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It is not on any map; true places never are

Project Review

The exhibition It is not on any map true places never are’ took place in August 2014 and was sited in a disused  19th century dwelling overlooking Youghal bay. The project transformed the building into an experimental public art space for a period of three weeks. Throughout this four-story building, 11 artists both emerging and established, worked across categories of performance, object making, sound and video to create site responsive and immersive installations in response  to the exhibitionary concept. The concept hinged itself on the nebulous apparition of the Fata Morgana…


‘‘The spire and the round tower became covered with domes and the octagonal building or rather round tower became a broken turret. Soon after this change, all the houses became ruins and their fragments seemed scattered in the fields near the walls; the whole in about an hour disappeared and the hill on which it stood, sunk to the level of the real field’’. [ii]

Fata Morgana or superior mirage is an extremely rare phenomena exhibited by nature. More often seen on sea coasts, it appears in the sky as a single perceptual vista that exhibits a shadowy likeness of the surrounding landscape. Requiring extraordinary properties of atmosphere the fata morgana occurs when light rays are reflect and refracted in their passage between layers and temperatures of dense sea vapors. These layers reflect light in various directions not only distorting but multiplying images of distant objects. When this nebulous apparition is rarified by the heat of the sun or sudden cooling it disappears. Though scarcely known to exist, bona fide historical archives document such sighting on coastline areas around Norway, Ireland and Greenland. As islands that could never be reached, they were supposed by the maritime inhabitants of Scotland, Ireland, as ‘the country of departed spirits’[iii]. They have also referred to as dismembered cities of the sky.

Youghal Co. Cork historically documents three sightings of Fata Morgana in 1796, 1797 and in 1801. A period in history during which Youghal existed under the weight of imperial and colonial rule, it was also a time in Ireland of mass rebellion for democratic rights against such rule.Only in looking back, can we imagine how a dismembered vision of a social landscape reflected back on its self must have appealed to the aspirations of a people opposed and oppressed by their rulers. What anomalous tension must have been experienced by onlookers, when reality as Other was unveiled as a lucid territory, free from notions of history, nation, struggle or permanence. From the notion of a surrogate space that replaces the real world by overcoming the real world limits the concept for this exhibition is formulated.

Existing in historical archive yet unrelegable to the remains history Fata Morgana subverts its own taxonomy as it exists continuously in nature as the contingent and possible. The exhibition called for artists to critically engage in experimental transference with the historic appearance of the nebulous and dismembered cities of the sky, in the context of our contemporary national, political, cultural and economic climate. Exploring the cinematic, astral, sculptural, and atmospheric in a variety of different approaches, It is not on any map, true places never are, saught as its exhibitionary premise to cultivate spaces of anomaly, impression and gaps that provoke questions around the notion of a true place that runs counter to hegemonic styles and identities.

Maria Tanner

[i] It is not on any map; true places never are, is a line taken from Herman Melville classic novel Moby Dick. As an interesting point of connection, the 1956 feature length film Moby Dick by American film Director John Houston was in part filmed at Youghal bay, Co Cork.

Interview with exhibition curator Maria Tanner Cohen
Video Interview
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