Tolka Nights was a series of public events that took place in three distinct sites along the river Tolka, Ireland over three consecutive nights in September of 2015. The events comprised sound, film, performance and discussion, and explored the river’s significance as an ecosystem, to communities, to diverse histories, and to regional and national current affairs.
Tolka Nights emerged through the individual and collaborative practice of six artists brought together specifically for the commission: Matt Green, Sven Anderson, John D’Arcy, Jennie Guy, Conan McIvor and Stuart Sloan. The events contained both solo work by all the artists and activity designed and developed as a collective.
The three events were the outcome of the artist group’s extended engagement with the river Tolka. In the months prior to the events, the artist group combed local libraries and media archives, and consulted with the river’s residents, users and maintainers. Some members of the group focused on documenting the river through audio and video recording, while others carried out song-writing and rehearsal sessions at the river’s banks, or investigated sites along the river as settings for experimental films.
The ‘documentary’ section of this website comprises an audiovisual account of the three events and a separate account of the artist group’s work and activity leading up to these events. The ‘event film’ section comprises a series of short films made by the artist group, which were produced as part of the Tolka Nights project. These were shown within the second Tolka Nights event. The ‘image’ section gathers together both photos of the Tolka Nights events and of the group’s prior onsite activities, which encompassed the Tolka’s entire course. The ‘credits’ section gives details of the people local to the Tolka who the artist team consulted and who supported and contributed to Tolka Nights.
Tolka Nights was commissioned under the Per Cent for Art Scheme relating to the creation of flood defence systems on the River Tolka in catchment areas across Dublin, Fingal, and Meath. This commission was supported by the Office of Public Works (OPW), Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Meath County Council, and Create. The commission provided a dynamic platform for public art to explore new connections between the river Tolka and the regions surrounding it.
Synopsis of Events
What follows is the original listing for each Tolka Nights Event:
Thursday 10th of September, 2015: Pub Quiz, Audiovisual Works and Hospitality
The opening event of Tolka Nights, held at the Grasshopper Inn, Clonee will be a Tolka Quiz enriched with riverside sounds, images and food inspired by Tolka edibles. The quiz will appeal to both those wanting to test their knowledge of the river and those wanting to learn and experience more of the river in an interactive, sociable setting. Quiz teams can expect rounds such as ‘What’s that Tolka Sound?’ and ‘Tolka or Not Tolka’.
Friday 11th of September, 2015: Screenings and Live Performances
The second event in Tolka Nights will present audiovisual work by the six artists on a full-scale outdoor screen with an immersive sound setup. Video works and live performances will merge over the course of the evening. The event setting is at the riverside deep within the Tolka Valley Park behind the Blanchardstown shopping centre.
Saturday 12th of September, 2015: Symposium and River Amplification
The symposium, to be held at the College of Amenity Horticulture, will reconsider the Tolka Nights project framework by introducing different perspectives concerning the river Tolka and its surroundings, and then by branching out to explore the experiences of artists, curators, and architects whose practice has led to projects executed in similar contexts. Whether they are based on working directly with public art commissions related to flood-defence works, or pursuing other water-based and river-based practices, these presentations form a common ground through a focus on bodies of water as a site of production. The symposium features presentations from: Maryann Harris(IE), Klara Hobza (DE), Karsten Huneck / KHBT (UK/DE), Stephen Hurrel (UK), and Anne Mullee (IE). Huneck and Hurrel will participate in the symposium via Skype. The symposium will be introduced by Ruairí Ó Cuív (Public Art Manager – DCC) and Matthew Jebb (Director – National Botanic Gardens), and moderated by Sven Anderson.
Following the symposium, the evening will shift outside of the college and into the National Botanic Gardens. Complementing the sounds of the Tolka passing through the gardens, the Tolka Nights artists will present a unique sonic intervention, in which the sounds of the river (and of the productions that have emerged in response to it) are arranged within a distributed soundscape, shaped and formed through the participation of the audience. This fragile intervention occupies a marginalised space defined by short-range radio transmission, demanding a constant negotiation of a variety of sources and alluding yet again to the Tolka (or to a more universal river) as a convergence of disparate communities, interests, and ecologies.
Tolka Nights was profiled by Joanne Laws in the November/December 2015 issue of the Visual Artists News Sheet. That article is available here.