forcamás the unsteady moment before an inevitable fall
Bríanna Ní Léanacháin and Maitiú Mac Cárthaigh, 2022.
Coming from time spent as classmates in Crawford College of Art and Design and then support and comfort shared as Artists, Bríanna Ní Léancháin and Maitiú Mac Cárthaigh have recently begun a joint exploration of Nature Art Writing. This draws on research and concerns facing both Artists in their individual practices. The quote below comes from Cis lir fodla tire?, translated as, How Many Kinds of Land are There?, a text from Brehon Law which attempts to define the condition of Good Land. This excerpt was chosen recognizing and hoping to respond to the current Climate Crisis facing all of us and its overwhelming effects on Agriculture, Gender/Sexual Politics and our experience of the Land/Law-scape. What could come of looking back at old ways, with an understanding of their failings, as a reorientation of our positionality today?
“An inhabited land where everything good is good; both corn, and milk and flax and glaisín and honey, and roid and sweet herbs, which does not require the application of manure otr shell; in which there are no sticking plants. If a bridle-horse be let up into its top grass, no briar, no blackthorn, nor burdock will stick in its mane or its tail. It is in proper condition then.” Cis lir fodla tire?, translated by Gearóid Mac Niocaill in 1971.
and wait for her, an ghrian a éirigh.
She is particularly tired this time of year.
The closer she gets, the faster mo chroí begins to beat,
until I see her,
just a sliver of the top of her head.
I whip around,
searching for you in the dark horizon opposite.
Anxious, in hopes that you might know,
that I am looking for you.
Comforted by the knowledge,
that you are still sleeping, where the sunlight has not reached yet,
and the frost that hides in your curves will be long melting.
Feicim tú, i m’intinn,
a dark rolling sea, Churning
At this moment, gach maidin
I can feel your presence.
A few minutes earlier each day,
you unhinge my jaw
and pour yourself into my empty body,
down my throat and into mo bholg,
sending waves of nausea pulsing through me,
Filling me up with your inky nostalgia.
Every step I take toward the place that I live,
you flood more of yourself into me.
I swallow it gladly, like cough syrup
I am a vessel
By the time I reach the front door, I feel I might drown in my own body,
choking as you gurgle in my throat,
but when the door closes behind me,
I find myself cut off from you.
Alone once again,
with nothing but a bare bulb above me, and a skirting board hanging loose at my feet.
You leave me, arís
Gushing out of me, as though through a nick in my jugular vein,
leaving nothing but a small piece of you
tucked deep inside my ribs.
I feel you hidden there, warm against my bones.
agus tá a fhios agam,
tá mé do leanbh.
I have the same routine every morning.
I rise before dawn, and walk the edges of the River Lee,
the same river I’ve known since I was a child,
and oriented myself on its reliable path.
Though now I know a different part,
where the banks are constructed of stone
and I cannot dig my numb toes into the mud.
the only time I feel the presence of The Land is sunrise.
when the sky is bright and the cityscape is dark,
and I can pretend it’s not there,
and I’m not here.
this land is not in proper condition
nothing grows here but concrete and melancholia
and my idealisations
I am problematic too
I felt as if I could only lay flat on my back on my bed, stretched out in all directions. Wearing the same little as possible for much too long.
Having taken to the bed, I am unable to do much of anything while I
sweat a shower of stillness into my already soaked sheets.
There is a boiling in my head – things have gone well beyond a simmer.
And this is that good summer they will speak about for years and years.
Outside my window, the greenery perspires at the same rate as I do.
Together, we sweat like pigs in a small stuffy shed.
Except I choose not to rehydrate, the poor grass stands no chance.
If I am still enough, I can hear its sizzling waft in through my ever-open window on the few and far between gusts of wind.
I think it is time to get up Matt, the day’ll be gone soon.
But it is only three in the afternoon? There are still so many hours of sunlight left.
And I purposely sabotage my rhythms of sleep as it numbs my nerves but makes my skin more sensitive to the heat and the cold stickiness of dried in sweat.
What does a drought even look like on a rock like this one? When did we ask the Sun down to murder our cows and burn our grass and kill our profits and demand changes in the CAP?
But isn’t the weather only gorgeous?
I’m barely out in it, but even a hint of sunlight supercharges me.
It’s not as if I have ever bathed in it much but as it melts and murders the outside, I feel like a solar panel.
Charging up my batteries just to waste this renewable on Instagram.
That summer, I smelt rank.
My body was some form of damp and rotting swamp creature attempting to hide from the sun on this baking rock that was once a rainforest. I was the bog body I had always dreamed of becoming.
In my folds and around my holes, a utopia of bacteria exists – warmed and kept alive by the perspiring of my skin. They loved to live there and hated a wash, but the body needed it. The pools of moisture like lakes, surrounded and separated by crusts of filth.
Accumulated over millennia.
Inundated with – wet,
The wells will soon run dry.
And when the first drizzle comes, maybe I will dance in it.
Until then, this good summer will continue well into September.
The Artists in conversation with the work
While Bríanna walks, I cycle.
As I left home again in January, I held my last breath as long as I could. I even took note of which foot last stepped off the land. I wanted to bring my own idealisations with me, thinking it would make the departure easier. Unsurprisingly, it did not. The land I returned to is not in proper condition either, it’s so sick that soon all the butterflies will be dead.
I have always held an emotional connection to Bríanna’s writing and work. I feel so energised to know she fully understands why I want to be a Cottage Core King. That said, I feel with this work that I would not have fully understood the position of the artist in the urban yearning for the rural until recently. After two years of living in my own rural idyll, I now find myself in a country which has been paved over and the natural found wheezing as it crumbles and dies. The want to be close to slivers of the natural in a world of cycle lanes is a physical experience which Bríanna has captured in words, and I thank her for this.
Bríanna’s writing for this collaboration sets the scene for the coming collapse but is also full of pain and guilt associated with being absence from these places of work, rest and all the care we must enact there. Although my last island breath has long been exhaled, this text comforts me as I cycle through the concrete.
I remember that good summer, but the summer of 2020 is fresher in my mind still. Listening to the daily news was one depressing figure after another. As the death count rose, so did the temperature, followed by a sharp decrease of volume in our water reservoirs.
We still scalded the pot though. The nightly tea ritual had to be completed, start to finish. One full kettle for its warmth, one for the tea. The first round of water from the pot went straight into a bucket in the corner of the kitchen, left to cool overnight for the plants in the morning. They never complained about this ritual, or the buckets at our feet in the shower, or the litres of water we caught while running the tap hot or waiting for a cool stream to run, that we might gulp down to quench the thirst. I wonder will I see those buckets again in a few months when the rain stops.
When reading Maitiú’s work, I often feel as though he has articulated my thoughts for me. The comfort I find in his words as though they were born from my throat is in sharp contrast to the anxiety and melancholia I feel towards the topics he addresses. I too feel a sense of powerlessness. What can I do but lie in the sun and sweat as she cooks my skin to the perfect shade of tan, and bleaches the grass? It’s not her fault after all. We can curse the sun all we want, she’s not the one with her hand on the thermostat. Or at least, she’s not the only one.
Maitiú’s writing poignantly addresses through an auto-ficiton style of prose the urgency of the impending Climate Collapse. While his text viscerally conveys the despondency much of today’s youth experiences in the seemingly futile attempt to address the ecological disaster we are facing, it also explores a moving personal relationship to The Land. After our individual experiences of Good Summers, forced to watch the landscape turn from vibrant green to pale gold, we ponder our liminal existence, trapped between Urban and Rural. Globally, we must question our relationship to The Land, along with our individual responsibility in this time of crisis.
To coincide with the opening of Ar Scáth a Chéíle / In Each Other’s Shadow, MTU’s Arts Office Environmental Award Exhibition, participating artists Bríanna Ní Léanacháin and Maitiú Mac Cárthaigh present their collaborative work forcamás. The title translating to the moment we now find ourselves in, the moments before collapse. As part of their individual research practises, Bríanna and Maitiú respond to Cis lir fodla tire?, nó as Bearla, “How many kinds of Land are there?”, a Brehon Law text considering the value and connection of the human to land/law-scape.
The work is installed outside the James Barry Exhibition centre on MTU’s Bishopstown campus but can also be found on The Paper, an online forum for discussing and responding to visual art events in Cork City and County.
Please find more information about the work on our website: https://arts.cit.ie/viewEvent?id=1344
Artist’s website: https://www.briannanileanachain.com/works/forcamas
The work was produced with the support of MTU Arts Office. The artists would also like to thank CCAD’s Print-media Department and Benchspace Cork for all their help in a moment of chaos.