Commemorating 1916



William Butler Yeats did it in a single poem but now no less than 258 artists or arts organizations have answered the ‘Open Call’ from the Arts Council for major arts projects to commemorate 1916. It can’t have been an easy task for the panel of judges to narrow this massive application down to just nine chosen projects, which are expected to ‘inspire the nation’ and  unfortunately we know nothing of the submissions of the 249 ‘Refusés’ as the Arts Council refuses to disclose them. But we do know that the majority of the winning selections could not have been more different from Yeats’ masterpiece.

It has to be said that almost all the so-called ‘projects’ are collaborative/performance style presentations but the first named winning application is called the Shadow of the State and is described as a collaboration between just two visual artists Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones who operate a ‘feminist practice which brings together mutual concerns’ in this case ‘exploring statehood from the perspective of the female body. In the context of the centenary, the project investigates the resonances of the birth of the state, and what it means for women today. The 1916 Rising – originally a socialist and feminist movement as well as a nationalist project – remains unfinished for women in Ireland today.’

No doubt this project will be inspirational to those who ponder statehood from the perspective of the female body but is the theme of this project, and indeed the medium employed, really the most relevant to the Visual Arts category of the commemoration of 1916? No work of sculpture, monumental or other wise, was chosen and no large painting on canvas, no tapestry. Indeed nothing permanent – except what remains on video.

Yeats too wrote of bodies, dead, male, but highly relevant bodies, ‘MacDonagh and MacBride and Connolly and Pearse’ and perhaps too did many of the 249 whose submissions were passed over. Surely they deserve to have their concepts for an inspiring commemoration of 1916 made known to the public? We believe they do. So we hereby invite all 249 of the ‘Refusés’ to submit their Open Call submissions to where they will be displayed for all to see.
John Mulcahy

If you submitted a proposal to the Arts Council’s Commemorating 1916 Open Call and you would like to display your submission on please contact Aoife Carolan on +353 1 676 6711 or at [email protected]


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