Three multimedia events held 10th-12th September, 2015 at three differing sites along the River Tolka, Ireland. Events were the culmination of engagement with the river and its communities over the months prior. Matt Green was the lead artist for the commission and as such project managed. Full artist team: Matt Green, Sven Anderson, John D’Arcy, Jennie Guy, Conan McIvor and Stuart Sloan.
Tolka Nights was commissioned under the Per Cent for Art Scheme relating to the creation of flood defence systems on the River Tolka in catchment areas across Dublin, Fingal, and Meath. This commission is supported by the Office of Public Works (OPW), Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Meath County Council, and Create.
The following is text from the project’s press release:
Tolka Nights is a series of public art events, funded under the Per Cent for Art Scheme , happening in September in three distinct sites along the river Tolka. The events will consist of sound, film, performance and discussion, and explore the river’s significance as an ecosystem, to communities, to diverse histories, and to regional and national current affairs.
Tolka Nights has emerged through the individual and collaborative practice of six artists brought together specifically for the commission: Matt Green, Sven Anderson, John D’Arcy, Jennie Guy, Conan McIvor and Stuart Sloan.
The opening event of Tolka Nights, held at the Grasshopper Inn, Clonee will be a Tolka Quiz enriched with riverside sounds, images and food inspired by Tolka edibles. The quiz will appeal to both those wanting to test their knowledge of the river and those wanting to learn and experience more of the river in an interactive, sociable setting. Quiz teams can expect rounds such as ‘What’s that Tolka Sound?’ and ‘Tolka or Not Tolka’.
The second event in Tolka Nights will present audiovisual work by the six artists on a full-scale outdoor screen with an immersive sound setup. Video works and live performances will merge over the course of the evening. The event setting is at the riverside deep within the Tolka Valley Park behind the Blanchardstown shopping centre.
The final event of Tolka Nights will be a symposium of presentations about the Tolka, flooding, and work by other artists in response to similar themes. This will take place in the College of Amenity and Horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin. Following these discussions, the audience will move outdoors for a closing sound event, dispersed within the garden’s unique landscape set along the Tolka.
The events contain both solo work by all the artists and activity designed and developed as a collective. The solo work includes:
- A series of audio-visual compositions by Matt Green recounting expeditions along the Tolka in search of elusive wildlife.
- A short film by Sven Anderson and Jennie Guy exploring an impossible ecological event and a resulting series of disjointed planning proposals addressing the built environment surrounding the Tolka. This fractured narrative will be bookended by a live reading performance by Guy and an immersive soundscape performance by Anderson.
- A choral work of found-texts and improvised melodies composed by local singers in workshops led by John D’Arcy.
- An experimental film by Conan McIvor that attempts to chart the timeline of the river through a collection of vignettes; a journey through the mythical, spiritual, historical and contemporary stories associated with the Tolka.
- A documentary short by Stuart Sloan that explores how humans affect the Tolka and how the Tolka affects humans.
These projects are the outcome of the six artists’ extended engagement with the Tolka. Over the last several months, the group have been working through local libraries and media archives, and consulting with the river’s residents, users and maintainers as a means of grasping the river’s intricacies. Some members of the group have focused on documenting the river through audio and video recording, while others carried out song-writing and rehearsal sessions at the river’s banks, or investigated sites along the river as settings for experimental films. The artists are not attempting to narrowly define the Tolka and its significance, but instead suggest a collective of actions and responses that invite continued explorations along the river.
The commission provides a dynamic platform for public art to explore new connections between the river Tolka and the regions surrounding it.