The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Burren is a limestone plateau in north County Clare, Ireland, dominated by karst landscape. It measures at least 250 square kilometers. This extraordinary region is rich in natural and cultural attractions. Traveling via the Wild Atlantic Way, along the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean, through the limestone desert interspersed with the green hills and valleys, you have the impression of traveling in time and space. In a moment you are back to the Neolithic Era, in the other you are crossing the gate to the world of fantasy full of Little People, Feries and other amazing creatures well known from the J.R.R. Tolkien works.

The name Burren comes from the Gaelic and means a rocky place. Historically, the name referred to the Barony of Burren situated in north-west County Clare. Geographically, the name has a wider meaning. The area lies between Galway Bay on the north, the Atlantic coast on the west and a line drawn through Doolin, Kilfenora, Gort and Kinvara. However, outside this area you can also find the limestone features, but not as frequently and concentrated.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

The Burren is the youngest landscape in Europe and has suffered intense glaciation. The last one occurred about 10 000 years ago. You can find here almost all typical limestone landforms, like underground rivers, swallow holes, glacial erratics, caves, clints, grykes and closed depressions. The limestone is an organic sedimentary rock laid down millions of years ago in a shallow warm sea, it is the result of marine plants and animals dying and accumulating in horizontal beds on the sea floor.

The first people to arrive in the Burren were hunters and fishermen who moved into animal husbandry with the keeping of cattle, sheep and goats. From the results of research and archaeological excavations a lot of information has been gathered about the life and death of these early settlers. There are numerous monuments and tombs dated to the Neolithic Era from, ca. 4000 – 3000 BC. The tombs of the first farmers, widely known as megaliths, are impressive monuments over the graves of their dead.

Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott
Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott

The Burren is also well known for the remains of over twenty churches constructed between the 6th and 12th centuries. These are evidences of the spread of Christianity in this region and traces of stay of the early Irish missionaries, like St. Colman and St. Cronan, who laboured in this remote area. Most of these churches are of architectural interest and in most cases their patrons and founders being known and revered.

The Corcomroe Abbey is one of these remains, sited among the grey hills and valleys of the Burren. It is best known for its lonely situation. The abbey acquired the name of Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili (St. Mary of the Fertile Rock) which reflects the fertile nature of the Burren lands. It has been built in the 12th century and used by the Cistercian community for the next 400 years.

The Corcomroe Abbey

In a countryside like the County Clare, isolated from the rest of the country by the river Shannon, with so many visible remains of the past and an extraordinary landscape that stimulates imagination, the folklore was rich and survived over the centuries maintained by the Gaelic language. It has left many material and immaterial traces in the landscape and in the literature.

Recently it turned out that the magical landscape of the Burren may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to bring to life the Middle-earth – the central continent of the Earth in Tolkien’s imagined mythological past. The term is equivalent to the term Miðgarðr from Norse mythology, describing the human-inhabited world. In ancient Germanic mythology, the world of Men is known by several names, such as Midgard, Middenheim, Manaheim, and Middengeard. The Old English word middangeard descends from an earlier Germanic word, transliterated to modern English as Midgard.

Doolin Fertile Stone
Doolin Fertile Stone

Tolkien’s world famous works, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, take place entirely in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien worked as an external examiner to National University Galway in the 40s and 50s of the XX century. Galway, the most central port on the West Coast in the sheltered eastern corner of Galway Bay, located between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south, was a great starting point for exploring the surrounding area.

It is said by the locals that Tolkien would often take trips to the lunar-like landscape of the Burren. When you consider that Tolkien was visiting the Burren around the same time that he was writing The Lord of The Rings, it is easy to see how the stark beauty of this region might have inspired him. The landscape here is certainly unusual, and for a fantasy author such as Tolkien it must have been magnetic.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Amongst the craggy fissures and creeping woods of the Burren there is a cave called Pol na Gollum (Hole of Gollum). The Gollum’s character is essential to the entire plot of The Lord of The Rings. Did Tolkien get the name for this miserable creature from this cave? Furthermore, Gollum in The Lord of The Rings had a distinctive gurgling cough, and at the mouth of this cave the chirps and calls of rock doves echo and transform into a similar guttural sound.

Thanks to Peter Curtin, the owner of The Roadside Tavern pub in County Clare and a member of The Burren Society Tolkien Symposium, it has been accepted that one of the most iconic authors of the fantasy literature – J.R.R. Tolkien, was influenced by the magic of the incredible place of the Burren while writing his most famous work.

Pauline Baynes's copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings
Pauline Baynes’s copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings

Gallery

Reference:

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/the_burren/burren_karst.htm

http://www.ireland.com/en-gb/what-is-available/attractions-built-heritage/historic-ireland/articles/burren-and-tolkien/

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/the-little-people

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/fairy-and-folk-tales

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-earth#Etymology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galway_Bay

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3287440/Show-way-Mordor-Unique-hand-drawn-map-Middle-Earth-gives-rare-insight-Tolkien-s-mind.html

https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_colbeck_1905.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2016/sep/26/hannah-kent-the-good-people-dives-into-an-irish-world-of-faith-and-fantasy

How these powerful masks are helping combat veterans heal — ideas.ted.com

Art therapist Melissa Walker uses masks to allow service members with traumatic brain injuries to express their deepest emotions and experiences, helping them and their loved ones heal. Most people wear masks to obscure or change their identities. But through a unique art therapy program, veterans are using them to reveal truths — often painful…

via Gallery: How these powerful masks are helping combat veterans heal — ideas.ted.com

Youthful Memory in Superaging

Youthful Memory in Superaging

Youthful Brains in Older Adults: Preserved Neuroanatomy in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Contributes to Youthful Memory in Superaging

Felicia W. Sun, Michael R. Stepanovic, Joseph Andreano, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Alexandra Touroutoglou and Bradford C. Dickerson


ABSTRACT

Decline in cognitive skills, especially in memory, is often viewed as part of “normal” aging. Yet some individuals “age better” than others. Building on prior research showing that cortical thickness in one brain region, the anterior midcingulate cortex, is preserved in older adults with memory performance abilities equal to or better than those of people 20–30 years younger (i.e., “superagers”), we examined the structural integrity of two large-scale intrinsic brain networks in superaging: the default mode network, typically engaged during memory encoding and retrieval tasks, and the salience network, typically engaged during attention, motivation, and executive function tasks. We predicted that superagers would have preserved cortical thickness in critical nodes in these networks. We defined superagers (60–80 years old) based on their performance compared to young adults (18–32 years old) on the California Verbal Learning Test Long Delay Free Recall test. We found regions within the networks of interest where the cerebral cortex of superagers was thicker than that of typical older adults, and where superagers were anatomically indistinguishable from young adults; hippocampal volume was also preserved in superagers. Within the full group of older adults, thickness of a number of regions, including the anterior temporal cortex, rostral medial prefrontal cortex, and anterior midcingulate cortex, correlated with memory performance, as did the volume of the hippocampus. These results indicate older adults with youthful memory abilities have youthful brain regions in key paralimbic and limbic nodes of the default mode and salience networks that support attentional, executive, and mnemonic processes subserving memory function.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT

Memory performance typically declines with age, as does cortical structural integrity, yet some older adults maintain youthful memory. We tested the hypothesis that superagers (older individuals with youthful memory performance) would exhibit preserved neuroanatomy in key brain networks subserving memory. We found that superagers not only perform similarly to young adults on memory testing, they also do not show the typical patterns of brain atrophy in certain regions. These regions are contained largely within two major intrinsic brain networks: the default mode network, implicated in memory encoding, storage, and retrieval, and the salience network, associated with attention and executive processes involved in encoding and retrieval. Preserved neuroanatomical integrity in these networks is associated with better memory performance among older adults.


Full open access research for “Youthful Brains in Older Adults: Preserved Neuroanatomy in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Contributes to Youthful Memory in Superaging” in Journal of Neuroscience:

The Journal of Neuroscience, 14 September 2016, 36(37): 9659-9668; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1492-16.2016

Featured image source: Preserved hippocampal volume—a key node in the default mode network— correlates with preserved memory in elderly adults. Felicia W. Sun et al. J. Neurosci. 2016;36:9659-9668 ©2016 by Society for Neuroscience

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/36/37/9659/F4.expansion.html

Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

History, is devoted to its memory. It is built from collected fragments of information, the detritus of knowledge about the past, and the relics of memories lost.

Memory, in this case it is not a record of experienced recollections but an attempt at an orderly re-assembling of lost memory. It is memory arranged in the form of an archive.

Oblivion, is tantamount to the erasure of the memory of the monument. Devastation experienced years ago, pillage and the dispersion of its unwanted (alien) remains provokes a set of basic questions:

Should one speak about the Tannenberg-Denkmal now?
How should one speak about it?

Dorota Nieznalska, Tanneberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Tanneberg – Denkmal, built in 1925-1927, was once a monumental building, located between Olsztynek and Sudwa villages, in former East Prussia and present Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland. It commemorated the victory of the Prussian army over the Russian in the Battle of Tannenberg 1914. Later on it became also the mausoleum of Paul Hindenburg, a German military man, a field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and politician – the President of the Reich during the Weimar Republic and the early Third Reich in 1925-1934.

In 1934, Hindenburg’s body was ceremoniously buried in a special crypt in the monument. Adolf Hitler, appointed by Hindenburg to be the Chancellor in 1933, participated in the funeral. In 1935, Hindenburg’s remains were transferred to the specially prepared mausoleum located in one of the Tannenberg-Denkmal towers.

In January 1945, the Germans, fearing the possibility of the profanation of his remains by the Russian army, managed to take his coffin at the last moment and transport it deep into German territory. A few days later, the mausoleum was partially destroyed by an explosion caused by retreating German troops. Currently, Hindenburg’s remains rest in St. Elisabeth’s Church in Marburg, Germany.

Some of building blocks of the Tannenberg-Denkmal were used for the construction of the stairs at the building of The Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Warsaw (1948), for the construction of The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw (1952–1955) and the Monument of the Liberation of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (1954).

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Dorota Nieznalska, a Polish visual artist engaged in critical art, creating installations, sculptural objects, vide art and photographs, accomplished her project “Tannenberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!”, supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and devoted entirely to history – remembrance – oblivion issues.

Dorota Nieznalska’s works – the movie and the website, juxtapose archival documents, photos and videos of the Tannenberg-Denkmal monument with Wagner’s music and the words of Pierre Nora, a French historian and precursor of studies on “the sites of memory”. The project is an attempt to deal with the memory of the historical and cultural heritage of former East Prussia.

Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal | Dorota Nieznalska 2014
“Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal”, 2014

References:

http://www.tannenberg-denkmal.com/

http://muzeum.olsztynek.pl/en/about-museum/

http://ninateka.pl/film/kult-pamieci-tannenberg-denkmal-dorota-nieznalska

http://www.visit.olsztyn.eu/article/319/nieznalska-z-pasja-o-tannenberg-denkmal

Irena Saława. The Guardian of Place of National Remembrance

Throughout her life Ms Irena Saława takes care of the World War I cemetery in the Nieprześnia village. There lie bodies of 123 fallen soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian armies. Together with her husband, 8 other people and a couple of horses, they built the graves with their own hands.

After years, she wrote a beautiful and poignant poem dedicated to a 22 year old soldier, who died ‘in hero’s death for the Fatherland’ on 10 December 1914 nearby  Sobolów village, one among many sites of a tragic warfare in present-day Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

Irena also shares  a memory of grand famine and great poverty she, her family and many others experienced during the war and post-war  times. She tells a short story about picking berries in the wood and hunting for a deer, which eventually passed into the hands of the landlord.

For her noble attitude and taking care for many years of the cemetery in Nieprześnia, she enjoys the recognition and gratitude of the Austrian Black Cross – Österreichisches Schwarzes Kreuz.

She has been also awarded by the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites with the Golden Medal of Guardian of Places of National Remembrance on the 100 anniversary of the cemetery and her 80th birthday.

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Production – Joanna Kowieska
Filming- Jakub Stoszek
Editing – Joanna Kowieska, Jakub Stoszek

David Szauder: Failed memories

David Szauder: Failed memories

David Szauder


I am inspired by the parallels I see between human memory and computer memory: our brains store away images to retrieve them later, like files stored away on a hard drive. But when we go back and try to re-access those memories, we may find them to be corrupted in some way.

When we see a picture we are able to remember the details, but only for a short period. In the long term we start to lose parts of the details and we fill the gaps with our self-generated memories instead of those lost fragments.

I always add a short narrative to each photo, which often allows to imagine why the subject’s appearance, and sometimes their mind, has been altered, like the glamorous woman driven to paranoia by the bubbles in her champagne.

David Szauder_Eva's glamour
Eva’s glamour

One day she wasn’t able to drink water anymore, just champagne. But from the bubbles she got paranoid.

David Szauder_mr and mrs sanday
mr and mrs sanday

Beautiful sunday with the sanday family. They were a young and solid pair, but the geometry of their feelings have been changed a lot during the years.

David Szauder_story of mr wolf
story of mr wolf

One day Mr Wolf wrote down too much numbers. When his memory was decoded the same numbers somehow modified his fragments.

David Szauder_Failed memories of Leo & Pipo
Failed memories of Leo & Pipo

French artists Leo&Pipo invited me to participate in their collaborative project. It is an honour, because they are making really amazing collages and a lot of elegant street art.

David Szauder_Failed Memories - new narratives_Oliver and the lost identity
Oliver and the lost identity

David Szauder (1976) is a hungarian media artist, living and working in Berlin since 2008. He creates computer code based digital images and interactive installations, curates exhibitions and works as an art director in various projects. Currently he is working at the Hungarian Culture Center in Berlin (CHB), giving lectures in Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf Potsdam and participating in various exhibitions.

David Szauder Gallery

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All pictures published with the Authors’ permission.

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus

 

Curatorial Text


Travellers. Voyage and Migration in New Art from Central and Eastern Europe.
14.05 – 21.08.2016 at Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland

Artists: Adéla Babanová, Daniel Baker, Olga Chernysheva, Wojciech Gilewicz, Pravdoliub Ivanov, C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska, Irina Korina, Taus Makhacheva, Porter McCray, Alban Muja, Ilona Németh & Jonathan Ravasz, Roman Ondak, Tímea Anita Oravecz, Adrian Paci, Vesna Pavlović, Dushko Petrovich, Janek Simon, Radek Szlaga & Honza Zamojski, Maja Vukoje, Sislej Xhafa

Curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz
Collaboration on the part of Zachęta: Magdalena Komornicka

The exhibition looks at travel in a region where freedom to travel was, until recently, a luxury available only to the very few. The revolution of 1989 and the subsequent opening to the world and globalisation processes allowed citizens of the former Eastern Bloc personal mobility on an unprecedented scale. Participation in international exchanges contributed to the region’s identity today as much as the new political and economic order. For two successive decades, capitalism and globalisation carried us farther, faster, and surer, until we got used to thinking in terms of progress with only one direction — forward! Today, we see how that moment was as pivotal for modern European history as it was exceptional. Europe’s response to foreign refugees shows that our participation in the global exchange was, and is, predominantly one-way. We do not willingly share the privileges that we gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall and as a consequence of our EU accession. We are enthusiastic about going abroad, but far less so about welcoming foreigners.

The works presented in the show tell the stories of holiday trips as well as distant journeys and migrations. They focus on a period from the mid-20th century until today, from the closed borders of the divided Cold War-era Europe to the capitalism-driven acceleration of the 21st century’s first decades. They offer a reflection by contemporary artists hailing from the region — the former Eastern Bloc countries, the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia — often first and second generation migrants, on the last few decades in the history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Twenty-three artists from fifteen countries show how people, goods, and ideas flow between our part of Europe and other regions of the world. They tell us about Cold War-era tourists dreaming about exotic trips at a time when the freedom to travel was synonymous with political freedom. About travellers, who, on distant voyages, discover the forgotten history of abandoned places. About historical and contemporary migrants, their identity formed at an intersection of languages and cultures. But also about the objects these travellers take with them. About pictures that are to remind them of home and which become a source of knowledge about the world for others. About products that in distant countries turn into ambassadors of their culture. About artworks whose circulation beyond their place of origin lays a foundation for building canons. The artists present various means of transportation, such as ships, trains or buses, as well as visas or permits, that facilitate or limit their personal mobility. Discovering the enriching value of travel, they also shed light on the tensions arising inevitably between the poetics of the experience itself and the political situation that condition it.

Most of us know the familiarity of one home and one culture only. A traveller takes advantage of multiple viewpoints. That complex perspective not only allows us to recognize and embrace the value of other places and nations, but also to see ourselves as foreigners. By looking at the experience of voyage and migration in the art of Central and Eastern Europe, The Travellers shed light on the contemporary identity of the region.

The Travellers_full materials (pdf)