Designing Commemoration

In 2015, we are nearing the mid-point of what has been termed Ireland’s ‘Decade of Centenaries’. This period has already seen the development of several large-scale commemorative projects, such as that around the centenary of 1913 and of the beginning of the Great War, as well as many conferences, lectures and events contextualizing and exploring these events and their broader symbolic meaning.

In the current conversation around the Decade of Centenaries, the emphasis has been on the historical events themselves and their larger political impact and position. This conference seeks to move beyond this narrative, focusing on the participatory, performative, visual, material and social aspects of commemoration.

‘Designing Commemoration: performance, process and participation’ will explore and reflect on the experience of designing and creating commemorative events, works of art or places, as well as the experience of participation in commemoration in visual and material culture. Moving beyond the chronological limits of the Decade of Centenaries, papers exploring a wide range of commemorative events or experiences, contemporary and historical, national and international, are invited.

Papers will cover a range of disciplinary perspectives, including historians, activists, art historians, geographers, architects, designers, artists, musicians, those involved in commissioning commemoration, dancers, festive artists, community arts practitioners and street theatre practitioners.

This conference will take place on 8th and 9th October 2015 at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick and the Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin.


University of Limerick, October 8th 2015

12.20 Keynote Address, Professor Ronald Grimes

grimes, ron 600dpi

Bridging Rituals, Commemorative Gestures

At the heart of this presentation is A Daughter’s Song, a short film about a commemorative ceremony enacted in Montreal, Canada, in 2014 by Mohawks and artists, Jews and Muslims. Such an event challenges popular and scholarly assumptions about ritual, for instance, that it is primarily backward-looking or that it consolidates an in-group against an out-group. The Mohawk Condolence Ceremony, which provides the central gestures of this memorial, is not only traditional but also forward-looking; it constructs bridges across chasms dividing groups. Effective memorials are as much about re-framing the present and envisioning the future as they are about remembering the past. Participants in commemorative rites are not typically recollecting events they once experienced. Rather, they are imagining retrospectively. A Daughter’s Song helps viewers understand how and why.

Ronald L. Grimes is the author of several books on ritual, most recently The Craft of Ritual Studies (Oxford University Press, 2014). He resides in Waterloo, Ontario, where he is Director of Ritual Studies International and Professor Emeritus of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University. Recently, he has held the following positions: Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at Charles University, Prague in the Czech Republic; Senior Researcher and Senior Lecturer at Yale University; and Chair of Ritual Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.


Unfortunately, due to illness, we have had to postpone the keynote lecture by Noeline Kavanagh tomorrow evening. This event had initially been scheduled for 6pm, following a reception at 5.30.
We will aim to reschedule this keynote by Noeline at a later date, but instead will have a roundtable discussion with event participants following the sessions, and conclude the day with a wine reception at 6pm.
We will contact you when we have a date for this keynote, and we hope that you will join us again then.

The full programme for both the UL and TCD sessions can be found here:

6.15 – Keynote address, Noeline Kavanagh, Artistic Director, Macnas.

People of MACNAS, photographer Julia Dunin (184 of 238)-2

This keynote address will look at the overall art of spectacle in the west and in Ireland and how Macnas emerged in a 1980’s landscape and brought theatricality, pageant and, wildness out into the landscape right up to current times. It will look at the role of the audience in this, the role of poetry, creativity and inventiveness , the diversity of the work over 30 years, the seizing of streets, warehouses , towns and cities to become  the unlikely stages for this creative chaotic and joyous communion between public, participant and performer.
What ties it all together? The act of imagination, “a universal sensibility that makes the invisible visible, makes visible the unfathomable and the ineffable, builds bridges between thoughts and words” art is social change.

Noeline Kavanagh currently holds the post of Artistic Director in Macnas, Ireland’s internationally acclaimed Performance and Spectacle Company based on the grounds of the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG).

A graduate of Trinity College, Noeline began her career with the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1994. From there she went on to work as assistant director at the Abbey Theatre and Rough Magic Theatre Company and with Spanish spectacle company Els Commedients. In 1998 Noeline directed the annual Macnas parade for The Galway Arts Festival 21st Birthday. She continued creating spectacle shows in collaboration with Kilkenny Arts Festival, Linenhall Arts Festival, Fatima Mansions Regeneration Project, St Patrick’s Festival Dublin, and Tallaght Community Arts Center. She spent two years as Director of Carlow Youth presenting outdoor shows in partnership with the Eigse Festival and also spent time as an intern with Theatre Du Soliel, France.

In 2003 Noeline moved to the UK to work as Performance Director with Welfare State International. As a freelance director, collaborations include shows with Spanish spectacle Company Els Commedients, Liverpool Lantern Company, Hope Street Liverpool, Walk the Plank and Inishowen Carnival . She returned to Ireland in 2008.

Her productions with Macnas include “Wild Hunt and the Sleepwalker” which won the award for the Best Production in the Absolut Fringe Festival in 2010 and “Chaosmos” for best performance at the Chaoyang Spring Festival in Beijing, 2013. Since her appointment, Macnas has toured to China, Australia, Moscow, Lithuania and the UK. The company tour Ireland with a number of street shows and Macnas present the celebrated annual street spectacle parade at Halloween in the company’s home town of Galway, now in its 29th year. Other Highlights include taking part at Wilderness Festival UK in 2014 and Bram’s Stoker Festival Dublin 2014 , Woodford Folk Festival Australia 2014 & WOMADelaide in 2012 .

Trinity College Dublin, October 9th 2015

11.30 – Keynote address, Dr. Síghle Bhreathnach Lynch

S B-L photo for book

From Queen Victoria to the Spire: the transformative potential of the public monument

The public monument, executed as it is from inert materials such as bronze and stone, appears to inhabit the urban landscape in a ‘fixed’ way through its still and silent presence. Yet when analysed in the context of patronage, location, scale and choice of artistic style, such statuary, employed by governments and other political movements down through the centuries, offers a very tangible form of expression. The monument has the ability to visually articulate the various deeply-held beliefs and aspirations not only of those involved in its commissioning but equally those opposing it. In particular, because of its ability to transmit political ideas, a monument reveals not only the shifting nature of politics and power but acts as a barometer in the construction of national identities. In the case of Dublin, a city that saw the transformation of political power from colonial rule to the establishment of an Irish republic in the twentieth-century, the choice of monuments erected over that time reveal the conflicted nature of the ideological concerns of the nation before and after Independence.

Dr. Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch is a writer and art historian. . Having lectured at UCD for almost a decade in European and Irish art, she was appointed Curator of Irish Art at the National Gallery of Ireland in 1998 and retired in 2009. She is author of Ireland’s Art Ireland’s History (2007) and has published a substantial number of articles in Irish British and American journals of art for over three decades. Her latest publication is 50 Works of Irish Art,published September 2015 by Gill & Macmillan.

This conference is presented by the MA Festive Arts programme at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick  and TRIARC: the Irish Art Research Centre at Trinity College Dublin, with support from the MA Ritual Chant and Song at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

You can now register for the conference here:

Admission is free and open to all.