Idionumina 2012 was a site-specific art event that succeeded in bringing a highly ambitious and exciting experience of contemporary art to the small town of Graignamangh, Co. Kilkenny. Co curated by Maria Tanner and Deirdre Southey, the exhibition came together as an idea intensive, mallable and experimental project based on a meditation with time and place. The exhibition was sited in a disused commercial hotel which had been built during the 1850’s in fusion with an monastic architectural history that had dated back to the 12th Century. This peculiarly experienced building, no longer serving its former utilitarian function stood lonely as an errant space, lapsing into different planes of dream and memory.
Responding to a conceptual frame artists both national and International explored the unique character of its emancipated ambiance…
“Faced with any new object, reason asks “in which of its earlier categories the new object belongs? In which ready-to-open drawer shall we put it?” Henri Bergson L’Evolution Creatrice, 1907
Site specific; a short history of place
In Co. Kilkenny, at the base of Brandon Hill the small town of Graiguenamanagh sits surrounded by the Black Stair Mountains with Mount Leinster seen rising like a leviathan in the distance. The history of Graiguenamanagh runs as deep and as long as the Barrow River that runs through it, from its earliest settlements circa 1200 A.D to its present day. A defining event in the establishment of the town occurred with the founding of Duiske Abbey by Norman leader William Marshall in 1204. Historically prized as one of Ireland’s finest examples of a Gothic Cloister, Duiske Abbey derived its name from the little river Duiske (Black water -Dubh Uisce) which joins the Barrow at Graignamanagh. The significance of Duiske Abbey in establishing the town is reflected in the place name itself, Graig na manac meaning ‘the grange of the monks’.
Though it is over 800 years since the foundation of the Abbey, elements of its architectural history are still physically present. Since the 1800’s generations have built upon the former grounds of the old monastic enclosure fusing fragments of its architectural history into homes, commercial premises, gardens and offices. Today remains of the ancient monastery still exist to the rear of the houses that line the east side of Lower Main Street. On this same street No 15, Hughes stands, (built in 1850). Originally named Harahan’s the building was used as a commercial hotel with pub and grocery business, it was also a family home. It was sometime in 1911 through an alliance of marriage that the building became known as Hughes, during which time it continued to function as a hotel, general grocery, later becoming a curiosity shop. One character in particular that resided at No. 15 was its last inhabitant, Peggy Hughes (1915-2003). Having studied as a painter at NCAD her creative eccentricity along with deep sense of spirituality spread out into her home and little shop in which she worked. Always filled to the brim with curiosities the shops presence in the town triggered local imagination that led beyond the shop and into the unseen interior of the home itself.
No 15.is now uninhabited and has fallen into dilapidation but the idiosyncratic character of the house shelters potentialities for creative investigation that lie in anticipation of their own unforeseen destinies. The title of the exhibition Idionumina performed a neolexia or new word. Idio taken from the term Idiosyncratic often used to describe eccentricity or peculiarity and the philosophical term Numina which described a spirit believed by animists to inhabit certain natural phenomena or objects. In Ovids Fasti, Numen Inest translates to ‘There is spirit here’.
It is from this site that 20 artists from across Ireland explored the unique character of its emancipated ambiance, in the consideration of private space (oikos) and public space (polis) and their mutual relationship. Artists came together to work with various forms of installation, performance and sculpture. Participating artists include: Aoife Banville, Marie Brett, John McHarg, Andrew Carroll, Andrea Cleary, Becky Coffee, Lynda Conroy, Alison Cronin, Mary-Jo Gilligan, Kieran Healy, Rachel Healy, Kate O Kelly, Sharon Mc Carty, Julie Moorhouse, Cliona Ni Laoi, Ben Reily and Nina Tanis.