The Object

Artist: Tracy Hanna

Curator: Cliohdna Shaffrey with Ruairí Ó Cuív

a walking tour;  a visual arts commission, and a partnership between Dublin City Council and five museums and cultural institutions in the city – together presenting a speculative uncovering of the legacy of the 6th century Irish Saint, Colm Cille, from contemporary perspectives. Book Walking Tours:

Colm Cille The Object is conceived as a Walking Tour through the historic city centre, and sees a significant collaboration between Dublin City Council and the City’s museums and cultural institutions where a rich repository of objects and manuscripts associated with Colm Cille are housed. The tour will culminate in a visit to a new artwork by Tracy Hanna, Everything’s moving below the surface, sited in the hidden Chapter House of St. Mary’s, which has been described as Dublin’s “most evocative medieval building*”. In addition to the visual arts commission, five writers have fictitiously responded to the featured objects with short writings included in a small publication.

The Walking Tours are scripted and led by Art Historian, Dr. Laura Cleaver from Trinity College Dublin. They are designed for small groups to support intimate and close engagement with the objects and their uncertain histories and, to create a thread running through the city, prompting the walkers to reflect on questions of time, space, and belief.

Early Christian and Medieval Dublin was not directly influenced by Colm Cille (and it is highly unlikely if he ever visited). However, the city holds an important and rich repository of significant objects relating to the Saint including, famously, the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin, possibly brought to Kells (Co. Meath) from Iona. The Cathach/Psalter of Columba at the Royal Irish Academy is a late sixth or early seventh-century manuscript. Due to its fragility, the Cathach is seldom on public display, but it will be brought into public view for the four days of the Walking Tours. Housed at the National Museum of Ireland is the Shrine of the Cathach, an eleventh century (with fourteenth century alterations) book shrine made to protect and secret away the Cathach. The Life of Colm Cille, a fifteenth century manuscript is at Marsh’s Library. Finally, we include Early Coptic Manuscripts from the sixth century at the Chester Beatty Library.

What is also interesting about the selection of objects is that many of them are books and manuscripts, providing material evidence of the explosion of culture and learning emanating from early medieval Ireland and spreading through the British Isles, Europe and beyond. They also give insight into the excellence of the art of this period, but where differing theories over the centuries, have been subject to speculation, misinterpretation and myth making – so any truths about these objects, remain, as such, shrouded in mystery.

Everything’s moving below the surface

It is within the space of mystery that Tracy Hanna’s art aspires to connect somehow with a past that we can no longer touch in any real or tangible way. Her new work Everything’s moving below the surface, offers a metaphysical response that includes the elements of glass, light, film and bog peat. In an installation shrouded in darkness Hanna’s art invites us to look and think about the act of seeing through portals of time.  Combining modern technology with material matter, Hanna’s art operates in the realms of the imaginary, in a non-spectacular manner, leaving room for internal images – dreams, hallucinations, visions.

There is a tenuous link between the selected objects on the walking tour and Colm Cille. They do not all come from his time, (spanning as they do from the sixth to the fifteenth centuries) yet they spread time in an outward direction away from him and in connection with him.  It is in these elusive terrains of time, distance, absences and traces that Tracy Hanna’s art attempts to pitch a distant past in the absolute present. The Chapter House at St. Mary’s provides a resonant site as the final moment in a walking tour that has led us to particular objects in some of Dublin’s most special museums and cultural institutions. Here, in this almost secret monastic place, (kindly made available to the Project by the OPW) the resonant themes of movement, transportation, concealment, discovery and retreat from the world might readily accord with Colm Cille’s story.

Launch: Wednesday 13th November 2013, 6pm at St. Mary’s Pub and Restaurant (Mary Street) close to the Chapter House, where we will escort people in small groups to Tracy Hanna’s Everything’s moving below the surface.

Art Commission: Tracy Hanna’s Everything’s moving below the surface is open to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday 14th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd 23rd November, from 10.00-18.00hrs.

Seminar: at Royal Irish Academy titled Colm Cille’s Spirals: art, history and legacy of the Colm Cille, Thursday 21st November 2013, from 13.15 – 17.00hrs. Speakers: Dr. Laura Cleaver, Dr. Cormac Bourke, Brian Lacey. Organised by Siobhan Fitzpatrick, Librarian, RIA.

Walking Tours (guided): Thursday 14th Friday 15th, Thursday 21st Friday 22nd. @10.00hrs 11,00hrs 12.00hrs  & 14.00hrs.

Book Walking Tours:



*Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland: Dublin. Yale University Press, 2005 pp. 86-89.