The Otherwhere Kim Haughton
Introduction by June Caldwell
The itch of the land
and the happy bingo-faced woman covered in sea slime does nothing to lift the mood of the people at this time. The moon was a lot wider ten years ago, easier to spread, the same you might say as the random shitarse wisdom on a souvenir shop fridge magnet or the temporal release of a fat bag of drugs bought by a river outside of the capital but still within easy sight of it. Germany arrived to pluck the legs off the spider and while the rich ran about like Cág Jacks fighting off flies in an imported sauna, something of the old land and its ancient old people came back, crawled back to take possession of veracity, to kick us up the arse, to tell us in no uncertain terms that hanging off the split ends of Europe always meant we had to take some amount of suffering with pride, and survive. That this is nothing new. They crawled over bogs and designer bags, seascapes and cranes, they crawled over the bodies of dead dogs and reeking waterfalls, museum pieces, exposed cocks, rosary beads and seahorses, just to get here, to show you and me how it’s done and then how it’s always undone to the same bowed tune. They came back to tell us our silly saline poverty doesn’t matter and no-one alive on the land today...from the fag hag to the overly sure entrepreneur, the X-Factor hopeful, the last of the chimney sweep barbers and factory workers or the bent-over baking soda aulones and school kids, no-one will die as it stands,
nothing is an emergency regardless of how bleak it may seem. There really is nowhere quite like here and through these distinctive, strange and beautiful photographs we learn why. There are no idylls in this rural Irish landscape of now. The Irish countryside is dark countryside, potted with grubby fields and grimy ditches, mucky mountains and lonely out-of-the-way places good for trapping animals and smashing up stones. The photographs are paradoxical presenting on the one hand a bleak, isolated wintry place, but on the other an untamed disorderliness that fits flawlessly with the unruliness of the new futurists: free-thinkers, artists, loners, hill trackers, poets, women, actors, activists and children. They are all very strong characters that are depicted (even the ones who seem to be ‘lost’). The bearded occupier with Fusilli hair is taking a rest from the revolution he seeks to foment but which will probably never come. On his chest the imprint of bicycles, a clue to the ‘back to basics’ environmentalism that followed economic collapse. The man who is bound but smiling exultant in front of an iron fence. The wickerman gymnast in a hands-on-hips ‘so what’ pose covered in a large chunk of frenzied tree, the same faggots of branches once used to burn witches at the stake. Monk in a crop circle looking into the eternal Yes. The nipple-pierced Messiah perched on the sands of time.
The Victoriana peoples of the lighthouse (with the giveaway modern big arses). Rosary bead women inside a brick wetroom want to pray for you and throw lemon curd at you. The woman in the bath has a sinkage of private thoughts not meant for you or yours! Opening her up as a bag of soil, turning her over, reaching into topsoil, darker, richer, breaking up the clods of earth and loosening until three fingers drilled deep, arching up in a cat back inside a damp velvet bin. The surety of the bucknaked swimmer; his cock hanging from his hip edges the way a goat clings to the crags at the side of the Seefin Mountain in Cork. My cock points to the lighthouse which points its ludicrous lights back at me and together we feel self assured. My hand slides prehistoric up down slithering gliding slapping porcelain-pulling. Shadows in the scrubland on my stony feet pulling on the reeds of love. Well fuck her if she left for a goon with a motorbike and a fishing habit of a Tuesday. Each of us is a nexus of paradox: we are nothing, but we are everything humanity has ever been. Our kin are ourselves, and their constant reinvention maintains tradition. Solitude is our humanity, but others’ stories are ourselves. They must always be retold. Look at the face on that girl, she could be anywhere of any age, an old soul child. I am alone and I smooth my face with palms of sadness. I am alone and those who I disdain with palms of sadness emptied out: dead things.
The photograph of the fuming trees pushing the motorway bridge out of the way to the bulking slurry slipload of sea capable of consuming all of us to satisfy its own greed, is never too far away. Bird on a wire on a street on a sea, who belongs to who? Windows to look out of and windows to look into. The barber who forgot to trim his own beard, how he dreams of going for a pint. Has he forgotten the drama of being alive, the shit-arse boredom of it, the handing out of small change and tiny snatches of courteous dialogue in places like this that always have a launderette and enormous drive-in gizmo nearby with ATMs and small bags of rip-off coal. Ah sure, where would ye be going without a bell on yer bike? Better out than in. Like. If I don’t see ye I’ll see ye when I see ye. What of the white-haired granny in the pew, the window beside her is bigger than any God she might muster. There are too many battles to re-enact but no shortage of toy soldiers. Tin-town huts, upturned teeth of wood, brick blocks, wet pier, an apocalyptic Jack Russell is frozen on the road. This is not a landscape that can be traversed easily. You could lose yourself here for good. On the outskirts, an upturned boat and the chiselled phizog of a beautiful sailor offers some vague chance of greater understanding, but there are no real clues left as to where to go or with whom to start. June Caldwell. Dublin, 25th Nvember 2013.
Stone Seat on Station Island. Donegal
The Furry Glen, Phoenix Park. Dublin.
Satellite Dish. Kildare
Motorway Bridge at Strawberry Beds. Dublin
Shea in his Backyard, Enniscorthy. Wexford.
Joe at Edenvale Waterfall. Wexford
Sunrise Over the Atlantic, Tramore. Waterford
Liam in his Squat. Dublin.
James Joyce’s Bed. Dublin
Arthur Guinness. Dublin
St. Stephen’s Green Dublin.
Shannonbridge Pylons. Offaly
Chrisâ€™s House. Wicklow
Road. Tramore. Waterford
Michael and Eddie on Ash Wednesday. Dublin
Faye, Dunmore East. Waterford
Fake Wildlife, Ferrycarraig. Wexford
Mobile Home. Donegal
Michelle and Dolly. Waterford.
Hook Head Peninsula. Wexford
Shipping Container Vending Machine. Donegal
Br. Frantisek. Donegal
Washing Barn. Sligo
Tennis Court. Waterford
Paddling Pool, Duncannon. Wexford
Orlaith, Surf Girl. Monaghan
Ronan after Bogsnorkeling. Monaghan
The Wickow Gap. Wicklow
The Liffey Descent at Wrenâ€™s Nest Weir. Dublin.
Battle of Vinegar Hill Reenactment. Wexford
Wreck at Salt Mills. Wexford
Bernard, Whiterock Beach. Dublin.
Abandoned Deck. Wicklow
Surfers on the Atlantic Waves. Donegal
Paris, Bundoran. Donegal
Kathleen and Christine. Donegal
Coney Island. Sligo
Pat with Rosary Beads. Donegal
1980â€™s Bakelite Telephone. Donegal
Ellen, Killiney Beach. Dublin.
Nora, Quaker Meeting House, Enniscorthy. Wexford
Swan Sanctuary, Bray. Wicklow
Praying Stones. Donegal
Louise and Maisy. Wicklow
AFTERWORD “When the soul of a man is born in this country, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets” (James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)
James Joyce’s autobiographical novel “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is an example of a ‘bildungsroman’. The German term (meaning to shape, formation) refers to the way in which philosophy and education combine to result in a maturation of the main character both physically and mentally. In “Portrait”, the main protagonist, Stephen Dedalus’ quest to become an artist sees him freeing himself from the shackles of family, religious and social constraints and eventually leaving Ireland for good. Bildungsroman usually end in an epiphany and at the end of the novel Dedalus declares: “Amen. So be it. Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”
This body of work is intended as a kind of photographic bildungsroman. The German word ‘bild’ means picture. It is an artistic, poetic and sometimes whimsical journey through a watery landscape in which themes of childhood, religion, migration, a quest for home and the complexities involved in finding ones place within the world flow through the pages in an oceanic rhythm. Using a non-linear elliptical narrative, the work relies on symbols and motifs to represent these ideas through a carefully considered placing of portraits, landscapes and still life images. It is a body of work, not based on the straightforward recording of everyday life, but one that provokes wider and more complex questions around nationality and belonging.
“ This, I think shows what being free means. Not cutting off ones ties with others but making networks out of these connections in cooperation with them. Emigres become free not when they deny their lost homeland but when they come to terms with it. “ (Vilem Flusser)
The German philosopher, Vilem Flusser, himself an emigrant, examined the notion that communication and identity are rooted in the concept of self-determination and self-realization through recognition of the other. As I embark on a journey away from Ireland to set up home somewhere else, I set out on this final road-trip to explore the place I have grown up in. Instead of focusing on the familiar things we leave behind- home, family, friends- the work relies on chance encounters with strangers, albeit in familiar settings, well trodden paths. These strangers, in turn, become representations of other journeys. Connecting with strangers allows the work to also explore the concepts of chance and determinism and their relationship to human freedoms and happiness. Many of the portraits represent a quest for an ‘other’. The four year old girl, growing up so fast, stands like a model before the camera representing how fleeting our childhood is. In contrast, the two workmen show vulnerability in their pose, a reference to the fragile economic state of the country and the uncertainty of employment. The work also makes references to escapism as a form of protest. While one man uses dressing up and recreating battles to escape from daily realities, another man’s escape from personal grief is represented by his nakedness. Kim Haughton 2013
Published on Nov 26, 2013