‘Earwig’ Poem

My poem ‘Earwig’ and a corresponding photograph were included in the In Place photo book, published in October 2016 to accompany an exhibition in Tara Street, Dublin.

IN PLACE is a collective of artists working in Dublin, Ireland. They are focused on formulating a response to the disuse of space within Dublin’s urban landscape.

The collective invited artists in to disused and vacant sites in Dublin City Centre, to create site-specific reactionary work, hoping to “reveal the cultural potential of the many vacant sites that make up our city”.

Written from the P.O.V. of a young person not originally from the capital; someone who was initially dwarfed by its vastness but is still striving to carve out a home within the city. This is an experience shared by countless others, who have been to hell and back trying to secure a safe space to express or even exist as themselves amid the bustle.

The poem, although seemingly traditional in form, yearns to be essentially experimental by way of revolt. A mosaic piece partly inspired by personal experience, the current housing crisis, stories overheard, cultural sanctuary in spaces rescued, and the current My Brilliant Friend exhibition housed in ‘Temple Bar Gallery’.

At a juncture where the necessities for social and personal comfort are readily commodified, this snapshot highlights the positive and negative truisms of our position. I am interested in the tandem concerning the individual and the in-between, notions of solidarity among young creatives and renters, commenting on inner city pressures arising from fear and insecurity. The theme of space re-purposed artistically is an established seam throughout, rebelling against the neoliberal structures hemming us in, ultimately leaving breathing space for innovative flourishing.

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Copies available in The Library Project

Willie Doherty ‘Memory as a Vehicle to Survey Liminal Spaces’

Willie Doherty is a world renowned Irish artist born in Derry in 1959, and continues to work there as a Professor of Video Art in the University of Ulster. He is a much celebrated artist who represented Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2007 and twice has been nominated for the Turner Prize. Visually led, his work is comprised mainly of photographic and filmic elements, often maintaining autobiographical references. This individual expression however is by no means the primary purpose, instead Doherty is fascinated by themes of collected recollection and trauma. This article seeks to examine the voyeuristic power of his lens through recent Irish exhibitions, investigating Doherty’s utilization of memory as a device to access liminal spaces, whilst acknowledging its subjectivity.

Full article can be read on Headstuff as originally published.

Words and images by Jessica Mc Kinney.

Maggie’s Plan – Film Review

Directed by Rebecca Miller and released in Ireland on 8th July 2016, Maggie’s Plan raises the question as to whether the need to control others is an individual personality trait or an encompassing human one. The off kilter comedy set in New York is often sobering alongside the sun spots, with absorbing performances from Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader and Julianne Moore. The audience’s established affection for Gerwig following her performance in Frances Ha (2013) is supported by a voyeuristic commentary on the contemporary human experience. The portrayal of idealized adulthood plans gone awry is familiar, made distinctive through Maggie’s misguided attempt to face ‘the truth about herself’ through fervent micromanagement of her familiar’s social choreography.

In a whistle-stop opening we are introduced to her original plan whereby Maggie is determined to have a baby, aided by way of a friendly donation from Guy the ‘Pickle Entrepreneur’; a character whose only real flaw is a complete misinterpretation of personal space. However the carefully planned procedure is interrupted by brash proclamations of love, rewriting Maggie’s need to make external human relationships ordered through planning. Almost immediately an ill-advised and impulsive extramarital love affair springs between Maggie and John, one of the bad boys from ficto-critical anthropology, as portrayed by Ethan Hawke. Miller then opts to fast-forward through the rose-tinted honeymoon period that follows, with the narrative resettling three years later. The couple have established a semi-idealistic albeit mildly delusional situation, largely as a result of the classic inclination to demonize all that threatened their union. In quickly seeking a liberal partnership they leap beyond all social preliminaries and end up far from either of their real dreams, and even farther from admitting it. Just as Maggie had been courted by the chapters of John’s never-ending and far from realized great novel, the novelty of their fresh affections are quenched by unappealing reality. Far too soon are the couple trapped in the mundane tide and must face the notion that love doesn’t work that way “you can’t take everything and stuff it back in the box”.

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From over-emotional preliminaries and the backing track of John’s second marriage quietly crumbling, Maggie is compelled to launch a new phase of her plan in order to achieve her contradictory ideals and ‘live truthfully’. Just as Maggie had described John’s novel as screwball surreal, the account becomes increasingly apt for the film itself. The very dynamic she sought to liberate John from in his first marriage now appears to be exactly what is prescribed for their own union, verifying the cliché that every relationship has a rose and a gardener. For a time it seems as if there is no happy ending in sight, with a cosy lifestyle gone lukewarm, a suggested repercussion of wise advice once ignored.
Thankfully this is not the case and a new plot, inspired by a joke, sees Maggie team up with John’s eccentric ex-wife played by Julianne Moore. A combined effort is required as Maggie and Georgette’s covert scheme seeks to readjust John’s affections. Meanwhile he remains oblivious and merely flirts with reality through his writing, adjusting his character portrayals as needed in order to reaffirm his choices. However every scheme exists to be unfurled, and with realization of Maggie’s need to dictate reality comes a dial-down of vibrancy. Once paired with academic idiom that references commodity fetishism, Miller’s film serves as a larger commentary on the fetishization of grand romantic gestures as generic solutions. Throughout the bumbling yet charming plot the audience comes to recognize that true affection is often miraculously ill-timed, and possibly always spurred on by hot whiskeys and classic Bruce Springsteen. Maggie’s Plan portrays collective contemporary frustration at the individual’s inability to create things in their own vision, incorporating notions of overwhelming self-interest alongside a suggestion that lovers of math are drawn to those who are calculating. Overall it makes space for progressive partnerships that can ultimately succeed, leaving room for the naked portrayal of the flawed character with good intentions.

By Jessica Mc Kinney

As originally published on the official blog website ‘Dublin International Short Film & Music Festival’

Aligning Positivity and Plant Growth

By way of expanding my relationship with photography in tandem with the city’s correlation with the natural world. Originally published with Hunt and Gather


“They travel long distances to stroll along the seashore, for reasons they can’t put into words.”

-Edward O. Wilson

Certainly living in the bustling city centre of Dublin is exciting however increasing urbanization lends itself far too easily to a distinct separation from constructive aspects of the natural world. It is important to remember the benefits of aligning yourself with nature, in this case refreshing May blooming, which is undeniably advantageous for individual optimism and positive mental health. To help combat the distance prompted by our ever-expanding metropolis, whilst revitalizing the populace in turn, there are several city based projects working to reintroduce the important presence of the environment. Indeed the calming influence of nature intermingled within an urban setting is infinitely applicable to a sanguine way of life.

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We exist in a time in which more people live in built-up areas than ever before. Christopher Dye remarks on the trend in Health and Urban Living, stating that the 50% of the population currently in metropolitan spheres and is set to increase to 70% by 2050. Although urbanization certainly has its benefits it has been linked to increased levels of stress and anxiety in daily life. These observations have in turn sparked research interest corresponding to the downfall in areas of natural expansion.

A recent Stanford-led study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that walking in a natural area, as opposed to a high-traffic urban setting, distinctly helped to combat negative rumination. In short rumination is a maladaptive pattern of negative self-referential thought, a known associate of mental illness particularly depression. Co-author Gretchen C. Daily highlighted the importance of circulating such information to promote affirmative environments “These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world/Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”

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Incorporating nature in habitual activities is known not just to improve positivity, but also support memory and increase attention span. One distinct hypothesis, Biophilia, suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. The term was popularized by writer Edward O. Wilson in the release of his book Biophilia in 1984. Concisely he defines the term as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. These concepts strengthen the notion of taking time to appreciate the natural forms of life that surround you. The combination of exercise whilst observing gentle summer flora is transformative, humbly yielding great health benefits whilst presenting wider perspectives.

“To experience biophilia is to love a diversity that, as limitless as it is fragile, both haunts us and fills us with hope.”
– Adam Leith Gollner

One such flora positive event entitled Phototropism recently occurred in The Library Project of Temple Bar. The installation brought together photography and literature from ranging artists, impishly nestled among a thriving botanical collection. On entering the peaceful space you cannot help but be transported. It invokes the sense of an overgrown library, of nature boldly reclaiming one of the busiest corners in the city centre.

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The exhibition derived its name from the biological term describing the natural orientation of a plant responding to light. The movement is comprised of two extremes, described as either positive or negative phototropism depending on whether it grows toward or away from the source of light. The exhibition was curated by Steven Maybury and Ángel Luis González Fernández, receiving support from the Temple Bar Cultural Trust and Dublin City Council.

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The collection involved works from Ruth van Beek, Ciarán Óg Arnold, Saskia Groneberg, Viviane Sassen, Miriam O’ Connor, Awoiska Van Der Molen, Paul Gaffney, Jan Dirk Van Der Burg, Gerry Blake, Enda Bowe and Eoin Moylan. Several examples from the patchwork of literature featured included Houseplants Covered with Snow, On Flora, Living with Plants, and magazines like The Plant. Complementing these creations was a potpourri garden, embracing a selection of cacti and succulents.

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Another more permanent environmental feature of the city is the impressive presence of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. The grounds were originally founded in 1795 and were intended to promote scientific agricultural studies. Composed of faithfully restored Victorian glass houses, the gardens provide a fixed sphere to study, conserve, and bask in floral luminosity. The collection includes 300 worldwide endangered species as well as 6 species already extinct in the wild.

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The proprietors of the gardens are enthusiastic regarding educational insight as part of ecological appreciation. Through demonstration talks they provide a broad range of information on exotic plant collections, aiming to increase civic awareness of plants and their global significance. Upcoming events hosted at the gardens include; Feasting from Nature’s Plate which depicts a celebration of edibles in summer months, The Cactus and Succulent Show on 21st & 22nd of this month, a set of plays from Shiva Productions regarding contemporary Ireland and titled Angels in the Gardens II on the 18th-19th June, and finally the An Óige Annual Photography Exhibition which runs from June 15th – 26th.

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Undoubtedly the options for quenching one’s floral appetite have expanded with the good weather. As a result I decided to avail of their Bloomin’ Summer guided tour which occurs daily throughout the month of May. The gentle ream of information introduced another level of the appreciation for this miscellany. The pungency beyond the gates is nothing short of revitalizing, reuniting collections of plants from around the globe to form a veritable Gondwanaland-ian tribute.

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Each growth is assorted and housed in accordance to its plant family, with these groupings further characterized by their individual flower. The majority of these blooms evolve in tandem with their pollinators, their colours and shapes relating to that of their supporting creatures.  For example pale plants, incidentally often the strongest smelling, are pollinated by nocturnal creatures like moths. In turn vibrant flowers are pollinated by colourful animals like butterflies. The Campanulaceae is one plant of particular pollinary distinction, dripping vibrantly red pollen as a result of its pollination by geckos.

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The natural world is endlessly delightful, eccentric, and always pleasantly surprising to incorporate into your routine. For many people summertime presents not just a break from the pressures of working life, but the opportunity to re-centre themselves. Surely one aspect of self-care this summer should include appreciating local environmental thriving, breathing life into the idea of ‘flower power’. Information pertaining to simple and accessible ways to positively ease mental health difficulties ought to be widely shared, particularly in sight of recent reductions to the mental health budget in Ireland. More often than not there is no quick fix but like the plants we too can grow together.

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©Words and photographs by Jessica Mc Kinney

Fragmented notions in ‘The Hopeless End of a Great Dream’