Out of the rubble comes glorious noise: Artistic Responses to Collapse in Ireland

Yvonne Garrett, MA Candidate, Irish Studies, NYU


Much has been made in the Media about the collapse of the “Celtic Tiger” and the global impact of this collapse.  One critic has stated that there are more modern “ruins” (vacant homes and half-finished developments) than existed in post-Famine Ireland when an estimated one million died and one million emigrated.  Now that Ireland seems in many ways on the brink, I am interested in the ways in which this extremity of economic downturn, this loss of faith in governmental structures is affecting Irish artistic expression.  Ireland’s creative artists have always been at the forefront of cultural and social commentary.   In the words of Ireland’s Cultural Ambassador, Gabriel Byrne, “perhaps artists can lead the way for politicians to re-examine the nature of the society that we inhabit. Because art will transform a society as fast as a politician, in a more profound way.”

How valid is this claim? What are the ways in which newer work echoes the force of artistic expression that came out of both the South and the North in the late 20th Century in response to ongoing sectarian violence and a repressive British State?  Is there current poetry and/or music of the strength that was seen during “the Troubles” (i.e. poets Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson and globally known punk bands such as Stiff Little Fingers)?  How do the actual forms and structures of poetry and music reflect the collapse of accepted orders whether societal or economic?  Heaney and Carson can both be said to suggest through their work a renewal of sorts if only a broader space in which art and its dialogue can exist beyond state borders.  In post-collapse Ireland, how do artistic responses provide or at least suggest alternate spaces and perhaps even renewal – a glorious beauty born out of the rubble?

Back to Thinking through collapse (2012)