THE LIFE OF RILEY
Performance event commisioned for the launch of Syntonic State, Tulca 18, Galway.
Curated by Linda Shevlin.
2 November 2018
Originally performed at SOMA Summer's closing event, Mexico City.
In collaboration with La Banda de Gaitas del Batallón de San Patricio.
24 August 2017
Video coming soon...
Words: Aoibheann Greenan
Design: Robert Mirolo
The Life of Riley was a site-specific performance event commissioned for the launch night of Tulca 18 in Galway. Attendees were invited to participate in an invented tradition; an annual procession commemorating the life of John Riley, the Galway-born leader of the San Patricios. The latter were a real battalion of predominantly Irish soldiers who fled the US army to fight alongside Mexico during the War of American Intervention in 1847. The event took the form of a a procession through Galway City, lead by an active member of the St. Patrick’s Battalion Pipe and Drum Band from Mexico city. A giant severed foot effigy was carried by performers and temporarily laid to rest at five popular busking sites along the route. Local buskers performed verses from a fictional ballad, charting Riley’s journey from famine Ireland to his eventual capture in Mexico.
The event responded to the ideas of nostalgia and displacement underwriting Tulca 18’s thematic. Significantly, at the time of the performance, Galway’s buskers were being targeted with oppressive bye-laws which threatened their rights to perform and Ireland’s homeless crisis had reached a record high. Rather than presenting a coherent cultural narrative that would serve to disguise plurality and mask dissensus, The Life of Riley sought to embody multiple contradictions. The event considered how nostalgic capital might be productively detourned towards the creation of new social imaginaries, how the ritual of commemoration might be reanimated in the struggle for what Lefebvre called “the right to the city.”