exploration of these themes alongside the path of the female artist-researcher, with these brackets themselves blurring and overlapping. Using Performative means to connect with spoken dialogues, oral histories, formal and informal iconographies, emotive recordings, and engagements with auto-biographical sites, I create empathetic experiences which become an embodied means of accessing the research themes. Key works which have been ‘performed’, functioning as exploratory means, include site-specific video installations, bodily engagements with the landscape, physical journeys, round table discussions, and the creation of the network irishwomenofourpast.co.uk.
 
The submission which results from this study culminates in both a written thesis and also a body of creative work. These art works include - a set of artists books, individually screen printed, to narrate the various elements of the research; a ‘Book of Names’ created as a space for subsequent generations of the Irish Diaspora to record the names of their female relatives; and a live Performative work involving the lighting of candles at various Irish ports to represent each of the women recorded in the ‘Book of Names’. These elements come together in the form of both an art exhibition event and through interactive video pieces featured on the created research web presence irishwomenofourpast.co.uk.
 
This PhD study will advance the available knowledge and understandings concerned with both the area of Irish female migration, but more significantly act as a development in regards to representing the wider culture of Irish diasporic memory. Due to the artistic methodological approach this exploration will contribute towards an emerging movement developing alternative research practices. Building on the models of knowledge construction as developed by Niedderer (2008), Hassman (2007), Meskimmon (2003) and Pearson (2010) to name several leading examples, this PhD submission expands on such theories. Furthermore this study demonstrates the modes through which findings can be articulated and understood. This research is intended to be a thing which generates and grows as audiences and readers interpret and apply their own individual sensitivities and experiences. It is not about a singular perspective, but about positioning a personal perspective within a wider collective consciousness.