Controversial ‘Screamers’ inspire title exhibition for TULCA 2017

The house in Burtonport, which was home to the Atlantis community.
The house in Burtonport, which was home to the Atlantis community.

They Call Us The Screamers is the title exhibition of the 15th TULCA Festival of Visual Art, taking place in Galway throughout November.

It will Include work by established artists Yoko Ono and Bob Quinn, alongside younger and emerging artists such as Kian Benson Bailes and Oisin Byrne.

TULCA 2017 will also include 13 commissions of new work, the highest number in the festival’s 15-year history.

The title exhibition comes from a book of the same name by Jenny James, published in 1980.

In it, James documented the story of Atlantis, a commune she had established some years previously in Burtonport, County Donegal.  Her aim with the commune was to allow people to step back from the modern world “through therapeutic self-development and environmental self-sufficiency”.  But controversy soon ensued.

In the book, she responded to the controversies and scandals that surrounded the commune during its early years in Ireland – there were accusations of cultish behaviour, kidnapping, and physical abuse.

In 1976, the Sunday World newspaper described the commune’s members as ‘Screamers’. This was a reference to their practice of ‘primal-scream therapy’, which sought to re-enact the traumas of modern upbringing in order to reverse any neurosis that might ensue. The title stuck.

And now it has inspired this exhibition. But They Call Us The Screamers is not about attempting to illustrate the experience of Atlantis in Ireland, according to Tulca curator Matt Packer. And neither do the artists attempt to redress the controversy that surrounded the group.

Instead, the story gives way to a broader framework of ideas that developed from the countercultural psychology of the 1970s. It’s about seeking to reclaim an alternative future for self and society in today’s perspective, he says.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.