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The Life of Riley 

Commissioned for the launch of Tulca 18, Galway City.

Made in collaboration with the St. Patrick's Battalion Pipe and Drum Band from Mexico City and Galway City buskers.

The Life of Riley was a site-specific performance event commissioned for the launch of Tulca 18 in Galway City. Coinciding with Día de los Muertos on the 2nd of November the event took the form of a street procession led by the leader of the St. Patrick’s Battalion Pipe and Drum Band from Mexico city. Staged as an annual event this fictional tradition commemorates the life of John Riley, the Galway-born leader of the San Patricios- a group of  Irish soldiers who fled the US army to fight alongside Mexico during the War of American Intervention. A giant effigy of a severed foot was carried through the city and temporarily laid to rest at five popular busking sites. Along the route local buskers, including a Mexican prog rock band, performed a verse from a fictional ballad, charting Riley’s journey from famine Ireland to his eventual capture in Mexico.

Performers emerged from various laneways wearing costumes that visually amalgamated the two cultures.


The Life of Riley was a response to the ideas of nostalgia and displacement underwriting Tulca 18’s curatorial thematic. Significantly, at the time of the performance Galway’s buskers were being targeted with oppressive bye-laws which threatened their rights to perform. Through performative mimeses The Life of Riley sought to make these contradictions visible. The work also considered how nostalgic capital might be productively detourned towards the creation of new social imaginaries.

Documentation of the event

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