Commissions + Articles

TULCA 2017: They Call Us The Screamers

The exhibition takes its reference from a book written by Jenny James, published by Caliban Books in 1980. The book is an account of Atlantis, the commune she established a few years earlier in the Gaeltacht village of Burtonport, County Donegal – promoting an approach of de-programming from the modern world through therapeutic self-development and environmental self-sufficiency.  The book is also a response to the controversies and scandals that embroiled the commune during their first years in Ireland, following accusations of cultish behaviour, kidnapping, and physical abuse. The members of the commune were collectively nicknamed ‘The Screamers’ in a 1976 Sunday World article, referring to their practice of primal scream therapy – an adapted form of psychotherapy developed by Dr Arthur Janov that sought to re-enact the traumas of modern upbringing and thereby reverse the neurosis that follows in later life.

A publication designed by Alex Synge / The First 47 will be available at all venues. In addition to curatorial texts by Matt Packer, the publication includes three newly commissioned texts by Sue Rainsford that sound the primal scream through the narrative forms of lyric essay, transcription, and testimony.


On Monday 6th November I talked through my commissioned texts for TULCA — Scream i, Scream ii & Scream iii — at the Centre for Creative Arts & Media, GMIT, and have included an excerpt below:

…making the second text came about very differently to the first, and my relation to words was very different throughout… I selected passages from the transcripts in Atlantis Magic to make a kind of erasure or found text. Next I recorded myself on my laptop saying segments from that selection that I felt were the most charged and affecting, then took a screen shot of the wave forms resulting from the recording, and inserted them as images back into the text where the original words had been.

I was trying to create a visual impression that at certain points where maybe some degree of enlightenment or extremity was occurring, the expressive act transcended language and became pure vocality – and was so better suited to these wave forms than words. The issue here was selecting phrases to capture as sound that were affecting, to make sure it was conceptually thorough and plausible, while also ensuring the text left behind still operated as a piece in itself. Essentially, I needed to make sure the conceptualisation of the piece didn’t lessen the aesthetic encounter for the reader, who’d have no access to the original sentences in their entirety.

Sue Rainsford