Sunday, June 29, 2014

Premiere of "Dance Emergency"/ "Damhsa na hEigeandala" at Galway Film Fleadh, July 10th :-)

Just back from a fantastic conference at NUIG entitled "Ireland and the Emergency", with so many fascinating contributions, and a keynote by Robert Fisk, no less, who revisited the subject of his PhD at TCD on The Emergency - looking at it in context of his work in the Middle East at the moment.  Brilliant!  Yesterday morning (Saturday) I too contributed, giving a paper entitled "Emergency Encounters of the Cultural Kind", and was delighted of the opportunity to do so.  Big thanks to Dr. Mark Phelan and the Conference Organisers!  It is always such a breath of fresh air to get down to Galway, where as well as the food for thought (no wartime rationing there!), last night I discovered the oasis that is The Heron's Rest B & B on The Long Walk.  If you ever get a room there you will be very lucky, the view over Claddagh Quay is dreamy, the food, scrumptious, the vibe, perfect.
 Luckily I have the best excuse ever to return to Galway very soon again, for the screening of the 52 minute documentary I have been working on for a few years now, "Dance Emergency"/ "Damhsa na hEigeandala", on July 10th at noon in the Cinemobile along with a special screening of "1943 - A Dance Odyssey".  Would be so great to see you there, at my favourite film festival, if you are nearby,  Here is all the info and a few images to hopefully whet your appetite:
Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, teaching class in her studio

Oh, and the trailer!:

Against the backdrop of seldom-seen 1940’s bohemian Dublin, and suspicions of Nazi espionage, we recount an Irish-German artist’s forgotten struggle to bring Modern Dance/ German Ausdruckstanz to a conservative, inchoate Ireland that was not yet ready for it.  

Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, being interrogated by Detective James McGuire

Interpreted beautifully by the great Olwen Fouere, choreographed by Jessica Kennedy of Junk Ensemble, we frame Erina Brady’s legacy in the context of the thriving contemporary dance scene in Ireland today. 
Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, being monitored by Peter Sheridan, as Detective James McGuire
  Interviewees include the late Patrick Scott, Rionach Ni Neill, Fearghus O Conchuir, Declan Kiberd, and others.  Actors include Peter Sheridan, Tom Hickey, Pat Laffan, Michael James Ford, Una Kavanagh, Zena Donnelly, and Niamh Shaw.   
Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, being interrogated by Peter Sheridan, as Detective James McGuire
Written & Directed by Deirdre Mulrooney
Produced by Midas Productions for TG4 Splanc!
Original Score by Conor Linehan
Running Time: 52 mins

Margaret Becker, in Liam O Laoghaire's 1943 film "Dance School"
There will also be a special screening of the related “1943 ­ A Dance Odyssey” in the same Galway Film Fleadh programme:

Once upon a time, during World War Two (or "The Emergency", as it was known
 in Ireland), enigmatic Irish-German woman Erina Brady brought cutting edge
Modern Dance to Ireland, from Germany.  A forgotten reel of film by Irish film industry founder Liam Ó Laoghaire immortalised the mysterious modern dancer teaching her tiny pupils in her Harcourt Street Studio and dancing freely in the open air in his 1943 gem of a film, "Dance School".

Setting eyes on this rare footage for the first time, 1943 -- A Dance Odyssey brings five of Brady's former tiny tots on an odyssey to a bygone era in her enchanted Irish School of Dance Art studio.

Seventy years on, 1943 -- A Dance Odyssey, explores who were these tiny
dancers, attempting an arabesque, and stretching out their little limbs in
barefoot dance of expression? Where did the dance of life take them?

Unlocking fond memories of those extraordinary classes the women share how
The modern dance pioneer influenced their lives, and opened them up to a
lifetime of creativity.

 Produced, Written & Directed by Deirdre Mulrooney

Featuring: The Becker Sisters: Margaret Becker, Romy Hogan, Barbara Sweetman Fitzgerald; Ann Danaher/ McGuire; Ann Fryer/Walsh.
 Shot & Edited by Mia Mullarkey

Original score by Rossa Ó Snodaigh
Running time: 25 minutes
Crowd-funded by 63  fabulous micro-philanthropists, via <, & by RTE.

 "The past was... another country in ‘1943 - A Dance Odyssey' in which three
sisters and two other women revisited the Harcourt Street premises where
 German-Irish Erina Brady had taught them modern dance 70 years earlier.
 Their reminiscences of this exotic, bohemian woman were touching and there was a
 haunting and affecting quality to Deirdre Mulrooney's short film"...
(John Boland, Irish Independent Weekend Review, April 6th, 2013).

Book by clicking here

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Busy times, and sad times as a great spirit passes on, but not without leaving important traces...

It has been a busy couple of months, and now suddenly here we are in full of bloom of summer.  Midsummer approaches!  During the tenth edition of Dublin Dance Festival last month, I did reports on RTE Arena, and on The Arts Show (Aileen O'Meara Productions for RTE).  I gave a talk on the lovely topic of "Patrick Scott and the Ballets Jooss" at VISUAL Carlow (wonderful space).

Sadly now however, looking back to the St. Patrick's Day Special on Dance in Ireland on RTE's The History Show with Myles Dungan, featuring a conversation between Barbara O'Connor, Diarmaid Ferriter and myself interspersed with excerpts from my 2004 radio series "Nice Moves", and interviews I set up for the show with Ann Fryer/Walsh (on her time as a pupil of Erina Brady in the 1940s) - little did we know that the great Percy Lovegrove's upbeat and heartfelt contribution to the show on the joys of ballroom dancing in 1940s and 1950s Dublin would be his last public address.   Percy, author of An Auld Cockle Picker (for which I was honoured to contribute the foreword on his late wife, Abbey School of Ballet original Doreen Cuthbert in 2008), has sadly passed away at the age of 93.

Percy generously and enthusiastically shared part of his extraordinary life story with me in my 2011 BAI-funded radio documentary "Doreen - Telling the Dancer from the Dance", about the achievements of his late wife Doreen, and her first-hand reminiscences of WB Yeats, NInette de Valois, Lennox Robinson, et al, and their subsequent life in Kenya, broadcast on RTE Lyric FM.  You can listen back here:

I was extremely fortunate to get to know Percy and Doreen, to become their friend, to be regaled and entertained by their extraordinary life experiences, to have their encouragement and support, and to learn from their words of wisdom.  Undoubtedly, discovering and getting to know one-of-a-kind people like Doreen and Percy, is one of the perks of being a dance historian and documentary maker, that make the precarity of this freelance endeavour worthwhile.  I am grateful for all the inspiration Percy gave me which I will carry forward.  If I get anywhere near his 93 years, I'll be doing well.  Any of us will.  May the extraordinary auld cockle picker rest in peace. 
Percy chatting with Wendy in front of his book display at Sweny's

Sunday, April 27, 2014

POW WOW No. ONE in Super 8 Festival at Block T, May 3rd.

Meditation in Super 8 on Childhood in a Beautiful Place, in a Small Community, in North Ontario.

I've been taping some memory reels together with F8 S automatic klebepresse - here's a picture of the machine, which I employed for the job, with a little help from Dennis Kenny of the upcomimg Super 8 Festival at Block T this Saturday May 3rd [info below]:

This is a project that has been on my mind for some time now.  In 2008 I made the [BCI-funded, broadcast on Newstalk] radio documentary "Ogoki - Call of the Wild", about bringing my mother back to Ogoki Post First Nations Reservation in North Ontario where, together with my Dad, they ran the local school in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  I was with them in Cat Lake and Ogoki Post for one year each, respectively, before I was sent back to school in Ireland.
Class Picture, Cat Lake: My Mum the teacher, right; brother Patrick, bottom right; Darragh, on steps with arm in cast; me in the middle.

My Dad started filming with Super 8, and dabbling in the DIY art of photography in the late 1960s. Inspired by photography enthusiast draft dodgers he encountered when he first moved to Toronto [from Limerick] in the late 1960s, he acquired quite a kit, some of which he bought from them.  The [Vietnam War] dodgers had their own dark room equipment, and were very into the alchemy of photography.  My dad photographed us as kids with a Yashica Mat, and filmed with Super 8.  He continued this after the move up to isolated, seldom-seen First Nations Reservations in North Ontario, but unfortunately all the film went MIA, with all the to-ing and fro-ing back and forth from Toronto to Shannon. 
Hanging out with our First Nations friends in Cat Lake.

One year ago however, after an illness in the family brought about a clear-out of one ancestral home, lo and behold two big bags of super 8 turned up.  Hooray! [Also the relative recovered well, you will be glad to know].

Thanks to Dennis Kenny, who helped me to tape together a selection of three of the reels of our recovered memory, opening a window into a seldom seen world, they will be screened at the Super 8 Festival in Block T this coming Saturday, May 3rd.  I have selected an excerpt of my radio documentary "Ogoki - Call of the Wild" to accompany, along with a track from Boards of Canada - "A Small Community in a Beautiful Place out in the Country".

You will hear about Charlie Wenjack, in Ian Adams' watershed Macleans Magazine article, as read by actor Pat Laffan.   Charlie's sister, Pearl Achneepineshkum will recount her experiences of the tragedy from the family's point of view.  My Mum, Ogoki school principal of the time, Sheila and I listen in stunned silence.  Kids (including my pale face brothers) slide down, playing chicken at the frozen edge of the river Albany.  There is dancing (guaranteed).  There is boating and fishing in Cat Lake.  It's a steely and truthful meditation on childhood in a small community in a beautiful place.

Hopefully opening a door to a new documentary project, which will be a collaboration between me and my Dad's recovered footage of yore.  Please come and tell me your thoughts. I would love to hear them.

POW WOW no. ONE is in the mixtapes section early in the day. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"WB Yeats: Words for Music Perhaps" Radio Documentary series being re-broadcast on April 4th and 11th on RTE Lyric FM

My two part, BAI-funded radio documentary series “WB Yeats: Words for Music Perhaps”, shining light on the great Nobel Laureate’s complex and fascinating relationship to music, will be re-broadcast on RTE Lyric FM in the Lyric Feature slot on consecutive Fridays, April 4th, and April 11th, at 7pm. 

The first programme takes us on a unique sonic journey to ponder WB Yeats and his musical experiments, collaborations (from Elgar to Harry Partch), and theories during his own lifetime.  What was the great poet hearing in his inner ear?  DIT [Dublin Institute of Technology] Conservatory of Music record scores WB Yeats himself commissioned for his Plays for Dancers, from little known composers Walter Morse Rummel and Edmond Dulac, which are heard here for the first time ever. We learn about how the obscure Walter Morse Rummel met WB Yeats in esoteric London circles, and how their collaboration came about.   The first musicians ever to perform and record Rummel’s score for “The Dreaming of the Bones”, the DIT Conservatory musician-researchers share their insights into and experience of Yeats’s musicality or lack thereof. Yeatsian experts enlighten us on his theories, revealing that WB Yeats never allowed his composer/collaborators to have their own voice.  His words ruled supreme. Yeats was considered to be tone deaf by many, or at least tuned in to an “alternative” scale, as we hear in a rare BBC recording in which the poet himself sings out of tune.  Interweaving rare recordings of WB Yeats himself, we hear how towards the end of his life, the exciting new medium of radio revived his interest in and enthusiasm for, the bardic arts.  This Yeatsian sonic journey highlights how Yeats’s late radio recordings rhyme in with his early sonic experiments with Florence Farr in “Speaking to the Psaltery”, informed by the great poet’s utopian desire to bring about a democratic “magical revolution” across all echelons of society.  

Programme One is narrated by Tom Hickey, and features DIT Conservatory of Music musicians Cliona Doris (Harp and Arrangements), Tom Doorley (Irish flute), Noel Eccles (Percussion), Julie Maisel (Classical Flute), David Scott (Singer), Arun Rao (Cello), and sound recordist Ben Rawlins; "Everlasting Voices" team William Brooks (Composer), Nuala Hayes (Auto-harp), and Paul Roe (Clarinet)as well as contributions by Ron Schuchard, Margaret Mills Harper, Declan Kiberd, Harry White, Emilie Morin, and the voice of WB Yeats himself.   

The second programme explores contemporary musical interpretations of WB Yeats’s words, free of his own strictures and dicta, by great Irish composer Bill Whelan, and top Irish contemporary classical composer, Donnacha Dennehy.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Professor JW Flannery directed a rare season of Yeats plays at Dublin’s Abbey theatre, which WB Yeats helped to found.  We get a rare glimpse into Flannery’s creative process with the then fledgeling composer Bill Whelan, as they reminisce on those groundbreaking productions in an intimate and unguarded conversation, interwoven with excerpts of Whelan’s scores.  Actress Olwen Fouere shares her extraordinary approach to reciting Yeats’s verse in Flannery’s productions.  Whelan admits this is where he learned his metier as a theatre composer, and that his world-renowned score for Riverdance grew out of these Yeats productions.  Donnacha Dennehy finally lets us in on his journey to composing music for Ireland’s most iconic poet, from young grad student in the USA to his recent exquisite and accomplished settings of Yeats poems for soprano Dawn Upshaw in "Gra agus Bas".

Programme Two is narrated by myself, and features Bill Whelan, Jim Flannery, Olwen Fouere, and Donnacha Dennehy, as well as Yeats compositions by Whelan, Dennehy, and a tiny snippet of Sean Millar (for a Brokentalkers Yeats project that is in development), the voice of WB Yeats from the BBC archives, a hint of Harry Partch, and others, related to the story.

Producer: Deirdre Mulrooney
Writer/Researcher: Deirdre Mulrooney
Sound Supervision: John Davis
Commissioning Editor for RTE Lyric FM: Olga Buckley

Liaison Producer/ Technical Support: Eoin O’Kelly

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Special on Irish Dancing on RTE Radio One's History Show

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was in fine company yesterday on Myles Dungan's "History Show" on RTE Radio One, with Barbara O'Connor (author of The Irish Dancing), Diarmaid Ferriter (author of Sin, Sexuality and Society), Percy Lovegrove (Author of An Auld Cockle Picker, husband of the late Doreen Cuthbert), and Ann Fryer-Walsh (1940s Modern Dancer, who still teaches keep fit classes at the League of Health), for a St. Patrick's Day Irish Dancing Special!  We covered everything from the origin of dance in Ireland, whether there was ever a word, or a need for a word for it, to the weirdness of competition Irish dancing, to the ballroom of romance, to the glimmer of hope that was Erina Brady's Modern Dance in Emergency Dublin, to Riverdance.

Phew.  It was a Dance Talk Marathon!  You can listen back by clicking here:

They also wrote a nice blog about it on the show's website.

In other news, WB Yeats: Words for Music Perhaps is being re-broadcast on RTE Lyric FM on Friday April 4th at 7pm and Friday April 11th at 7pm in the RTE Lyric Feature slot.  More of which anon.  Have a wonderful day.  Hope you find a nice ceili and kick up your heels! For something totally different, I'm off to "Yoga Stops Traffick" a Mysore style yoga class run by musician yogis John and Suzanne Brennan to raise money to help prevent child trafficking in India. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Patrick Scott and the Dancers

What is this - a Bottle and Pyjama Party?  A gathering of cool 1940s Bohemians in Georgian Dublin, smoke, drink, chat, crouch on the floor – and behold a young woman in full flight, dancing. Some are perched on the windowsill, others lean against the mantelpiece, one plays guitar. Pause, rewind. Hm.

Bottle & Pyjama Party?  Recognise Anyone?  Is that Lennox Robinson with the glasses to stage right?

This 1940s photograph in “Golden Boy”, Se Merry Doyle's documentary about the extraordinary opus of artist Patrick Scott, sets all the Modern Dance bells off in my head.  Could that dancer be Jacqueline Robinson - Bohemian refugee, and protégée of Irish-German Modern Dance pioneer Erina Brady?  

Jacqueline Robinson in "The Hooded Lover"
Trying to piece together a lost jigsaw of Modernism in 1940s Dublin, I write to Patrick Scott, Ireland’s greatest living artist, enclosing several images of modern dancers in Emergency Dublin, lovingly preserved in a French Dance Archive.

In one, the mysterious Erina Brady, in her trademark black beret and leopard skin coat, founder of “Irish School of Dance Art” at 39 Harcourt Street, is deep in conversation with Irish-Hungarian Basil Rakoczi at a 1943 Dublin Art Exhibition. Patrick Scott had his first exhibition with Rakoczi’s White Stag Art Group – Bohemian refugee artists and pacifists who fled to neutral Ireland during World War Two.

Fast forward : my phone rings. Unbelievably the 92 year old Patrick Scott himself is on the line, saying yes, that’s who you say it is, in the photograph.  And yes, he knew all the people I mention in my letter.

I’m invited over to the enchanted world of what he calls his “tumble down stables”, a charming mews in Ballsbridge. His assistant Tom, who coincidentally is a contemporary dancer, leads me up a spiral staircase to meet the great artist, who I find smiling, on his chaise longue, wrapped in a blanket, in the fading February afternoon light.  This being Dublin, I offer a few stories of people we know in common and of a St Patrick’s weekend in his Blessington Cottage, praising especially his exquisite sunken Japanese bath.  “Did you sit there in the sun?” he wants to know, letting me in on its lovely raison d’etre.

Outside, light falls as 1940s Bohemian Dublin reflects from my laptop into Pat Scott’s eyes, widening now with reminiscence. Tardis-like, we travel 70 years back, to 1940s Dublin, arriving with an “Oh, yes”, of fond recognition for the “lots of interesting people” stranded here during the war years.  Pat’s friends.  From Margot Moffett, to Erina Brady, and most importantly, those masters of self-invention, the White Stags, he recalls them all as “a breath of fresh air”.

Patrick Scott chatting to Basil Rakoczi and Kenneth Hall.  Nick Nicholls and Maurice Craig in the background.

How did it start? Well, one day, he simply walked into the “White Stag Gallery”, and lo and behold, there was Basil Rakoczi. Though “Benny”, as he was known to his friends “had the hots for him”, it was Kenneth Hall, who died young in 1945 that Pat refers to as his “special friend”.  His eyes well up a little as he points to Hall’s painting “Apres la Guerre”, that still hangs within his eye line, seven decades on.

Basil Rakoczi and Kenneth Hall

It was Rakoczi, who also started his own “Society for Creative Psychology” in Dublin, who brought Pat to watch the “formidable” Erina Brady, teaching class in her studio.  Pat shares an indelible image of her 1941 Mansion House debut - Erina on all fours hammering jutting nails into the stage before she could start her barefoot dance. He gasps at the recent news update that her father was a priest.

Surprisingly, Brady’s Mary Wigman style dancing wasn’t Pat’s first encounter with Modern Dance. Fresh up from Cork to study architecture at UCD, Pat the 19 year old suddenly found himself among German Modern Dancers at a party in Dublin Service Apartments – where he had found temporary digs. Proving that to every cloud there is indeed a silver lining, these fine Ballets Jooss dancers were stuck here for three weeks with their anti-war epic “The Green Table” when war broke out.

The Green Table by The Ballets Jooss

Avoiding the war too, were movers and shakers Cork-born architect Noel Moffett and his Malawi-born, Scottish wife, Margot.  They ran the 1945 TB exhibition at the Mansion House, including Erina Brady’s TB ballet.  When they split, Margot became a Modern Dancer. Pat tells me Margot kept in touch even after she moved to India where her ashes were eventually sprinkled in the Ganges.

The Voyage of Maeldune, chor. by Erina Brady (1946) L-R: ?, June Fryer, Jacqueline Robinson, and Margot Moffett. 

Another good friend Liam O Laoghaire, whose Film Society he says was the only show in town for Dublin’s many artists and intellectuals, made 1943 film “Dance School”, in barter with Erina Brady.  Pat remembers..
Margaret Becker in "Dance School" (1943), directed by Liam O Laoghaire

This being the dawn of the motor car, Pat bought composer Brian Boydell’s Ford Lancia, and they were all in awe of the Hempel’s wheels, which architect Michael Scott gleefully acquired when the German Legation left Dublin after the war.
A Ford Lancia

What a milieu.

Pat was good to vouch for his dancing friends, despite his frail state. However, I only heard of his own dancing style at his sadly suddenly posthumous IMMA exhibition “Image, Space, Light” when his husband Eric described Pat’s “dancing for joy” in an “all over dancing style in which he moved every single muscle of his body”. His friends, the dancers, would like that.  
Patrick Scott & Yours Truly, in his studio, February 6th, 2013.
 The above radio essay was broadcast on RTE Sunday Miscellany today.  We were extremely lucky to have the great Patrick Scott, RIP, contribute to TG4 documentary "Damhsa na hEigeandala" last February 6th (when I insisted on getting the above photo taken, on my iphone).  I was lucky enough to enjoy a few chats with him reminiscing over his Bohemian friends and milieu from 1940s Dublin.  I'll be back in touch when I have a broadcast date for the documentary!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Notes, Thoughts and Impressions from the 55th Venice Biennale

Before we move on to 2014, I'd like to catch you up on my wonderful November trip to catch the end of the Venice Biennale (First published on  I didn't get a chance to write it up until just before New Year's Eve, due to finishing off the radio projects, and more intense editing of the TG4 documentary, which is hopefully "coming soon" - I'll keep you posted.  But how is the following for some new year inspiration?  Bonne Annee to you dear reader! Here's to more great and inspiring adventures in 2014 :-)
From the minute I read Waldemar Januscak’s article in Sunday Times Culture Magazine in May about the weirdo line-up this year, I knew I had to get there.  The 2013 Venice Biennale had me firmly in its grip.  At the time I was toiling on my WB Yeats Radio series [see previous two VULGO posts], and immediately thought how relevant the magical, obsessive oddball themes were to WB Yeats.  Plus – if not now – when?  Who knows where we’ll all be in 2015…  [The Aer Lingus direct flight was reasonable too, at €130 return].
Appropriately drenched in the subconscious material of endless Venetian WATER, the Venice Biennale is the most important art exhibition in the world, involving 88 countries, and sets the tone in the art world for the next two years.
So, the curator must aspire to the role of diviner.  Utopian Venice, floating in so much water that you have to either board bus-boats (vaporettos), or swim to simply get from A to B, is the perfect hostess for this dreamy metaphor. 
Forget “subtext”.  This Biennale’s curator Massimiliano Gioni dredged up the subconscious, and even the unconscious from the substrata where they usually skulk, [low-key but volcanic], into the forefront of our awareness.  Where does art come from?  This was flagged unambiguously right from the first portal as he inserted Swiss psychotherapist Karl Gustav Jung’s extraordinary “Red Book”,  strategically at the entrance to the Giardini [strongly] suggesting the frame in which everything was best considered. Pages of Jung’s private illustrated manuscript glowed in lowly-lit glass cases.  Like Turner Watercolours at National Gallery of Ireland, we were requested not to photograph them however.  The famous psychotherapist’s drawings depicted self-induced visions and fantasies he had worked on privately for over 16 years. This was Jung’s debut in the art world as Gioni juxtaposed his little known Red Book with works of contemporary art for the first time ever – inviting a meditation on inner images and dreams throughout the entire exhibition.
Just to add an Irish twist here - while this sounds joyous indeed, it perhaps wouldn’t have been to the delight of Lucia Joyce, who got on notoriously with Jung when she was his patient.  Her famous father didn’t exactly click with Jung either. [This is on my mind as I have just read Carol Loeb Schloss’s biography “To Dance in the Wake”].  The Joyce’s might wonder, as Olwen Fouere [the only Irish artist who featured in Gioni’s selection – in “Camillo’s Idea” by Aurelien Froment at the Arsenale] did, why Aran Island visitor Antonin Artaud [esoteric and theatrical visionary who was deported from Ireland in a strait jacket in 1937] or WB Yeats weren’t featured more, or indeed at all? In another incidence of Jungian synchronicity (or even just "plane" old synchronicity), Fouere, who I was lucky enough to collaborate with on the aforementioned Yeats radio documentaries, and a forthcoming TG4 documentary on Erina Brady shot last May, happened to be on the same flights to and from Venice to Dublin with me.  But I digress.
While an adjacent room to Jung's Red Book housed Art Deco Tarot Cards by “the wickedest man in the world” Aleister Crowley and his partner Frieda Harris, the main thoroughfare led through to a large, bright room adorned with philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s famous blackboards, ‘mystic outpourings’ that were an obvious major influence on Joseph Beuys. A manifestation of philosopher as artist trying to explain the universe to us “the blackboard diagrams of Rudolf Steiner feverishly relate the idealist dream of grasping and conveying the universe as a whole”.  But does Steiner, founder of the Steiner School system qualify as an artist? If so, it must be in the Beuysian sense that everyone is an artist.  The definition of an artist was very blurry in this exhibition. 
Even the line between journalism and art was blurred, for example in the Iraqi Pavillion Jamal Penjweny’s deeply poignant documentary film ‘Another Life’ which tells the story of Kurdish traders eking out a terrifying sub-existence smuggling alcohol from Iraq to the Iranian border on donkeys.  But I digress again.  The Venice Biennale is like that – as labyrinthine and easy to get lost in as the inner ear of Venice itself. 
Back to Steiner, whose blackboards were also the backdrop for Tino Senghal’s fairly forgettable installation [at least I have forgotten it already].  Steiner was a Theosophist, an organisation you may be familiar with thanks to its founder “Madam Blavatsky”, as championed by our own WB Yeats, AE, and other lesser known figures in their esoteric circle. Dreams, hallucinations, and visions.  Where do they come from?   Incidentally, Steiner was not only a Theosophist, he was also an Anthroposophist (I invite you to google that term).  So you can imagine how a sense of cosmic awe permeated the whole Exhibition – like a shimmery reflection of the spooky and marvelous city of Venice itself. 
Of course there is nothing like a random encounter to remind you of the everyday nature of the theories being put forward by Steiner, Gioni, et al.  Jungian synchronicity, for example.  When I was diligently photographing Rudolf Steiner’s blackboards (for later scrutiny), I heard a voice behind me.  “You seem very interested in those”. 
“Oh yes, I am” I replied.  I turned towards the source of this voice for a chat, and as the conversation went on I became more and more sure that this was a Dublin accent I was hearing. Indeed it was. This voice was from Cabra, no less.  Seamus Hughes introduced himself as dancer/choreographer/artist, originally from Dublin but now residing in Switzerland.  He had his own dance company in Australia for over a decade, trained with (Abbey School of Ballet- trained) Des Domican in Dublin, because he was good at lifting girls, and ultimately got a scholarship to London.  He then went on to dance in the Geneva Ballet.  What are the chances? This encounter could have been part of the exhibition!  We discussed the outsider theme of the exhibition, and Seamus [Jim] Hughes declared himself happily to be an outsider where the Irish art scene is concerned - though he did speak highly of the late Dorothy Walker, who introduced him to Joseph Beuys in the 1970s. 
Here is a picture I took of the same Seamus Hughes in the Giardini, though really I should have taken his picture in the Rudolf Steiner room just to get the background absolutely right. 
Seamus was keen to get involved with the Tino Senghal performers in their performance, and when I heard that, well, I let him to it and proceeded to the next room, which contained the work of the extraordinary Swiss artist Emma Kunz.  Seamus, who is also now a qualified practitioner of Bert Hellinger’s Family Constellations Therapy [chiming perfectly with the exhibition], highly recommended her.
Swiss Emma Kunz [1892 – 1963], believed that her drawings, as products of “the most profound interiorisation of the outward and the purest exteriorisation of the inward”, allowed her to discern and transform negative energy.  
Kunz practiced “healing art” and certainly is a manifestation of what French philosopher Bernard Stiegler termed  “Artist as therapist” at a recent talk run by Gradcam at DIT Mountjoy Square. 
To give you an idea of what I am talking about, here is an excerpt of her biog, as presented alongside her geometric drawings at the Giardini:
“Born into a family of impoverished weavers, Emma Kunz became aware that she possessed paranormal abilities – telepathy, extrasensory perception, and healing powers – when she was just a child.  During her school years she developed an interest in radiesthesia, a form of divination that uses energy fields, and began to draw extensively in her notebooks.  It was not until 1939 however that she began her healing practice, and began to make elaborate geometric drawings in pencil and colour crayon on millimetre graph paper.  Guided by a pendulum, Kunz produced each work in a single session, sometimes working continuously for more than 24 hours.  Despite their aesthetic appeal, Kunz’s drawings were not meant to function as art.  Rather, they were an integral part of her healing rituals, in which she would lay the drawings on the floor between herself and her patient in order to divine energy disruptions”.
[hats off to the great illuminating, enlightening and very well written programme notes throughout the exhibition]. 
For me, the piece de resistance that still has me thinking, has to be “387 houses by Peter Fritz”, the Arsenale installation of unknown Austrian insurance clerk Peter Fritz’s model buildings – found in 1993 meticulously wrapped in black garbage bags in a junk shop.  And here they are in all their glory for the world, and its mother, to behold in the Venice Biennale, curated by Oliver Croy (the artist who found them), and architect Oliver Esler.  Little is known of Fritz [1916 – 1992] himself, but his exquisite model buildings, which never saw an exhibition spotlight during his lifetime bear testament to his extraordinary unheralded talent – and what some would term his obsession. Art to some, obsession to others.  The moral of this?  Keep going to junk shops, keep making art in your garage, and keep hoarding.  Much of Gioni’s line-up rang to me of a glorious paean to hoarding.  I grew up with hoarders, and I’m not sure if I should tell them about this.  [Stop reading, Mum!] Does this mean they were right all along?  Must get in touch with Gioni who boasts his selection is “idiosyncratic, obsessive, and motivated by the same desire to catalogue the world around us that led aristocratic collectors to keep cabinets of curiosities in centuries gone by”, celebrating “the human imagination as a wild, untameable beast.” Meanwhile, over at the Arsenale, the Encylcopedic Palace itself, by Italian émigré to the US Marino Auriti was also never seen in his lifetime, though he patented it, and had high expectations of world domination. I love the purity of basing this entire exhibition around a person who by many standards would be considered to be a “failure”.  As Beckett put it, “Fail again, Fail better”. Well Auriti certainly is failing better here at the entrance to the Arsenale, having this great world exhibition named after his "failed" vision. 
My thoughts meandered.  Hm, might Marino Auriti’s 1955 notion of The Encyclopedic Palace be like that of VULGO’s utopian founder Charles Wilson Peale [pictured in "The Artist in his Own Museum", right, on the main VULGO page] and his utopian [albeit realised] Philadelphia Museum?  Hmm, perhaps.  At least the similarities outweigh the dissimilairities. 
The curator, Massilmiliano Gioni offers guidance:
“Auriti’s [utopian] plan was never carried out, of course, but the dream of a universal, all-embracing knowledge crops up throughout the history of art and humanity, as one that eccentrics like Auriti share with many other artists, writers, scientists, and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried – often in vain – to fashion an image of the world that will capture its infinite variety and richness.  Today, as we grapple with a constant flood of information, such attempts seem even more necessary and even more desperate”. 
Once you've passed that Palazzo, toying so mercilessly with our desire, and indeed our expectation to know everything [especially now, in the age of the internet] it's just a matter of time before Gioni's onslaught - films, photographs, videos, archives, bestiaries, labyrinths, performances, installations - renders you delirious!  Or speechless.
It's actually impossible to really see everything, let alone to catalogue it, so I'm not even going to try.  After Auriti's "failed" Palazzo, Robert Crumb’s Genesis, and a series of more than 40 black-and-white photographs taken by JD ‘Okhai Ojeikere recording fluctuating fashions in the hairstyles of Nigerian women from the Sixties to today. Even at this early point in the Arsenale the dizziness was beginning to set in. 

Here is Steve McQueen, in his anthropological slideshow presentation:
There is the spellbinding and exhilarating archive rap “Grosse Fatigue” by Camille Henrot (Paris, 1978):
Lots of Archive work and research throughout…
16mm projectors and record players…
The Arsenale was populated with artists who were charming characters too.  For example, overlooked parachutist and aerial photographer Edward Spetterini [1852 - 1931], whose beautiful black and white clouds were given an airing:
 A charismatic multi-lingual performer, Spetterini presented his balloon expeditions through state of the art slideshows.  By 1928 however, he had already become an anachronism and died in obscurity.  Technology overtook him and left him behind.Until 55th Venice Biennale! [Does this sound like a potential movie script to you?]
Also there was genteel Eliot Porter - Harvard lecturer turned photographer who began photographing when he received a present of a Brownie in 1921. 
The other claptrap art work that stopped me in my tracks, and still has me espousing its virtues, was that of Brasilian Arthur Bispo di Rosário [1910 – 1989], who believed he had been called upon by God to inventory the world. It was thrilling to see what closely resembled a shopping trolly you might see a homeless person pushing around with all their worldly possessions on it vindicated as “high art”. 
Rosario made his opus obsessively, in preparation for Judgment Day during his five decades in Rio de Janeiro Psychiatric Hospital. In case that makes you as curious as it did me, here is a very short excerpt of “Prisoner of Passage” by Hugo Denizart, a documentary about Rosario shown recently  at V & A Museum: 
The Prisoner of Passage [extract] - video documentary by Hugo Denizart from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.
 Incidentally, keeping on an Irish theme, I reckon someone like Mark Patrick Hederman [Abbot of Glenstaal Abbey], would dig this exhibition, its celebration of the unconscious, and the myriad of ways artists find to tune into that vast reservoir.  [Check out his interesting book “Tarot: Talisman or Taboo'].  You may think this stuff is “heathen”, but according to Hederman, it isn’t. 
And here, from Kilkenny, via Konrad’s Heart of Darkness, The Congo, beautifully shot in infared military film, Richard Mosse doing us proud at The Enclave:
The stills were stunningly beautiful – we have seen them before at Photoireland Festival.  But the film installation on several screens, synchronised with exquisite dramaturgy, with killing, guerilla soldiers posing, and innocent children dancing was hard-core.  A C-section at the end was most visceral of all.  Like the aforementioned Iraqi film, this blurred boundaries between current affairs and art, giving us a window into a never-seen world.  But how did this camera get so intimate, win such embedded access with these most outside of all outsiders I wonder?  

The Enclave was the talk of the international press, including the Guardian newspaper, and deservedly so. 
There was undeniable magic too, albeit “British Magic” in Jeremy Deller’s multi-room left wing extravaganza at the British Pavillion over at the Giardini.  What had this London born, 47 year old winner of 2004 Turner Prize to offer? 
Well, after being welcomed by a domineering British Harrier Falcon with his wings magnificently outstretched, I walked through rooms with several photographs of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust phase, one of “Londonderry”
– in the same series; a very British film featuring freemasons and British blah blah etc, was offered British tea [civilised], and a mural featuring the mighty William Morris,
for all the world like Big Jim Larkin [who was, after all, from Liverpool] throwing a boat at Roman Abramovic’s obnoxious superyacht which was audaciously and shamelessly moored in the canale at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
On the facing wall, there were the archaeological remnants of the great socialist revolutionary Morris's very democratic printing plates, designed for deliciously egalitarian mass consumption;
something about roubles and framed archive Russian currency on the adjacent wall. 
In the final room, true to Morris's philosophy, you were democratically offered to ink up and print your own original print [hand-made by yourself!  Everyone an artist! of the same Abramovic meets Thor moment on the way out.  How amazing was that?  Well, I have to admit – it really was quite amazing. 
Personally, especially by the end of day three, my head spinning from all the art, I was definitely receiving some messages.  Hearing voices.  Someone was channelling something, for sure.  I had to get out of there. 
What I needed was a magic moment of ethereal calm: this came, as if someone had waved a magic wand, in the form of a small white boat drifting slowly across the final harbour of the Arsenale bearing a crew of musicians playing a graceful lament by the Icelandic composer Kjartan Sveinsson. Icelanic fishing boat, "SS Hangover".  It returned and departed endlessly, even into the mists of November, long after all the super-yachts had departed, playing Sveinsson's music at the end of the Arsenale.  Gorgeous. 
I have heard lots of references to the main themes of this year’s Biennale at various art talks since my return from Venice.  And that was only one month ago. That word “the uncanny” keeps popping up.  As well as “outsider”.  Listen out - you will hear them pop up again and again too.  So watch out for this Zeitgeist, it’s blowing your way from this great Venetian Lagoon of the Unconscious.
And one caveat, just as the conscious in relation to the unconscious, what you read here is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg.  I would safely say that this was the most inspiring exhibition I have ever been to. I hope I have given you some idea of what you missed!!!!
 Here are a few more exhibitions and artists of note.  I heard of more, eg Corin Sworn at the Scottish Pavillion from others who got to things I didn't make it to.  You catch things on the wind like that.  And then look them up online - our own private flatscreen encyclopedic palace.  If you want to know more email me and I may give you a private consultation with mini-ipad images.
·       Dorothea Tanning (1910 – 2012): “Self Portrait”
·           Sarah Lucas - looks like a difficult yoga pose to get out of!
·       Mother obsessed garage-artist Achilles G Rizzolli (1896 – 1981) lived at home with his mother, drew cathedrals, drafted symbolic buildings “YTTE” [Yield to Total Elation]:
Kohei Yoshiyuki “ThePark”, 1971 – 1979: covertly photographing voyeurs of sexual trysts [and the trysts] with infared film and a modified flash.  Hm what does that make him?
·       Eva Kotatkova, “Asylum”, 2013
·       Shinichi Sawada (Japan 1982) suffers from severe autism.  Ancient primitive art meets masks of Noh theatre meets Manga cartoons?
·       Danh Vo (1975, Vietnam), Cultural Anthropologist & Family Historian: imported remains of colonial era Catholic Church.  Imperialism as a war of dreams; colonisation of myth & imagination
       Cindy Sherman - but I'm now delirious and drifting into the obvious.
 "Venetians" at the Arsenale, by Pawel ...
Real Venetians at Maria dell Saluti Festival
The exquisite, immersive Korean Pavillion was the perfect place to end.  "To Breathe".  Phew.
Deirdre Mulrooney
Post-script: As far as I can deduce, the Biennale never stops.  Even en route to the airport at Lido Vaporetto stop in the height of low season, I ran into two Swedish artists - Carl Michael Von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren - who had just been to Lazarus Island where they staged an art event to coincide with the end of the Biennale.  They had also held a beach party art event to coincide with the opening on Lido Beach.  It just consisted of eating, drinking, and having a good time, talking to people.  Lazarus Island, they told me had been a leper colony, and was also Armenian speaking.  Lord Byron had gone there to learn Armenian.  Carl Michael Von Hausswolff had been to Limerick, where he was a featured artist in EVA many years ago, and would love to come back to Dublin. That's the sort of place Venice is I guess.
But right now I've got to go and get a life [get out of my garage or equivalent] and go to a party here in Dublin!  Allow me to make my excuses [for any imperfections in these notes], and leave... And incidentally congratulations if you have read this far!