a life of dis/connection through zoom tutorials, chatrooms, multiplayer games
with simple objectives and rectangular chat-boxes or single player games in
expansive fantasy worlds, I trudge through wet, misty bog; cheeks stinging and
feet cold in rubber boots. In both spaces I wander, get lost, lose orientation
and find my bearings through landmarks I grow familiar with.
With my mind still reeling in pastel
pink worlds of uniformly falling raindrops and alien flower petals suspended in
a static breeze, I visualise the expanse of sprawling trenches and purple
heather from a drone’s-eye view. I am a character, collecting items I dig from
the mud as I wander in a first-player game and add the objects, removed from
their temporal stasis, to my inventory: tuft of bog cotton, stick for throwing
in the pools of dark water which collect in the pits of cut bog, a scrap of
metal (age unknown), shard of bone (a recently deceased animal or a relic
preserved and discarded by the bog?). Gnarled roots rise from the murky black
pools around me, though no trees grow on this flat plane. Are they the roots of
ancient forests, uncovered from their peaty sanctuary by the years of turf
cutting which scrape away the strata of decades?
Bog bodies, some say, were sacrificed here in the belief that the watery depths veiled portals to otherworlds. (1) In “composing” our futures, as Latour proposes, a dismantling of ideologies must occur. Fredengren delves into the material realities of halted decomposition in bogs and crannógs (2) as a way to peer around the conceived linearity of time and speculate at how these apparitions of temporal anomaly might have dissolved previous beholders ideas of the steadfast continuity of their surroundings. These may have manifested as sacred hierophanies (3), apparitions which bestowed the landscape with a reverent importance. Perhaps bygone discoverers of peat-preserved relics accredited these appearances from alien timescapes to a passage between worlds.
The damp presses
against my papery eyelids. Dark water seeps between my fingers and I feel the
wetness of the earth under my fingernails. An acrid dampness cloys in my
As I step out across the unending
flatness, the unctuous ground shifts and heaves beneath my feet. A hazy sky
shimmers above. Below, the detritus of millenia swells in a sopping sediment. A
palimpsest, therein lie the remains of centuries of culture, steeping in a
state of permanent decay. Subterranean memory. Porous limits and entangled
Old Croghan Man’s fingerprints are of
a pattern still widespread in Ireland.(4)
always existed on the farthest reaches of lived landscapes; their liminality
the provider of refuge for many an escaped or outlawed person.(5) Tories (dispossessed Irish persons turned outlaws) and thieves found shelter
and refuge in the bogs, their protean (6) nature providing an
advantage to the resistant natives.(7) Protected by its uselessness, its
viscosity resists the spread of neoliberal market-driven land value. Derek Gladwin frames the bog as a redemptive site of
alterityin its economic marginalisation,
against a context of the change in land values to its becoming hungrily sought
hauntings are not the presence of other times but of otherworlds. In a culture
where otherworlds have always existed alongside our own, this is undoubtedly an
easier feat of interpretation. Samhain, halloween night, is in Irish tradition
the night when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. These spirits and
ghouls come not from stuck pasts but from parallel presents. Infact,
considering the theories that bog bodies have been sacrificed to the
underworlds of earthly goddesses through the boggy depths; the murky, peaty
pools acting as liminal portals, we could say that bog bodies are heralds of
The emotional fatigue of the unreachable intimacy of
techno-interfaces drags against the enticing boundlessness of undiscovered - uncreated - worlds. Weary from glossy 72
ppi faces and lagging conversation we dig our hands into the soil in search of
the boundaries of our own body. The
screen shows us limitless new worlds, dozens of fictional environments, but in
reaching they encounter only cold glass. How can we feel the static breeze on
our skin? Glossy thresholds between worlds, watery
and earthly or static and phosphorescent. A liquid interface; the bog body
emerges from his oozing resting place and strides into a shimmering expanse of
low poly vegetation, below a hazy sky and flat disk sun.
Digitising as a commonning practice
beansídhe, banshee, wanders the paths between worlds. From where she walks, the
sounds that escape her parted lips - guttural, ethereal, shrill and rumbling
all at once - slip through the veils that hide one world from another. Temporal
or spatial, the soundwaves of her lament bear resonances of loss and hope
Latour describes the method needed
for considering the future of our actions as an act of composition.(1) To plunge into controversy, to leave behind separations between what is
progress and what is archaic, to take interest in the key issues of living
conditions and to make those a priority in terms of production. These are the
methods he claims must be used in leaving behind the slogan of modernity and
environmentalising the future.
Silvia Federici, amongst others, in
searching for the roots of modern capitalism, emphasises the significance of
the process of Enclosure in rural medieval england. Through the loss of the
commons, space for peasant solidarity and sociality was destroyed - spaces of
social communion, and a source of food production for unwaged citizens.
Notably, Federici describes the emergence of an archetypal character - widows
robbed of the means of subsistence resorted to begging and theft to survive. This
occurs alongside the rising demonisation of the witch throughout Europe.
Thinking about the role of stories
and mythmaking in the collectivising
of social movements, (2) is it not probable that stories, whose ability
to transgress time is proven in the richness of folklore (3) heard to
this day, retain the tunes of the collectivising rallies of radical subaltern
land theft protestors? In considering the loss of commons as spaces for
communal belonging, let us consider folklore - to include practices containing
storytelling, craft, medicinal and land related knowledge - as a form of
commons, which persisted when relations to land were severed.
based vocalist group Landless sing of the threads of resistance that are
carried through song and folklore. Through the ghostly sounds of their tracks Caoin i and Caoin ii, theyevoke
histories of quotidian life suffused with spectral apparitions, supernatural
occurrences, and the haunting potentials of liminal other spaces. The track
title, Caoin, translates to a cry or
a lament, which when heard alongside the band’s name brings to mind not only
references to folk figures such as the banshee, with her ethereal and ghostly
cry foretelling death, but also references to complex histories of land
dispossession in Ireland.
of ghostly bygone ages, scanned and uploaded to networks of intangible
materials, unreal objects and hollow worlds. Does a stone still speak the same
words in its virtual tongue?
Open source creative programs and the networks of material and knowledge sharing which grow around them incite the sense of experiencing a community rooted through cybernetic threads. I visualise the paths of shared files and experience as faintly luminescent spider webs, emitting from a morphing network of communal information. Can digital spaces hold the solidarity of a commons? Through virtual technologies of storytelling we continue to share what we know.
creator and destroyer, generous and inimical, the hag belongs to, forms, and
embodies the landscape itself. Mountains grow from the rocks that tumble from
her gathered apron as she strides over the land.
Vast scapes of faded technicolour, boulders
of pixelated limestone house digital remains of future realities. The Cailleach
creates her reality, sculpts and texturizes. Canopies of rock house digital
relics. Wander deep into the cavernous womb of Cairn T, the narrow dark passage
lit by the dim blue glow of the ambient light and discover within the archaic
drawings. They depict pasts, a multitude of presents and possible futures. In
the synthetic light they appear to move, slowly. Spirals twist into themselves
and floral shapes appear to grow tendrils, reaching, sensing, ready to wrap
tightly over their find.
Below the shimmering apparitions of
illustrious carvings lies a wide and shallow basin. Water rises in the basin,
beginning as a cloying layer of condensation, droplets roll down and gather in
its pit, forming a small puddle. The petroleum-tinted surface of the water
rises, slowly, encompassing the items that lie there: a chipped and yellowed
bone fragment, a comb, its teeth broken or missing, a ring. The water laps,
slowly, moved by an unfelt wind.
I stride out into the realm of my
creation - pink grass folds under my feet. The apron I wear is gathered into a
sack, and full of clay: material, unformed and ready to become the stuff of the
lived world. It crumbles and falls to the ground beneath, becoming mountains,
boulders. In the seconds it takes to fall, dolmens and cairns form. Piles of
stones sit precariously atop one another. It is my eternal journey. As I
stride, generations lapse between my toes. Civilisations rise and fall as the
weight of my footsteps creates lakes, moulds the earth into ridges and valleys.
The weight of the clay I carry causes me to exert myself and the sweat runs
down and becomes rivers. I rest and trees sprout from my feet. In the time that
it takes me to catch my breath, the trees have grown and died. They decompose
and mosses grow, a flat expanse of thousands of years of vegetation, decayed
into a world of black earth.
By the end of my journey I have
tired. I rest, and the plants stop growing. In my negligence, the sun forgets
to warm the earth and it grows cold and frozen over. A barren world emerges.
Where once I marvelled at the wonder of the world I had created, I now grow sad
to see it. I grow cold, and with me the world frosts over. A bright expanse of
rippling ice. Its surface shines like the opaque glass of an idle screen.
Lament of the Old Woman of Beara, the cailleach is old and reflects on the ebbs
of the life she’s lived. In a state of solitary wintery reflection, her morose
tone reflects the harshness of the wintery conditions she is accredited with
delivering. Some stories say that in the
spring she transforms into her younger self and her cyclical journey begins
again. A stone sitting atop the Beara Peninsula and overlooking the bay is said
to be her petrified form.
across Ireland and Scotland bear her name, and the roles she personifies in
stories are manifold. Sometimes a wicked trickster hag; others a young goddess
of the land. Her reknown has existed too long to extricate the threads of her
person from the stages of cultural and religious influence.
In what Bruno Latour has called the “second scientific
revolution”, the agency of living beings is recognised as a major considerable
factor in the movement of powerful forces which dictate our conditions of life.
In Irish mythology, the prevalence of otherworlds is
analogous to a perceived volatility of the surrounding environment. Stories
such as the Seachran Sí describe
mountains that shift and grow before an unsuspecting traveller, rivers flowing
on dry land and paths entwined into never ending loops.
“When explaining the strange and sudden forms of supernatural
disorientation experienced by individuals travelling through the rural
landscape, reference is consistently made to spirits beyond the bounds of the
mundane realms of the human community. Herein are displayed sentiments by which
the wider landscape is ordered and arranged, in that it is not understood as
being inert and unchanging but dynamic and subject to potentially drastic and
sudden shifts. These narratives then, and the body of lore and folk belief that
they comprise, replete with dramatic abstractions and ornate aesthetic
qualities, offer insight into the mechanism by which the rural landscape has
been humanised, mapped out and maintained, not only according to physical
demarcations and boundaries, but to metaphysical ones.” (bluirini bealoidis)
Latour’s analysis of the second
scientific revolution as a recognition of the conditions of life in which
we find ourselves being the product of other life - living beings whose lives
overlap with ours, can be likened to the recognition of an unpredictable
changeability in the landscape inhabited in Irish folklore. On global and micro
levels, living beings exert forces on our lived atmosphere - a virus can, as we
have discovered, reduce supposedly infallible societal systems of movement and
production to a halt in a matter of weeks.
The Cailleach, embodying traits of both mother/fertile and hostile/harbinger of death, personifies the equally productive and destructive powers of nature.
Otherworlding as commoning practice through
technologies of storytelling:
Using Niemanis’ description of a posthuman
phenomenological interface of perception which includes “both a tongue and a
water quality autosampler, both a sensitive fingertip and a DNA
sequencer”, cultures of storytelling and
oral tradition can be included in an expanded sensory apparatus. To allow the
supernatural or the other, be that in
science fiction/speculative fabulation, traditions of storytelling or
contemporary artist film, might engage an attentiveness to the potentialities
of perspectives beyond those on which our regularly frequented worlds are
built, engaging a curiosity and care in the way we relate with the human and
A “torquing of our imaginaries so that matter
can matter differently”, “fostering new ontological dispositions towards the
world and worlds at large”. (Niemanis, 2017), (Palmer and Hunter, 2018)
Noticing Attunes Us to Worlds Otherwise (Gan, Tsing, Swanson
and Bubandt 2017)
1.“Staying within the context of Irish folklore and
literature, there is good evidence to suggest that concepts of preservation and
decay are intimately associated with ‘being in’ and ‘leaving’ the otherworld…
More recently, Giles (2009) proposes that the deposition of bog bodies in
wetlands might have intentionally used bog pools as portals to the otherworld.
Interestingly, other elements of Irish literature describe waters as places
where hierophanies occur, and where the holy would emerge to become manifest in
the world of the living.”
crannóg is an archeological site, consisting of a partially or entirely
artificial island, usually found in lakes of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Hierophanies - sacred apparitions. (Fredengren, 2016)
4. Portfolio: Out of
the Bog Author(s): Frank Miller
and wetlands provided shelter and refuge for escaped slaves. Dimitris
Papadopoulos in Experimental Practice(2018) outlines the role of wetlands as a refuge for insurgents.
6. Protean -
Tending to or able to change frequently and easily.
Ireland, dispossessed persons were relocated to the boggy landscapes of
Connaught. The boglands surrounding the Pale provided shelter to outlaws and
bandits who raided the English settlers, giving them an association of barbaric
wasteland. Tories was the name given
to Irish cattle raiders. A review of Derek Gladwin’s Contentious Terrains (2016)vby Eóin Flannery.
1. In a
series of interviews with Arté, 2021.
2. In Letters of Blood and Fire: Primitive
Accumulation, Peasant Resistance, and the Making of Agency in Early
Nineteenth-Century Ireland, Dunne analyses a collection of threatening
letters left by land protesters to landlords, as part of a broader state of
agrarian social conflict. The peasants resisting primitive accumulation
sustained their sense of collective efficacy through mythmaking to create a
pan-regional collective identity.
commonly used words folklore and superstition seem ill fitted to the
subjects I want to discuss; superstition denotes an unfounded mistrust or
paranoia, while the word folklore seems to belittle the wealth of knowledge
tied into the word. Patricia Dominguez, in a text published by Gasworks,
dismisses the word as reductive and charged in politics of power; “Folklore is
the name of a colonial strategy. Folklore is a way for colonial elites to erase
indigenous worlds and neutralise ancestral histories. It’s a way to keep them contained,
to relegate them to the margins, to exoticise them. Folklore is a way to freeze
time, transforming open and unsolved historical processes into a souvenir for
tourists. And yet, ancestral history is still happening. It is simply going
down other roads, in unexpected ways.” (2019) Rather, I think the Irish word Béaloideas seems more apt to the
subjects I discuss, translating roughly to mouth/oral(béal) teaching/instruction (oidis),
I think the phrase allows for more space to encompass the traditions of orally
relayed storytelling but also of craft, medicine, ritual, and the more
ephemeral and intangible concepts of seeing, or ideological beliefs of the
conditions of the world.
Íde Ogham Stones, image from gaelic.co/ogham/
scanning of Ogham stone, Lugnagappul, Co. Kerry, from Irish and Scottish researchers
to investigate ancient Ogham script, Maynooth University.
4, 5 &
6. Still render of 3D scene, depicting Cairn T passage tomb, Loughcrew, Slieve
Na Calliagh. 3D model created by Megalith Archive,
Animated 3D scene.
scene including 3D model of Neolithic Ground and Polished Axe created by The
Hunt Museum, Limerick. Stone axe head found in Rockbarton Bog, Lough Gur,
3D scene including quote from Fredengren (2016).
sentence, reading “Does a stone still speak the same words in its virtual
3D scene depicting a scan of a rock on the shore of Lough Corrib.
3D scene depicting Cairn T passage tomb, Loughcrew, Slieve Na Calliagh. 3D
model created by Megalith Archive,
3D scene depicting a model of mountains in Connemara, downloaded from Google
Maps and Nasa Elevatino data using Blender GIS addon.