Ruth Clinton and Niamh Moriarty / Latitudes

The Pilgrim

Throughout 2023, Barcelona and Askeaton

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“The Pilgrim” was a pilot exchange programme linking Barcelona with Askeaton in southwest Ireland, Latitudes with the organisation Askeaton Contemporary Arts, and Irish artists Ruth Clinton & Niamh Moriarty with Catalan artist Eulàlia Rovira. Throughout 2023, artist residencies and a public programme enhanced new artistic and curatorial research, and created new possibilities for international collaboration.

“The Pilgrim”’s curatorial framework derived from an extraordinary story from over two centuries ago. It is recalled that a Barcelona merchant named Don Martínez de Mendoza, one of the wealthiest men in Catalonia during the mid-1700s, murdered his son-in-law to avenge the death of his daughter in childbirth in a Barcelona convent years before. Don Martínez ended up living his last sixteen years as a pilgrim in penance in Askeaton's Franciscan friary, in County Limerick. A cryptic inscription can still be found in the cloister of the friary: “Beneath lies the Pilgrim’s Body, who died January 17, 1784”.

Latitudes learned about the existence of this local legend when visiting Askeaton in 2018 and were captivated by understanding how its details might match the historical reality in Barcelona. The tale points to little-known histories of cultural connections, and emotional ties between two distinct places of very different scales. “The Pilgrim” developed in an open-ended way through a shared approach to research and practice, storytelling and performativity, and an understanding of the existing dynamics of place. What can twenty-first-century curators and artists learn from each other, as well as from the navigators, pirates and economies that once linked Spain with Ireland during the last centuries? How can we (re)discover the role that place twinning has historically played in civic and cultural life?

In May 2023, Clinton & Moriarty spent two weeks in Barcelona developing new research around relics, rubbings and translation. In August, Rovira paid her first visit to Askeaton where she became captivated by the rapid tide of the river Deel as it runs through the town, and reflected on the human and natural engineering of the Shannon Estuary – canal locks, hydroelectric power stations and numerous bridges.

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