The Centre for Studies in Otherness Postgraduate Symposium
The Centre for Studies in Otherness Postgraduate Symposium took place last Friday, November 23rd, 2012 at the Hunt museum and was the first of what is foreseen to be many collaborative projects based around the concept of Otherness between academics at Mary Immaculate College and Limerick School of Art and Design. Maria Beville of the Department of English Language & Literature, Mary Immaculate College, who is co-director of the Centre for Studies in Otherness organised the event with Tracy Fahey, Head of Department of Art and Design, Limerick School of Art and Design with the aim of bringing together theoretical and practical approaches to the concept of alterity.
The symposium was open to the public and in particular welcomed postgraduate students from both institutions to attend and participate in discussion. There was a great turnout on the day with over 25 participants who came to hear a variety of fascinating presentations on what was topics including death, dark doubles, intersex identity, lick drawing, Alien and Alienating Others, and representations of the ‘mad other’.
Michelle Cooney’s discussion of Heidegger and the ideal of Otherness initiated the set of talks with an insightful rendering of Heidegger’s system of being. Raising issues to do with the ‘possibility’ of recognising Otherness, Cooney noted that in the purely subjective nature of death there is, according to Heidegger, no space for the other of the das-Man, and that the rituals and talk that surround the phenomena of Death serve to tranquilise selfhood against the authentic recognition of absolute otherness. Cooney engaged with important notions of anxiety and the uncanny in her consideration of death as Otherness in Heidegger’s writing and connected these issues importantly to artistic premises evident in Gothic art and literature.
Her philosophical considerations were followed by Breda Lynch’s presentation and discussion of a recent exhibition of drawings that took place at Ormston House, Limerick, displaying the work of Irish and European artists who considered the notion of Otherness and the important themes of anxiety and the dark double. Lynch discussed (among other works) a selection of Berlin based artist Ins A. Kromminga’s drawings from the collection ‘Where no Man has Gone Before’, which provocatively question the notion of gender in relation to intersex identity. Much like the other artists involved in the exhibition, Kromminga’s work engages in the subversion of normative ideals and explores attributes of liminal personae.
Lynch also shocked the Hunt audience with her consideration of the medium of drawing as demonstrated in Jenny Keane’s ‘Lick Drawings’, in which the artist experiments with notions of desire, disgust and horror. In the process of licking her drawings, the pressure of licking causes the artist’s tongue to bleed resulting in a red colouration of the page, but also placing a part of herself, physically, into her artwork. The artistic process effectively takes the concept of the abject to the realm of the literal and sets up a performative spectacle for those bold enough to keep watching her creative process!
Kristy Butler, of the Department of English at Mary Immaculate College began the second panel of presentations with a consideration of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds which again examined the idea of the dark double, but this time from a psychoanalytic perspective. Butler highlighted how the uncanny other was first presented in the pairing of Earth and Mars in the novel and subsequently dramatised in the encounter between man and the Martian machine figuring as an allegory for colonial invasion.
‘Other’ talks included Deirdre Flynn’s discussion of Haruki Murakami’s fiction and his representation, or in most cases ‘non-representation’ of the female, Una Spain’s discussion of her recent photography exhibition ‘St. Brigid’s’, and Deborah McDonagh’s presentation entitled “The Phenomenology of Perception; the otherness of masculinity in contemporary society”.
Dr. Eugene O’ Brien, Head of Department of English Language & Literature at Mary Immaculate College who attended the event, commented that:
I think this is a wonderful opportunity to cement links, at postgraduate level between ourselves and the college of art and design. We are both engaged in the study of modes of representation of social and aesthetic structures and I feel that we will all learn from each other in terms of the theory and praxis of postgraduate work. Given that these postgraduates are the thinkers and opinion-former s of the future, it is great to see them looking at each other’s’ work in such a positive interdisciplinary format. Maria Beville has done great work in organising what will be the first of many such collaborations.