Sé Merry Doyle’s film Lament for Patrick Ireland will be screened on March 2nd as part of a retrospective on the artist Brian O’Doherty in the Crawford Gallery Cork. The film charts the time Brian changed his name to Patrick Ireland name during the Irish Exhibition of Living Art at the Project Arts Centre in 1972. In that performance before 30 invited witnesses and assisted by Robert Ballagh and Brian King, legally undertook to “sign his artworks ‘Patrick Ireland’ until such time as the British military presence is removed from Northern Ireland and all citizens are granted their civil rights.” This commitment, often seen as controversial, the artist describes as “an expatriate’s gesture in response to Bloody Sunday in Derry”.
On the 20th May 2008 a most extraordinary funeral that took place in Dublin. The eighty year old Brian O’ Doherty had come back from New York, where he has been living for the last 50 years, to kill off his alter ego, Patrick Ireland. He waked him and then alongside artist friends and poets he buried him in the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The ceremony was attended by over five hundred people. It was a hugely resonant and emotional happening.
When the Good Friday Agreement was signed and civil rights secured in Northern Ireland Brian began to wonder about Patrick’s future. He decided it was time to let him go. A new effigy was created and a death mask was created by O’Doherty’s friend, the American artist Charles Simonds. On Tuesday 20 May, the effigy was interred in the grounds of IMMA. The secular ceremony was conducted by the distinguished art historian and museum director, Michael Rush, a former Jesuit priest. At the graveside, five poems that resonated most closely with the meaning of the event were read in English, French, Spanish, and German by Ann Haverty, Professor Anne-Marie Bonnet, Dr Ingmar Lahnemann, and Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith. The ceremony concluded with a breathtaking vocal ‘keening’ performance by the Irish artist, Alannah O’Kelly, which echoed across the city.
As Patrick Ireland was being buried, Brian was heard to say “We are burying hate and it’s not often you get the chance to do that”.