CIACLA: CONTEMPORARY IRISH ARTS CENTER, LOS ANGELES
nó ELLA más mian libh.
Ionad nua do chultúr na hÉireann le fáil againn i gCathair na nAingeal. Beidh sé ag oscailt ag a 6in ar an Satharn beag seo, Meitheamh 15, 2019. Bhí seans agam féachaint isteach ann inné. Béarla is mó in úsáid agam inné is mar sin i mBéarla a bhuail na smaointe mé. Mar sin, rabhadh: Béarla ag teacht agus ráiméas, seans.
I think in Irish usually. I heard CIACLA pronounced by someone lately to rhyme with fiacla (fee a kla went to key a cla) and it made me smile. The key to our clan? Fiacla means teeth in Irish and art certainly has teeth. It can bite into falsehoods and expose their messiness.
CIACLA is a new cultural haven for Irish artistic energies that is situated in a train station (Bergamot Station) in LA and that seems wonderfully appropriate. We are in transit and can lose our most precious connections to being Irish if we are not careful. Forgive me. You may have missed the first bit above in Irish. CIALCA is opening in Los Angeles this Saturday, June 15th. I got a peek in yesterday. Before I get way too distracted with thoughts and tangents, Go see it.
Amanda Coogan’s beautiful The Ladder is Always There, the opening installation in CIACLA inspires many thoughts. Art is rebelliously democratic. People will take their own interpretations from what they see. My ramblings (be warned) on it follow below.
I was taken by the gathers, the bits bundled together and tied, like nodes on a plant or knots on a rope or a tree. I saw twisted sails and weights and thought of Achill Island and a deserted village and a people and language forgotten. Mostly I default towards language.
The thought of knots led me to the Welsh NOT, a way of ensuring Welsh children did not speak their own language and a play on the word KNOT. A colonial tool of linguicide like the bata scoir that had that same function in Ireland to try to erase our identity also by punishing children for speaking Irish. We have so many knots that make identity a tricky subject.
Imagine elements of DNA as circles turned and twisted into geometric trinities. Na tríonna. The threes. Knots of code of identity. Bundles (ceangaltáin grma, Elizabeth) of knowledge.
We often think of Irish art as Celtic knots, like the knots on strands of DNA. It has depth and turns and twists. Other ancient peoples used knots. Imagine a system of math where every knot is a number. The Incas did and created it. Imagine a writing system that seems linear, lines crossing a central line to indicate letters but with each letter assigned several other levels of meaning. Each meaning is related to wood and nature, to the physical and the personality. Ogham, our ancient writing system has that and more. Each letter is not 1 or 2 or 3 dimensional but a work of art and sound and symbolism and philosophy and history with order and rhythm and rhyme. We should be celebrating this from the rooftops. Our art that we have had in our language for so long is extraordinary. This colors my interpretation of art.
Such were my thoughts as I wandered under sail-like sheets at CIACLA. What then, is contemporary Irish when I was immersed in the ancient? Everything is contemporary in its own time and everything changes. CIA (think foreign agents taking down bad guys) in the English sense definitely does NOT apply here. I let my mind go to Irish again to another cia (cé), one which means who or which.
Ní fios cia can a chineál: No one knows what his kind sang (their ways). No one knows where his people came from.
The Irish word can means song or way. Conas atá tú? An can céanna. How are you? The same [old] song (the same way as always). This is the art of the language. We are full of song and stories. The visual of overhead twisted sails was working its magic again.
I heard another person pronounce CIACLA as Sea-Acla and that brought me to back to Oileán Acla, the island of Achill (Acaill) and the Sea of Acaill, Sea (of Acaill) Acla. The word ACLA cannot exist on its own. It says it is of something else. The thought delights me. I am NOT. I am with context. The Irish are not what we were, or told we were, nor what we will be. Yet, it all forms part of us: billowing stories, some not yet told. I duck under the sails and think of the gleoiteoga, the púcáin, and boats like them in Cornwall. With no wind, they are of little use; with no breath, we are nothing. Movement is life. Everything changes.
My musings tell me that we, as a people, are fascinating, something I note when I look at The Ladder is Always There installation that has the sea on the walls around me. A new perspective makes me forget where I am. Art comes with eyes that understand lies.
As I moved in the room I imagined I felt aer Acla, the rush of wind and salty air. Seo mé i seomra, a bhuail mé le teanga eile sa bhéal anocht, faraor. Ach, mar sin féin, caitheadh siar (nó soir) go Maigh Eo mé. Contemporary is now. It always was. A term of contradiction. Yet Coogan’s work throws me back in time. Turmoils and a mangled mess of memories may see the sails as a fabric of Yeats’ Cloths of Heaven or whatever we wish for. I see simple cloths like the flour bags my mother would wash and rewash and sew together to make us sheets.
I talked with those at CIACLA. Some dream up these images and creations and others walk stages. I found out that people far younger than mise among them still sing in sean-nós (the old style) and are in tune with rhythms that keep truth firmly knotted, unlike beads on a poorly constructed abacus with a frame of falsehood. Fiú nuair nach bhfeicimid í, there IS always a ladder. It is always firm on the floor. We need our community to hold it and let us get the wider view while firmly rooted in who we are.
Ádh mór libh ar fad! Mór an pléisiúr casadh libh aréir,
Matthew is foireann
ELLA: Ealaín ár Linne, LA
Sin bronntanas beag daoibh 😉 Éire ELLA 😉