IKEA Butter Churn for Gneeveguilla

Artist Name(s) Gareth Kennedy
Artwork title IKEA Butter Churn for Gneeveguilla

Gareth Kennedy's ‘IKEA Butter Churn for Gneeveguilla’ (2011) was a public art commission, curated by Vincent O'Shea for Kerry County Council, which saw the creation of a new fictional custom or ‘folk rite’ for the village of Gneeveguilla (pop. 500), Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Over the summer of 2011, artist Gareth Kennedy worked with the local people of Gneeveguilla to develop and enact an invented tradition for the village, involving the manufacture of a butter churn from an IKEA table and stainless steel shelf.

Drawing on local skill-sets, and the wealth of local lore surrounding butter and its social, cultural and economical capital, every inhabitant (and visitor to the village) was invited to spin the churn during a public event, where a large pat of butter was produced. The butter was later packed into a firkin (also handcrafted from an IKEA table), which was paraded down the village’s only street, and brought to the local bog where it was ceremonially buried, to be preserved as bog butter.

The project was filmed on super8. The finished 8mm film pays tribute to David and Sally Shaw Smith’s seminal film series ‘Hands’, which documented Irish craft traditions for Irish television (RTÉ) during the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. ‘IKEA Butter Churn for Gneeveguilla’ aims to co-opt and transgress the bland aesthetic order of global giant IKEA, and to serve as a celebration of the continuity of people and place, in spite of hard economic times.


Gareth Kennedy (ed.) IKEA Butter Churn for Gneeveguilla, limited edition artists book (cottagelab: Kerry, 2012) ISBN 978-0-9554976-7-4

PDF version is available here


Gareth Kennedy’s work is invested in a socially engaged practice which addresses specific environmental, social, aesthetic and economic concerns within located contexts. Over the last few years, he has been developing an anthropological aesthetic to generate 'folk fictions'. These works draw on the social, cultural and economic history of a people and a place to craft work that is a meaningful composite of these histories. This method has entailed working with such diverse professionals as archaeologists, anthropologists, film archivists, museum directors, folklorists and scientists as well as festival organizers, craftspeople, fishermen and park rangers amongst others. He envisages contemporary art as a powerful mode of generating meaningful new associations within contexts, as well as producing new knowledge through its processes.

Kennedy also works collaboratively with artist Sarah Browne as KennedyBrowne.

Commission Type Local Authority
Commissioner Name Vincent O’Shea, Public Art Adviser, Kerry Co. Council
Commissioning process Two Stage Competition
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Funded By Kerry County Council
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Location House/workshop location: 35 An Paírc (Courtesy of the Brosnan Bros Ltd.)
County Kerry
Town Gneeveguilla
Website www.gkennedy.info/indexhibitv070e/index.php?/projects/ikea-butter-churn-for-gneeveguilla-co-kerry/
Content contributor(s) Web Editor
Public engagement

Gneeveguilla’s inhabitants and visitors

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Carpenter: Martin Ashe

Firkin maker: PJ Lowe

Metal Worker: Jason Kearns

Béan an Tí: Eileen Fleming

Toyota Dyna driver: Timmy Brosnan

Bog Diggers: Tom Hogan & Timothy Daly

Museum Director: Peter Foynes

Super 8 Camera: Gareth Kennedy & Sarah Browne

Stills photography: Sarah Browne, Karl Kennedy & Gareth Kennedy

Event Co-ordinator: Emma Houlihan

House/workshop/location: 35 An Paírc, Gneeveguilla (courtesy of the Brosnan Bros Ltd.)

Transport courtesy of Pat Knee, Gneeveguilla Cream sponsored by Dawn Dairies

Public Art Adviser, Kerry Co. Council: Vincent O’Shea

People in procession:

Eileen Fleming, Oliver Fleming, Martin Ashe, Martin Murphy, Ted O’Connor, Terence O’Connor, Karl Kennedy, Aeneas Seán O’Leary, Óisín O’Leary, Jack O’Leary, Martina O’Connor, Ambrose Donnelly, Charlie Cronin, Tim Looney, Emma Houlihan


  • Flute & Tin Whistle: Joe O’Sullivan
  • Banjo: Ciarán O’Sullivan
  • Concertina: Niamh Dalton
  • Octave Mandolin & Mandolin: Damien Dalton
  • Accordion: Michael Dillane
  • Seán Nós singers: Christie Cronin & Paddy Doyle

Recording: Damien Dalton in Gneeveguilla, Co. Kerry

Music Arrangements: Joe O’Sullivan & Damien Dalton


Authors: Gareth Kennedy, Sunniva O'Flynn (Irish Film Institute), Peter Foynes (Director, Cork Butter Museum) and Pauline Garvey (Anthropology Lecturer, NUI Maynooth)

Design & Production: Peter Maybury

Printers: MM Artbook printing & repro

The artist also wishes to thank:

Martin and Amber Ashe; PJ Lowe; Timmy Brosnan and the Brosnan family; Declan Sheehan of Dawn Dairies; Vincent O’Shea; Sunniva O’Flynn of the Irish Film Institute; Pauline Garvey of NUI Maynooth; Peter Foynes of The Cork Butter Museum; Pat Knee; Ger Buckley of Midleton Whiskey; Karl Kennedy; Emma Houlihane; Sarah Browne; Julien Dorgere of Super 8 Ireland; Damien Dalton, Joe O’Sullivan & the musicians of Slieve Luachra; Patricia O’Hare of Muckross Folk Archive; Maeve Sikora and Finbarr Connolly of the National Museum of Ireland; HBO; Hugo Sahlin of Tilsammens Museum, Sweden; Principal Hugh Ryan & Gneeveguilla 5th Class 2011; Cumann Slieve Luachra; Chris Synnott; Raymonde Hilliard of The Kerry Cattle Society and all the people of Gneeveguilla who helped and participated in the realisation of this work. With special thanks to Eileen Fleming and the Brosnan Bros. Ltd. for their generous support of this project.





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