Cult of Engagement


Cult of Engagement, solo-exhibition commissioned by Project Arts Centre, curated by Tessa Giblan and is included in the Permanent Collection of IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art). Cult of Engagement features artworks: Parodos, 2009, Film projection with sound, (7 minutes), Azimuth, 2009, stage fabricated of wood, wax and fabric and The Approach, 2009, Fabric banner, with scent.

Cult of Engagement

If there was to be one overseeing eye which has guided or managed the decisions in Clodagh Emoe’s Cult of Engagement, it would be Papa Legba, god of the cross-roads. The gathered elements within the environment of Cult of Engagement may appear to take historically recognisable roles – a stage resembling the later, travelling adaptations of Greek Theatre during the twilight of its form, or the Chorus, looming out of the semi-darkness, echoing an ancient role of revelation and discourse. Papa Legba, called upon to open communications between the deities and the people, was able to speak all known languages and controlled the doorway of communication at the spiritual crossroads. Some of this attitude has found its place in Emoe’s atmospheric installation, which at once reveals a route of procession and at the same time removes any presence of performance. If one were, however, to enter through the tapestried curtain and call to Papa Legba for advice, the silence of his reply would only heighten the unnerving sense of expectation in the room, an expectation underlined by a low, reverberating, depth of sound.

Tessa Giblin, 2009

This sound which fills the room is part of the event approach to exhibition making that Emoe has followed in the months leading towards her solo exhibition at Project Arts Centre. Compelled by the idea of creating a space where nothing was happening, yet something was bound to, the artist has been informed by a history of theatrical devices, and ritualistic induction, desiring to herald a community as something other than a limited audience. The round, wooden stage with carved and stained markings are flanked by a series of anthropomorphic flags – shapes that are frozen as provocative embodiments of the kind fantasy or nightmare one can never quite describe. The markings on this stage remind us of the messages and meaning that are meant to be delivered to the point of view of a spectator imagined beyond the capabilities of human perception: through aerial archaeology we can listen to the thoughts of the past as they speak in supplication to the unknown greatness of whatever was thought to be watching. Caught in the fascination of attending to a drama not yet unfolding, creating the possibility of an event in the dark, adjusting to the recessional spaces of the shadows and blind spots and surrounded by what could only be described as black noise, an unannounced chorus appears behind us, walking slowly out of the gloom, out of the twilight of the magic hour, becoming present in the space where we least expect them.

In the early days of Greek tragedy, there were no actors at all – just a chorus, who have been remarked upon as theatre’s ideal audience. They would enter the space of theatre through the paradoi – two, stage-flanking processional routes, while singing their parados. Growing from its formation in worship of Dionysus, as Greek tragedy evolved individual actors emerged, and the role of the chorus moved to both the periphery and the core. The chorus was called upon to play individual characters when needed, or to sing in unison to create a united body; they could reveal to audiences certain situations or truths, unknown as yet by the actors themselves. Thus the chorus were the eyes and the mirror of the audience, able to see in, around, and through the action taking place on the stage.
The chorus in Cult of Engagement acknowledges both of these manifestations: the chorus as a reflection of reality, and the chorus as united in voice by religion, yet it is undecided in its purpose – neither revealing, nor concealing, nor participating as a liberated spectator. It is closer in character to a suspicious congregation, arriving to serve an as-yet unknown function.

‘…we have three ways of distributing the sensible that structure the manner in which the arts can be perceived and thought of as forms of art and as forms that inscribe a sense of community: the surface of ‘depicted’ signs, the split reality of the theatre, the rhythm of a dancing chorus.’
(Jacques Ranciere, ‘Distribution of the Sensible’ from The Politics of Aesthetics, 2004)


Clodagh Emoe’s film Parodos, 2009 is installed in the entrance space to the main Annex building. Emoe works within this transitional area of the building to create an atmospheric installation where sight, sound and heady scent combine. The term liminality plays a significant part in informing Emoe’s work. Liminality is derived from the Latin limen, meaning threshold, and foregrounds some kind of departure or crossing over of boundaries. Liminality is understood in ritual theory as a temporary symbolic suspension of normative structures that become mobilised through staging and forms of gathering/collective assembly. Emoe seeks to evoke a similar ‘threshold’ state in her work by using strategies associated with ritual. In aligning the space of art with the symbolic realm of ritual, Emoe’s works seeks to prompt a consideration of art as a moment of encounter that like ritual can potentialise new forms of thought and experience.

Parodos is drawn from Emoe’s larger project Cult of Engagement in which Emoe deals with the dramatic tradition of Tragedy. Parodos is the term used for the entrance song of the chorus introducing the event that is about to take place. The processional chorus in Emoe’s film is, however, silent – an absence suggesting the role of the viewer within this dynamic to imagine what unfolds. Cult of Engagement, 2009 was commissioned by Project Arts Centre in 2009 and is part of IMMA’s Permanent Collection.

Cinematographer: Kate McCullough
Grip: Ian McGurrell
Sound: Karl Burke
Editor: John Travers & Clodagh Emoe
Production co-ordinator: Mary Cremin

Chorus Participants
Antoinette Emoe
Steve Kemp
Joe Stanley
Rob Dunne
Borja Neumann
Edia Connole
Phil Kelly
Richard Hansard
Simon Keating
Pat Murphy
Colin Carters
Christopher Mahon
Shane McCarthy

Production Support
Mags Fitzgibbon
Nadine Kersten
Ciara McKeon
Robert Murphy
Kevin Breen
Matthew Slack
Lisa Reburn
Ailbhe O’Connor
Niamh McCooey
Niamh Clarke
Sinead Corcoran
Dan Wolfe
Hazel Dixon
Claire Bonnie
Robert Murphy

With further thanks to
Georgina Jackson
Rana Ozturk
Thomas McGraw Lewis
John Kaye
John Sherwin
Justine Emoe
Mark Steadman
Graham Cahill
Olga Tiernan
Aine Killeen
Ciara Ward

IMMA Press Release – June 2012

Download catalogue Not I/Parados (PDF)

Download Interview with Edia Connole (PDF)

Download Invite for Cult of Engagement designed by Robin Watkins (PDF)

Photography for Azumith and The Approach by