Epigraphing Rathmines – process and outcome (part of the MART Experiments)

This post is a mix of retrospectively written text and statements that were written in Emails as part of the work process. Information about the fully formatted outcome, and documentation of the day can be found on the project’s page: http://www.martexperiments.com/epigraphing .


Epigraphing Rathmines is my first experiment with the MART, and so I wanted to work with an artist I have previously curated in the Stories to Wake Up With exhibition, Steven Maybury. In my first meeting with Steven, we discussed my research ideas (see the Mart Experiments general project post) and what we came up with is an idea for a performance/art-making process that’s open to the public, and would include drawing with charcoal or chalk on the walls and ground inside the Mart gallery, but also outside on the footpath in Rathmines.

My own approach to this project came from my interest in the definitions of artistic places in context of specific communities.I wanted to find the way to navigate between that and Maybury’s interest in tracing and transforming energy, to approach the location of MART and do a visual exploration of what defines it (this is from an Email I sent to Steven):

It’s located in the middle of Rathmines, a small off-centre neighbourhood of Dublin, in an old fire house, across the street from the public library, and not far from the shopping centre. At the same time, it is located in the Dublin art world, which comes with its own community. I’d be interested in seeing how we can try and work with all these facts to create a meaningful social and cultural connection between, linking this dissonance, that is quite prevalent in Irish art.
I would be interested in doing this in a manner that is collaborative with the library as a local community cultural establishment, using poetry as a verbal art form, since it is often working to create a similar effect (particularly when read out loud) to what you seem to be interested in your artist statement.

Steven responded with a thought provoking Email, proposing a practice that responds to the location, to his artistic methodology, and to my conceptual framework. The main points of it, I feel, were the switch in medium from a pre-researched and produced piece, to a “live” event, interactive and intuitive open-process of drawing, engaging with the location and the situation in real time. This is an excerpt from Steven’s initial conceptual development for this project:

Intertwining the drawing process and the reciting or production of poetry in the public realm […] would merge the two cultural spaces and create an accessible dialogue for cross-over’s and similarities in both disciplines. Both works will host an outcome from the same source material (circumstance of time and place), with similar temporary conditions (possibly spoken word and chalk drawing). This would create a direct link to both buildings.

After this exchange of ideas, I had a better sense of what this project will build up to be. The goal was to generate a creative relationship between the MART/the Dublin visual arts scene and literary work and the space of the library in Rathmines as a cultural and social place. We wanted to experiment with the idea of an “art place” in which the creative and the community have a reciprocal relationship with each other and with the location, in a way that is changing/creating a new thing in a tactical, rather than a permanent way.

Steven was to be working on a line drawing during the day using chalk or charcoal applied directly to walls and pavement between the Mart and the library, studying the materiality and the environment of the location as he works, including people walking through or on the piece, having to go around objects or respond to something happening in the street. The exact format of the poetry finalised together with the poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin, who joined this project “long distance” during her Kerouac House writing residency in Florida.

Annemarie was particularly interesting for me to work with on this particular project, as she, similarly to Steven, has a multidisciplinary approach to culture and artwork, and has been part of various visual art and socially-engaged art initiatives. In fact, the two have worked together before when Annemarie’s work was published in ESC Zine, where Steven is a co-editor.

As this was my first time to work directly with a poet, it was great to work with someone who had an open approach to the kind of framework I was supplying.

My conversations with Annemarie focused on the relationship between text and communities, and text and places, she immediately connected with the purpose of the project and thoroughly dived into the idea of creation of poetry through engagement. I feel like I could either copy the content of all her words as she wrote them, or leave this one free to imagine, as I really think the *way* she put her various inspirations into words is copyright and I will not do it any justice in my own words.

These are the final descriptions of the work, after a few conversations between these two creative minds:


I would like to engage members of the public in a collaboration that produces short pieces of text (to be used later by Steven, see below).

I will require a visible desk in the library and the opportunity to invite one person at a time to sit for approx 10-30 minutes and allow me to respond, through words, to their presence. This response could be interpreted as a type of ‘portrait’.

Each participant will have the opportunity to read a one-page information sheet with FAQs before they come to the desk, so that we can get straight into the work with as little verbal dialogue as possible.

The participant will not be required to do anything, other than introduce him/herself and sit in the same way that he/she would sit for a traditional portrait. I would like to establish a quiet, trusting and meditative atmosphere for each participant.

I will respond intuitively to this experience of sitting together using poetry. I may choose to portrait something directly relevant to the participant or the experience or I may also portrait something ‘other ‘ that occurs to me during the sitting.

Each sitting may result in a minimum of one line of text upwards. It is useful to think of the words as ‘text’ as opposed to full, complete poems in themselves  (though it is possible that I will write some complete poems on the day).

The participant will receive a copy of their ‘portrait’ and a copy will go to Steven.


My intentions for this project is to map a drawing from source material Annemarie will provide through interactions she will have with the public surrounding Rathmines library.

The source material will be provided in the form of text. My intentions are to use a random text generator where i insert the text and it will transform the text into coordinates for me to map a drawing. My starting point will be I haven’t chosen the generator as of yet, but my research has showed me many interesting ones that i could use. Such as generators that create random algorithms using the source material (text) and the atmospheric pressure at that time.

The coordinates produce i will appropriate as centimetres, and use this distances to determine the length of a line. Through my own intuitive dialogue of the mark making, environment and the circumstance will dictate the direction of the drawing.

The drawing will start on the wall of the gallery space and will work its way in the direction of the library. The drawing will be made with black and white chalk.

Finally this is the short statement I wrote to capture the ideas of both these artists, and the concept behind the entire project:

Celebrating the relationship between art, literary culture, and the life of the community in Rathmines, this experiment brings forward two cultural markers within the neighbourhood: the Rathmines Library and the MART art gallery and studios, and the public space between the two.
Poet Annemarie Ni Churreain and visual artist Steven Maybury will create a collaborative cultural situation in a day-long engagement with the Rathmines community. The artists will respond to the place and the community surrounding them while they work, to generate poetic (visual and literary) representations of the moment, the dialogue, and the location. This event will be performed in both the library and gallery spaces and is open to all community members, artists, and writers to become part of what is aimed to become a portrait of a situation. Come join our epigraphers!
Interpretative documentation of the Epigraphic work, by Abigail Denniston, will be presented during the reception at the gallery at 6.30 pm.

The experimental documentation, by the way, took its own fascinating personality when Abi decided to try to mix spatial and temporal, and produce a visual and audio documentation in forms of still photography, time-lapse video, and ambient sound.


  1. Thanks for the mention! I’ve forwarded this on to Steven 🙂 Much love, Jessica from ESC.

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