Deirdre O’Mahony’s practice is informed by a deep interest in rural sustainability, farming, food security, and rural/urban relationships. Her work for Haarlem Periodical presents image and text works from her ten-year research project, SPUD, which investigates the role of the potato in Irish culture, from its early arrival in Europe and the Irish potato famine, to concerns around food security today.
Deirdre O’Mahony is a visual artist whose practice investigates the political ecology of rural places through public engagement, archival practices, exhibitions, film and writing. She has shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and received public commissions, Irish Arts Council bursaries, and other awards and international fellowships.
‘One day I was showing the sea to a girl who was seeing it for the first time; She declared that she thought a field of potatoes was a far more impressive sight.’
Going Underground: Networks, Histories and Knowledges – the SPUD Project.
SPUD is a multifaceted public art project that has emerged through artistic research and collaborative processes to produce space for a public discourse on food production and climate change. Three issues are reflexively considered through the lens of SPUD: Unconscious attitudes towards rurality, the land, identity and otherness in Ireland; the relevance and use-value of tacit agricultural knowledge to food production today and the potato’s importance to global food security in the face of climate change. By making use of the potato to map controversies around these threads, SPUD points to the complex history and legacy of the potato both in Ireland and within the economic and political dynamics of global food production today. This cartographic process is particularly relevant given the history of the Famine in Ireland.
Documentation of X-SPUD at the national Irish Famine Museum (2015) and a short film, Trial + Error made about the rise and fall of the seed potato industry in County Donegal in the early years of the Irish State.
Over the past decade my art practice has focussed on activating, investigating and complicating perceptions of rural public space, generally considered marginal or peripheral within a wider cultural discourse. The rural countryside has multiple stakeholders with vastly different agendas and interests and conflicts resurface repeatedly around land and land use in Ireland. In response to this “stuck” narrative and a lack of space for public discourse, my research has focused on ways of publicly re-presenting and reflecting different epistemological understandings of place in order to create new knowledge on the complex interrelationship between human, natural, cultural and social ecologies.