Clochán (Sites of the Habitus and the Filmic)
Clochán A series of twelve hand-made black and white photographs was exhibited alongside photographic work by Oliver Eglin and Tristan Poyser at the Dark Side Lab, Bikenhead, Liverpool/ Merseyside (October 17 - December 21, 2019) as part of the Satellite programme in Look 19 Liverpool International Photography Festival. This strand of the Biennial featured the work of photographers who responded to the themes of ‘translate / transition’.
Clocháin (plural) and similar structures found in the South West of Ireland, and elsewhere, form part of an ongoing project entitled Sites of the Habitus & the Filmic, which makes reference to shifting borders, thresholds and dwelling and other spaces found within the landscape and city. As examples of ‘transhumance’ or nomadic dwellings they date back to the Neolithic period, and were constructed by farmers on upland pastures to provide the farmers and their livestock with shelter during the summer months. They are also thought to have been inhabited by pilgrims making their way to sites of worship including the Blasket Islands. This collection archives the construction of corbell-built clochán huts and are formally and conceptually related in their mapping of psychogeographic exchanges defined by the notion of a journey and transitional encounters between one place and another.
The Clocháin seen here form part of a study based on their origin, history and purpose. The project involves mapping and the process itself of finding the sites by walking in the landscape of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, and also around Donegal in the North. The clocháin are also known as booley or beehive huts. They act as spatial-markers or sites, which define a way of life born out of necessity, and a movement determined by the land and elements, rather than a border, which constrains or prevents movement or passage between one place and another. At one point, these centuries-old buildings provided shelter for livestock and pilgrims and whilst some today are left to ruin in remote areas, some are remarkably intact where others have been adapted and modified to serve as sites of tourist interest, and elsewhere are no longer present.
The photographs were made using a large format camera and then hand printed in the darkroom on Forte warmtone paper. As work-in-progress these photographs retain the flaws, inconsistencies, material presence and trace of the landscape in which they were made. The survival of these vernacular structures is testament to a kind of resilience inherent in this landscape and the people, who have lived in, and who have passed through it. The scale of the structures are proportionally precise in their construction befitting a dwelling of minimal means and function. In this, they also embody a physiognomic presence as they watch over the landscape. The project also includes colour photographs which were made in transit between each location as these sites were found during the course of a journey, which traverses a contemporary Irish landscape in a state of flux.