The story of Buile Suibhne is an old epic of the Gaelic tradition. A king who is turned into a birdman at the first sound of a bell is in the end the tragic part.
For The Birds plots the real final resting place of Sweeney. The mythological tale of An Buile Suibhne is reasonably well known. It was used most recently by Irish authors like Paula Meehan and Seamus Heaney to elucidate the ways of modern life. T.S Elliot also used the primary character as inspiration for Sweeney Agonistes: Fragments of an Aristophanic Melodrama. Elliot borrowed his dramatic form from the ancient Greek comic Aristophanes. The point here is that an origin for any story is always a story itself.
British poet T.S.Elliot’s own Sweeney-like character lived in the time between two world wars and his use of a syncopated drum beat echoes the popular influence of jazz music at this time. By extension, the influence of American culture on British behaviour is underlined as a question of moral integrity. This unfinished stage play exposes Elliot’s feelings toward the modern woman and her place within man’s changing world. In Elliot’s version, Sweeney befriends, lives with, and uses the whores of visiting US soldiers. In essence, the tale is one of social change, and in this example the character of its myth is evoked as something contemporary to the age. In this tradition, Lynch’s approach is that of contemporary enquiry. If it should happen that miracles and magic tales are still resonant for us now, how is it that we might live with them as part of our own lives? This is the question that For The Birds asks of the viewer.
For The Birds takes a more hands-on approach to the life of a story, helped largely by Tom Fitzgerald’s figures. These works exist to describe the characters significant to the final days of Sweeney. The black wood with painted white tips and a jutting leg all symbolise that final act. Sweeney with a pitchfork deep in his ribs, and the thrusting arm of the milk maid’s husband reinforced by the jealousy this man felt – stand here in a single form.
The daily pages of a contemporary newspaper make up the outstanding hairs of Fitzgerald’s other work. This figure stares back as one staggering and frightful totem. Even so, it takes on a human scale, playing its part in the same way that we as viewers entertain such questions as is it art. In truth this work was made by a man of our time, but it’s figure appears to see something of our future in its beady green eyes. Apart from these eyes, expression comes to us on the torn strips of paper which cover the hair and face. These daily news stories act as an archive material, situating this figure as grounded in our world, and suggest also that whatever this figure has to say we may already know.
For The Birds
Sean Lynch and Tom Fitzgerald
Visual, Carlow, Ireland
13 Sep 2014 – 11 Jan 2015