A new era for culture as Gaeilge
FOR DECADES, much of the emphasis on the Irish language in the arts has been about preservation. But things are changing. The Irish language in contemporary arts is spreading beyond Gaeltacht areas and reaching new collaborators and a new generation.
This rather accidental movement might also in time call for new structures and organisations, but for now, the fragmented innovations seem to indicate that something more whole is happening.
Imram, the Irish-Language Literature Festival takes place from October 11th to the 20th, and offers a dynamic programme. There are familiar names participating: Louis de Paor, Dairena Ní Chinnéide, Micheál Ó Conghaile. And there are familiar names discussed: Pádraic Ó Conaire and Seán Ó Ríordáin among them. But there is a current of energy flowing through the festival that those used to the traditional narratives of the Irish language in the arts might be surprised by.
There is an indoor and outdoor multimedia installation by Ceaití Ní Bheildiúin; a dance piece called Ré written by Daithí Ó Muirí and choreographed by Fearghus Ó Conchúir; contemporary prose from Éilís Ní Anluain; the Mouth On Fire theatre company reading Beckett’s poetry in Irish; The Cohen Project sees poets Liam Ó Muirthile and Gabriel Rosenstock translate some of Leonard Cohen’s work into Irish, with Liam Ó Maonlaí, David Blake, Hilary Bow and the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra providing the music.
“I’m a great believer in pushing the boundaries of language, it has to reach out beyond the island,” Ó Muirthile says. “There are obviously problems, technical questions, issues of readership and literacy and these are huge issues, but when you’re engaged in a piece of work, you have to set those aside. The advantage of taking a model like Cohen is when you’re writing in Irish or any minority language, you’re constantly translating into that language. You’re going through a constant process of translation of all sorts.”
Ó Muirthile also has high praise for his collaborator. “Gabriel Rosenstock has been the great innovator in Irish in that he’s been searching for models outside the language for many years. And Gabriel is the great inspiration model for all of us.”
Next week, a two-day symposium is being held in Dublin aiming to “explore, challenge and provoke notions of contemporary arts practice in Irish.” The symposium, titled Fás agus Forbairt’ (Grow and Develop) is hoping to bring together contemporary artists who are currently working in Irish and artists who may speak Irish but whose work is in English.
“The intention is that three organisations who have an active interest in programming contemporary work in the Irish language come together to provide support to artists who are already working in the Irish language, and to artists who may not be, but who might speak Irish,” says Róise Goan, the director of the Dublin Fringe Festival. Cian O’Brien, artistic director of Project Arts Centre, and Niamh Ní Chonchubhair, the programme manager at Axis: Ballymun, have joined Goan in organising the conference. “We’re hoping to connect all those artists, hopefully provide inspiration and then pilot a commissioning scheme that promotes collaboration in making contemporary Irish arts.”
The organisers are hoping to award three commissions, which will then go on to showcase works in progress in March 2013 during Seachtain na Gaeilge. “Hopefully, if the projects are going somewhere interesting, they will present that work in the Fringe next year,” Goan says. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s an experiment, but we feel it’s a worthwhile experiment. I think a lot of the problems come from the fact that in terms of mainstreaming Irish language arts, things need to be tried and tested.”