Birr’s famous monument inspires new book and outdoor exhibition

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Art teacher Yvonne Claffey (far left) with 5th and 6th year art students of St.Brendan’s Community School Birr with collage artist, Una Gildea (right side) putting final touches on the artworks for their upcoming outdoor exhibition which will be launch in Birr Theater & Arts Center on Friday, March 25 at 7pm , as part of ‘Empty Columns Are a Place to Dream – How to use monuments for Good and Evil’. Photo: Caroline Conway.

Birr’s famous monument or column in Emmet Square has inspired a new book and outdoor art exhibition, which is set to be launched in Birr Theater and Arts Center on Friday, March 25 at 7pm.

Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival curator and visual artist Caroline Conway in association with Birr Theater and Arts Centre, is inviting the public to ‘Empty Columns Are a Place to Dream – How to use monuments for Good and Evil’ – which encompasses a book launch and an exhibition by Birr CS students.

The event features the Irish launch of the book Empty Columns are a Place to Dream by Ric Kasini Kadour and an exhibition responding to the empty column in Emmet Square by Birr Community School 6th year art students.

A panel discussion with some of the artists (in-person and online) who participated in the ‘Empty Columns are a Place to Dream’ exhibition as part of Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival in 2021 will also take place.

Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival curator and artist Caroline Conway said: “This project has been a really interesting journey – having a group of international artists focus their attention on Birr, and now working with young people to respond to the column, and reimagine the monument in terms of their own priorities and ideals, with the various strands of this project culminating with the Irish launch of Ric Kasini Kadour’s book Empty Columns are a Place to Dream at Birr Theater and Arts Center on March 25. Birr’s empty column in Emmet Square has inspired and forged international connections and amplified conversations and art making around the role of columns and their relevance to our ideas on identity and history.”

‘Empty Columns are a Place to Dream’ was exhibited during Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival in 2021.

Curated by Ric Kasini Kadour, eighteen national and international artists participated in this collage exhibition and responded to the empty column in Emmet Square, examining the meaning of monuments, reimagining them as sites of truth and reconciliation. The exhibition has since been shown at the Knoxville Museum of Art, Tennessee, USA.

The Irish launch of his book ‘Empty Columns are a Place to Dream’ featuring the collages of eighteen artists from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Poland, South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom who made a series of collages that reimagined the empty column in the center of Birr, which from 1747 to 1915, commemorated the Duke of Cumberland’s 1745 victory over the Scots at Culloden.

Ric Kasini Kadour’s book unpacks what monuments are and their role in our communities. He takes the reader on a tour from the Megalithic Temples of Malta to Brú na Bóinne in Ireland to the Confederate monuments of Obion County, Tennessee to the empty column in the center of Birr, and asks us to consider monuments as sites of collective memory and as places to reflect upon history, even when that history is false or misleading. He then shows us what happens when collage artists reimagine these spaces as sites of truth and reconciliation.

Working with Dublin collage artist Una Gildea, the 6th year art students at St Brendan’s Community School have created their own unique response to the empty column – inspired by the discovery of time capsules in the pediments of fallen monuments. This outdoor exhibition will be displayed in Birr’s Emmet Square and the ARTIVIVE app (free to download) is required for enhanced viewing.

Emma Nee Haslam said: “We here at Birr Theater are delighted to be part of this exciting and creative project which gives young people the space to explore and imagine possibilities. By looking at the monument in Emmet Square, the focal point in the heart of our town, young people develop their sense of place and community, enriching their presence in it.”

Booking is essential at Birr Theater & Arts Theatre, www.birrtheatre.com’Empty Columns Are a Place to Dream’ book launch and exhibition is funded by Birr Theater & Arts Center and is part of the Arts Council funded Spectacular Vernacular- Making the Ordinary , Extraordinary, In the Open/Faoin Spéir and Offaly County Council.

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