Skibbereen, Ireland: Bread Matters 17th September 2005
28,000 people died and 8,000 people emigrated from Skibbereen in the Great Famine of 1845 -50. One in three inhabitants of Skibbereen
28,000 from Skibbereen, dying from hunger and disease.
Our Father, Give us this day our daily bread
Dying from hunger; dying in need, dying as a result of a failure to provide.
Give us this day our daily bread; The Law provides for our needs; we demand our rights.
The Irish population fell from 8 million to 4 in the Great Hunger; in the 5 years when the potato crop failed and during the years that followed; when the blight decimated this land; when the British government failed to respond and feed its citizens.
Our Father, give us this day.
The Law fails to distribute justice.
The father fails to meet our desires; our desire to be.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Give us our rights.
Such is the principle of democracy: that all may be equally distributed; the principles of an egalitarian state.
They said it was an act of God; a natural disaster.
No justice for Skibbereen;
A failure to provide.
Half of Ireland’s population dead or emigrated. 4 million. 60% of the population living in abject poverty; owning no land.
We think we have rights.
Give us this day.
The Law fails to meet the needs of the people during the Great Hunger; in fear that the social structure would collapse if they intervened. This long troubled history of Ireland and Britain; this embittered relation between.
‘Revenge for Skibbereen’ they sang, ‘Revenge for Skibbereen’, to demand the displacement of a repressive form of power by one that seeks to provide for the welfare of its subjects. The death of the Father so that the Brothers may distribute fairly. A Fenian demand; ‘Our fair share of Ireland; our fair share of the earth’. (Lalor)
Ownership of the land; a principle of justice. The fundamental basis: to have; to have enough.
Desire seeks satisfaction. The Law distributes what it thinks its citizens should have; the distribution of equality mistakenly an act of repression.
Give us this day.
Soup kitchens, where they came with their rusty tin and iron vessels, some on all fours – these famished beasts. A soup so poor it ran straight through them – no nourishment - though they came to Stream Hill, 9,000 each day. Too little too late. And still they kept taking from this plentiful land; with nothing in return; the ships still took away from those who had produced it. They put the cross on the barrel. Oats, barley, cattle and sheep; boatload after boatload still sailed out of Cork. Only soup in return; too little, too late. A bitter relation; a repressive regime. Land, religion, language all taken. Now lives. An enforced Diaspora, unprecedented in Western Europe.
A natural calamity, an act of God.
Four years of famine; inadequate relief; no justice.
28,000 died here in Skibbereen; a form of Genocide
Give us this day.
Too poor to pay the rent for their Cabins; too weak to cut turf to make a fire; all tools and vessels pawned; seaweed from the shores all boiled and eaten, nothing left. Ravished by cholera, typhus, smallpox, dropsy and consumption too weak to bury their dead. Evicted from their rented land, the coffin ships took even more than those who died of hunger and disease.
2,800 in the Work House at the height of the Famine, built to hold 800; two square feet each; 110 childbearing aged orphaned Skibbereen girls sent to Australia to populate the British colonies.
‘Revenge for Skibbereen’ they sang, ‘Revenge for Skibbereen’
The non-violent call to break the repressive Union of Ireland and Britain, the ‘monster meetings’ attempt a peaceful demand for the repeal the Act of Union of 1800. To break down repression; to disrupt the hierarchies of domination and control that suppress difference in the false proposition that we might all be the same.
A need to confront ideologies that make such disasters possible; this is all our responsibility.
Give us this day our daily bread
To be in a relation one with the other, undoing hierarchies, injustices. Folding and enfolding; one with the other. Like the daily act of making bread. A negotiation; a giving and receiving. Reciprocal. In this act of enfolding, each one affects another, each enters into a composition with each other – something comes between the two – not the same – not a reduction to the same.
So multiplicities are made.
The baker folds the bread. A loving act. A gift. Constantly between.
Everyday we repeat the gestures.
Our Father, Give us this day.
We never complete the task; the task of our own identities; the task of making and re-making ourselves. The task of being artists – a constant negotiation – a doing and an undoing of difference, of repressive power structures, a possibility of being. It is an ethical task which is never complete.
Ever day we attempt to re-negotiate our positions as subjects for which there are no pre-ordained patterns. As artists we attempt to re-negotiate this problematic relation to the self; to attempt strategies and practices of subversive repetition that constitute identity and explore possibilities of contesting them.
Each day we perform our various identities.
Each day we fold together our complexities, our desires.
In the name of the Father, in the name of the Law which names and divides us hierarchically, in a relation to having and not having; our divided identities. In the name of the Father, divided as green or orange; one against the other. And then the white stripe between; a middle term through which difference might be negotiated. The white ground which might allow for new beginnings, other possibilities. A working of the one and the other; the oppositions that divide us, the one and the other. A working of the bakers logic, a folding in of the middle term; neither this nor that; an inclusive logic – the AND. Like the baker, fold it in: the one AND the other; the one with the other. Fold and enfold.
Needs can be met by the specific object and so be satisfied by it. Demands, though they may be aimed at an object, are essentially a demand for love.
Our Father. Give us this day.
The gift of bread is a loving act; it acknowledges a demand; it satisfies a need. It is also more than fair exchange; it acknowledges that the logic of exchange can be exceeded and that a new becoming is possible. A loving act, the act of giving is an acknowledgement of the other, the needs of the other, and a promise of new possibilities between.
A loving encounter is where differences (between the you and the me) are negotiated; it is an enquiry of the world from the point of view of the two, not the one against the other, your needs against my needs.
A loving encounter exposes the self to the infinite alterity of the other
A loving encounter is contingent and temporary
A loving encounter with the other is not about gain and satisfaction
The encounter with the other is a gift; it goes against the capitalist logic based on calculations of gains and losses, with sameness as its goal. It is an exchange that does not reduce us to the same. An ethical encounter not marked by gain and satisfaction, but an exchange of response which confirms our precarious status; it remains open to new responsibilities. This gift is not a form of exchange – it refuses to be consumed by the humanist project and is beyond patriarchal reciprocity. This loving exchange is not for gain, but is a gift which disrupts traditional economies of gains and endebtedness. It demands no repayment. This gift is incalculable and is open to infinite otherness.
To receive this gift is then to open oneself to an endless relation and transformation. To be in such a system of exchange is to acknowledge that it is temporary and has to be endlessly repeated; there can be no completion; only continuous generous negotiation; it is an ongoing relationship between the one and the other. To give and to receive; desire and satisfaction; between the one and the other. Always in flow – from one to the other.
A repetitive generous encounter.
The baker folds in time
Difference and time
Folds them in
So the past is always present; it is not something to be overcome.
Injustice was done here in Skibbereen; it cannot be forgotten. A traumatic past.
Folding in the past with the present. A movement; a repetitive flow of duration remade in the now; to make something new – ongoing and productive.
Air enters the dough. The baker folds it in
Kneads it in – the logic of binary opposition.
The baker lovingly folds the bread – works in the past with the present to produce the gift of bread. It is a repetitive act; a daily necessity.
Can we still believe in the authoritative object any more than we can believe in the Law?
Let us continuously fold and enfold, our differences, our pasts in order to produce new futures. A collaborative act of making and receiving
A ritual of inclusion like the consuming of the daily bread
This inclusion, this folding and enfolding breaks down the repressive demands of the Law to be this or be that. It seeks to undo the binary logic which the Law is founded upon, a hierarchical binary of domination and control of the one over the other. The orange and the green. Then the white stripe between.
28,000 gone from Skibbereen, from Skibbereen
How to be in a relation to such loss which doesn’t return again and a gain to such sites of trauma? How to be in a continuous remaking; a one with the other? A crossing over of the one with the other; the green and the orange. A generous relation between a one AND an other, a non-hierarchical relation which respects difference, not seeking the eradication of the other. It is a creative proposal demanding a non-oppositional relation between, productive of new becomings.
The encounter with the artwork can also open the spectator to this relation to loss; to propose an encounter which might produce new possibilities. To propose other possibilities than those laid down by the Law; that which tells us how to be. The artwork proposes questions not answers; it can put us in a new relation to desire. The artwork is a process and is never resolved; it is always in negotiation. Difference is never resolved; it works against the notion that desire can be fulfilled.
To receive one’s daily bread is not necessarily to receive satisfaction. A false belief that we may have it all; that we can be satisfied. A false belief in our own identity; a false belief that we can be whole, that we can know who we are, that our desires can be fulfilled.
To open up to a new understanding of desire that proposes other possibilities for a re-thinking of loss and repression. To mobilize desire and create new investments open to the political and to the future – a site of new intensities. A site which allows a crossing of the one and the other as productive.
Now, here in Skibbereen we produce new possibilities; this site of trauma enables new becomings. It now yields true gifts which propose new possibilities for what it might be possible to become. This is a site of creative generosity; it can never be reduced to a system of exchange but is productive of possible transformations.