[PLEASE LISTEN WITH HEADPHONES]
This film has been made as part of an AHRC funded Doctoral Research Project at The University of the Arts London.
My research attends to sound, memory and different notions of landscape (social, political, cultural, as well as natural and urban) in artists’ moving-image work.
In this audiovisual experiment, two seemingly disparate narratives attend to landscapes imbued with memory - historical, mythological and personal.
PART ONE: OONAGH draws on Irish, Manx and Scottish folklore in relation to the landscape of The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. It offers a queer reading of the most popular mythological tale, which focuses on the giant Finn McCool, his wife Oona and their strategic avoidance of a violent situation with another giant, Benandonner.
Regardless of whether or not this particular tale is based on historical truth, many different versions have presented themselves, from which connections can be drawn. In various literature, Oona can also be found as Una and Uonaidh. Oonagh is also the name of the Queen of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. The name of Oonagh’s husband, King Fionnbharr - also known as Finvarra, Finn Bheara or Finbeara - resembles the various names given to the giant: Fionn mac Cumhail, Finn McCool, or Fingal. His supposed foe, Benandonner, is also referred to as Cuchulainn, Cuchullain, Cucullin or Setanta - a mythical Irish warrior and champion of Ulster.
The Irish dialogue in the film is adapted from The Poems of Ossian published by James Macpherson in 1773, who claimed that he had found and translated an ancient Scottish Gaelic manuscript, supposedly written by Ossian, the son of Fingal. It is widely understood, however, that Macpherson fabricated the entire thing. The film embraces this tradition of literary falsehoods, using it as an opportunity to give a queer reading to a feud that may or may not have happened, played out against a landscape that has witnessed much violence.
PART TWO: MARY is a semi-fictionalised account of an inter-generational family feud. Based on fragmented memories, second-hand and overheard, the narrative is a confabulation of a series of events which took place between two very different landscapes on opposite sides of the world.
Both narratives invite the audience to question how memory can serve multiple truths and become distorted by time and distance.
Timothy Smith - 2017