This is nothing less than an enchantment of Irishness. Jennifer Walshe‘s Dordán made me feel my nationality in a rare way – not that I’ve anything against Ireland, just the useful/bothersome fiction of nationality.
The piece – the video here is of the Quiet Music Ensemble‘s 2013 Huddersfield Festival performance – takes an Adam Curtisian mode of collaged, text-led filmic narrative about two men, Pádraig and Caoimhín, each with their own experience of enchantment and of going beyond, and invests it with the mysteries of Mircea Eliade‘s arguments about magico-religious folk cultures and their ‘visionary trancing environments’. Dordán uses Walshe’s characteristically deconstructed toy theatre and strangely lyrical musics to place that kind of trancing in front of audiences, both as idea, in the text of the elliptical film, and as theatre, in the performance.
This is cultural archaeology (though all archaeology is cultural, so I don’t know what I mean by that) and enchantment on a grand scale, a mishmash synthesis where Irish dancing, trad performance and the landscape become magical sites, not the stodgy shibboleths of my youth, the latter through Caoimhín’s tellurian tapes, and the former through Pádraig’s droning pipes. It recovers and creates previously unknown histories, much like the ‘dissonant assembly’ of Elizabeth Price’s similarly archaeological The Woolworths Choir Of 1979, making connections across time to show us the importance of the visionary dimension – Eliade’s hierophanies – of experience.
If Price can win the Turner for Woolworths, surely Walshe deserves some kind of Irish equivalent for this?