Swallowing Geography Exhibition
Swallowing Geography was curated by RCC Early Career Artist-in-Residence, Rachel Botha, and supported by The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
Swallowing Geography was a dual-venue
exhibition and public programme at the Regional Cultural Centre and Glebe House & Gallery in Donegal. The intent of this exhibition was to observe the dynamics between belonging and exclusion in response to the Donegal context. It presents the lived
and imagined experiences of inhabiting space, while exploring our engagement with geographical, domestic and digital worlds.
The title Swallowing Geography is borrowed from Deborah Levy’s novella which questions the idea of home – “Is home
a good place? Or just somewhere to return to?”– and expands on our perception of belonging. The exhibition attempts to share the complex narratives about securing a place in the world, where belonging is measured alongside exclusion and shares experiences
of migration, displacement and marginalisation.
The exhibition included a broad selection of artworks from the Arts Council Collection by John Beattie, Dorothy Cross, Genieve Figgis, Patrick Hennessy, Allyson Keehan, Louis le Brocquy, Eleanor
McCaughey, Sibyl Montague, Isabel Nolan, Mairead O’hEocha and Andrew Vickery. New commissioned artwork by Donegal artists Cara Donaghey, Laura McCafferty, Eoghan McIntyre and Jill Quigley.
Swallowing Geography invites us to consider the complexity of this place. While we might have a monolithic idea of what Donegal is or should be, through these artworks we can understand that beyond the hills and the dry stone walls there are people: washing
dishes, reading books, making art. As Sibyl Montague has said in an interview “people are assemblages, in a sense”. What individuals are made of might be arranged differently in a rural context, but they are no less complex, rich or contradictory.
That They May Face the Rising Sun, John McGahern writes that people who leave might do so because it “renews and restores a sense of their own places”. The idea of home is appealing, but in the context of these works, going away and coming back is
not always an option. Some are forced to leave their homes because of war and strife. Others, like nomads, move around all their lives, never truly finding a place they belong. Some of us never leave, duty bound to the land, to our ancestors.
is a place that is easy to stake a claim to: low population and high scenic amenity. People come to Donegal and think of their ancestors, real or imagined, making butter or weaving cloth in the hills. But who gets to decide who truly belongs? This
is a living place. The problems faced by people living in urban areas, in Ireland and further away, are the problems of the people of Donegal. Here there are still domestic, financial, technological, and ideological difficulties to confront.
visiting this exhibition, many of you will interpret the artworks through the lens of your own lives, through the prism of what you consider home. You may be a Donegal native with the family history to prove it, or you may just be a blow-in. You may
have come here seeking the perfect landscape once gleaned from a Tourist Board postcard; you might have come seeking cheaper rent or a house you could actually buy. You may just be on your holidays. Whoever you are and however you’ve come, here you
will find both Donegal and the world.
The commissioned exhibition text is written by Emily Cooper and Dean Fee, editors of The Pig’s Back journal.