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  As a Visiting Lecturer at The University of Ulster artist Tom Estes decided to recreate the Swampy performance at The Giant's Causeway
Swampy at The Giants Causeway - ArtLyst Article image

Swampy at The Giants Causeway

04-04-2012
 
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As a visiting lecturer at The University of Ulster artist Tom Estes decided to recreate this LIVE ART performance SWAMPY at The Giant's Causeway on March 22, 2012

The Giant's Causeway (known as Clochán an Aifir or Clochán na bhFomhórach in Irish) is an area on the coast of Antrim that consists of an estimated 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns as the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.  Another interpretation is that the causeway was formed by humans, this probably has stemmed from the legend of Finn MacCool.

It is worth noting that many of the great legends of Ireland are based or linked to the north coast of Ulster. There must be some correlation between this and the fact that Whitepark Bay was where man first settled on these shores. Strangely, the Causeway is thought to have lain undiscovered by the outside world until a visit in 1692 from the Bishop Of Derry (Londonderry). The Bishop alerted authorities in Dublin, who then notified learned circles in London. Many papers were produced and many theories on how it had been formed were put forward. While the Bishop may have brought knowledge of the existence of The Giant's Causeway to a wider world, the first people to discover this natural phenomenon would have been the Hunter and Gatherers who settled at Whitepark Bay after the last ice age some 10,000 years ago. 

The mythology of pre-Christian Ireland did not entirely survive the conversion to Chrisitianity, but much of it was preserved, shorn of its religious meanings, in Medieval Irish Literature, which represents the most extensive and best preserved of all the branch and the Historical Cylcle. There are also a number of extant mythological texts that do not fit into any of the cycles. Additionally, there are a small number of recorded folktales that, while not strictly mythological, feature personages from one or more of these nine cycles.

They would have travelled around the then densely forested north coast by boat and would have almost certainly come across the causeway on their travels. To find such a surreal outcrop of rock would have left a lasting impression on these people who lived off the land, they would have surely passed this information on to following generations. However, The three main manuscript sources for Irish mythology are the late 11th/early 12th century lebor na hUidre which is in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, the early 12th century Book of Leinster in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, and the Rawlinson Manuscript B 502 (Rawl.), housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford Universtiy. Despite the dates of these sources, most of the material they contain predates their composition. The earliest of the prose can be dated on linguistic grounds to the 9th century, and some of the verse may be as old as the 6th century.

Other important sources include a group of four manuscripts originating in the west of Ireland in the late 14th or early 15th century: The Yellow Book of LecanThe Great Book of LecanThe Book of Hy Many, and The Bool of Ballymote. The first of these contains part of the earliest known version of the Táin Bó Cúailnge ("The Driving-off of Cattle of Cooley") and is housed in Trinity College. The other three are in the Royal Academy. Other 15th century manuscripts, such as The Book of Fermoy also contain interesting materials, as do such later syncretic works such as Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (The History of Ireland) (ca. 1640), particularly as these later compilers and writers may have had access to manuscript sources that have since disappeared.

When using these sources, it is, as always, important to question the impact of the circumstances in which they were produced. Most of the manuscripts were created by Christian monks, who may well have been torn between the desire to record their native culture and their religious hostility to pagan beliefs resulting in some of the gods being euhemerized. Many of the later sources may also have formed part of a propaganda effort designed to create a history for the people of Ireland that could bear comparison with the mythological descent of their British invaders from the founders of Rome that was promulgated by Geoffrey of Monmouth and others. There was also a tendency to rework Irish genealogies to fit into the known schema of Greek or Biblical genealogy.

There are many heroic legends surrounding Finn MacCool. Finn was reputed to have been the leader of the Fianna, the guardians of the King of Ireland. However it is still questioned that medieval Irish literature preserved truly ancient traditions in a form virtually unchanged through centuries of oral tradition back to the ancient Celts of Europe. Kenneth Jackson famously described the Ulster Cycle as a "window on the Iron Age", and Garret Olmsted has attempted to draw parallels between Táin Bó Cuailnge, the Ulster Cycle epic, and the iconography of the Gundestrup Cauldron. However, this "nativist" position has been challenged by "revisionist" scholars who believe that much of it was created in Christian times in deliberate imitation of the epics of classical literature that came with Latin learning. The revisionists would indicate passages apparently influenced by the Iliad in Táin Bó Cuailnge, and the existence of Togail Troí, an Irish adaptation of Dares Phrygius' De excidio Troiae historia, found in the Book of Leinster, and note that the material culture of the stories is generally closer to the time of the stories' composition than to the distant past. A consensus has emerged which encourages the critical reading of the material.



The Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places. The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. The Giant's Causeway is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places. The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.

 

 


You can also see The Performance Art which features Tom Estes in The Ulster Festival at:

http://www.artreview.com/profiles/blogs/in-the-glass-box-at-the-ulster-festival

And check out the Programme Of Performance Art 'In The Glass Box' as part of the Ulster Festival by going to: 
http://www.ulsterfestival.com/

You can also see The Performance Art which features Tom Estes in The Ulster Festival at:


http://www.artreview.com/profiles/blogs/in-the-glass-box-at-the-ulster-festival


And check out the Programme Of Performance Art 'In The Glass Box' as part of the Ulster Festival by going to: 
http://www.ulsterfestival.com/

 

 


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