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Mystical Anarchism

Artist Name(s) Clodagh Emoe
Artwork title Mystical Anarchism
Context/Background Clodagh Emoe's research is centred on the motivation to make manifest the space of the in-between. The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in-between, an moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens. This space outside of time sets aside the quotidian prompting a disengagement of the active, instrumental self. Through the development of the philosophical discourse of aesthetics from the 18th Century onward, these "unbounded" and "unlimited" positions became a site for exploration within art practice. Through Kantian disinterestedness this encounter beyond the utilitarian world of representation was initiated through works of art. The limit situation, as the unsymbolizable reality implicit and occasioned by art is this in-between moment that this transdisciplinary project Mystical Anarchism seeks to initiate.

For this project the philosopher Simon Critchley accepted an invitation to talk about his examination of political resistance maintained by millenarian movements developed in his publication, Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance (2007). Mystical Anarchism deals with Critchley's recent enquiry into the interstitial esoteric activities of the 13th century Beguine nuns and The Movement of the Free Spirit. Critchley observes that the current political circumstance in the West, driven by capitalist liberal democracy, has initiated a resignation of utopian thought and practice. He posits these semi-monastic communities, as socially bound exemplars that enabled a utopian way of being. Critchley focuses on Marguerite Porete's extraordinary book, The Mirror of Simple and Annihilated Souls and Who Remain Only in Wanting and Desire of Love, to explore the means by which the Beguines, positioned in the margins of society and operated outside of the restrictions of the established church. Porete lists the stages that the soul must pass through in order to overcome original sin and recover the perfection that belonged to human beings prior to their corruption by the Fall.

In his writings Critchley notes:"It is only because human beings are defective and imperfect that church and state become necessary. If human beings become free, that is, perfected by overcoming the sin and death that define the post-Lapsarian human condition, then this has dramatic political consequences."

Critchley cites this spiritual socially bound network as model of an anarchist community that operated on an interstitial level and enabled devotees to practice without the hierarchical patriarchy of the church. This movement could be compared to the Communitas, an anthropological term coined by Victor Turner in his magnus opus The Ritual Process (1969) to describe community of equal individuals engendered through confrontative activates that occasion the realm of the 'anti-structure'. In Turner's research, Communitas breaks through the interstices of structure to encounter liminality. This state is achieved through a process of "stripping" the member of his/her social status to achieve inferiority. This "leveling" process appears to flood their subjects with affect and experiences of unprecedented potency (Turner, 2007, p128). Thus communitas is almost everywhere held to be sacred or "holy" possibly because it transgresses or dissolves the norms that govern structured and institutionalized relationships.

Using the ritual noted in anthropology as a strategy to engage with the liminal, Mystical Anarchism forges a link with the theoretical enquiry of the philosopher to the experimental explorations of the artist.


Mystical Anarchism is an experimental project to explore an alternative model to engage with theoretical enquiry using a transdisciplinary approach. Rather than coordinating a lecture in an academic context, Mystical Anarchism seeks to create a more open discourse. This took place using a more informal approach; participants gathered under the night sky on a huge, 17 metre x 7 metre, hand made quilt. The premise of this project was to occasion the limit situation, described above as the in-between, and to enhance esoteric nature of the ideas proposed in the talk.

Participants were unaware of the location for this event and met at 10pm, 2 August, 2009 in Dublin city centre. Staging the event in a secret location at a specific hour was essential for the potential of the experiential. Over 100 participants or passengers (Turner's name for those involved in ritualistic activities) met at 10pm in the city where a scheduled coach will awaited them. On arrival at the upper lake in Glendalough, which was in complete darkness, the participants were met by two figures who silently distributed candles. The participants were guided along the miners path in a procession, and led down to a clearing by the upper lake. Participants sat and reclined on the quilt beneath the canopy of the trees to hear Simon Critchley read his text in the darkness illuminated by his miners lamp.

The secrecy, location and context of this event have similarities with strategies used by movements such as that of the Free Spirit. By staging Simon Critchley's talk in a place associated with spiritual activity, the ideas proposed could be engaged with on a deeper level. Midnight is also significant to this project. Midnight might be understood as a time in-between, marking both end and beginning. Night-time, beyond the realm of the quotidian, has an inherent potential. Having the event at night without disturbance from visitors to this national park underlines the unauthorised nature of this activity. The obscurity of darkness reiterates the ritualistic element to this project and the notion of communitas.

This project was conceptualised by the artist and was realised through the support and assistance of her friends, colleagues, collaborators and, the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media (GradCAM). The project's success was due to the audience made up of over 100 individuals from the cultural, philosophical and wider community who accepted the invitation to participate in the project.


Clodagh Emoe (b. Dublin) is a visual artist based in Dublin. In 2004 she completed a MA (Hons. Distinction) in Fine Art at Chelsea College, London and received a BA (Hons.) in Fine Art Sculpture from NCAD. Recent projects/events include: An Exhibition in Five Chapters, CAC, Vilnius; Come Together, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Somewhere Here, NSCAD, Canada; Precarious Renderings, Market/Glasgow College of Art and Design, Scotland; and Losing Ourselves, a star gazing session in conjunction with I Am Here Somewhere, solo-show at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin. Emoe has undertaken awarded residencies at the Banff Centre, Canada, VCCA, Virginia, US and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). She is currently a member of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios.

Emoe is a research scholar at GradCAM. Mapping the In-Between: The Position of Indeterminacy in Contemporary Art Practice is the working title for her PhD thesis.

Commissioning process Self directed project by Clodagh Emoe
Public Presentation dates August 1, 2009 - August 2, 2009
Partners Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media, GradCAM
Artform Visual Arts,Other
Art Practice Arts and education
Funded By Private,Other
Budget Range 0 - 10000 euro
Location Glendalough
County Wicklow
Town Glendalough
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Content contributor(s) Clodagh Emoe and Simon Critchley
Relationship to project Artists
Public engagement

The audience of approximately 100 people was composed of both invited individuals and respondents to an open invitation on the GradCAM website.

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Simon Critchley, Professor/Head of Philosophy at the New School, New York studioseventyseven photographers
ABGC Architects
Edia Connole, Researcher
Thomas McGrath Lewis and Phil Kelly, film
Cormac Browne, Dan Carvell, Pat Murphy, Aoife Hurley, Ciaran Curtain, Cathy Tynster, Danielle O' Connell, Simon Keating, Mags Fitzgibbon, Justine Emoe and Genny Carraro, logistics
Audrey Emoe, costume
Broughans and CBS coach hire