Countess Markievicz fought for Dublin to keep its own time zone. The move by Britain to end Dublin Mean Time was an act of oppression, she said, according to the Irish Times – the “forcing of English time on us”.
Before the 1800s, cities in the United Kingdom had their own time. Dublin Mean Time was 25 minutes behind London’s Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
But as rail travel became common in the 19th century, the differences in time zones caused confusion for travellers. In 1880, all British cities were synchronised to GMT.
It wasn’t until 36 years later, on 2 October 1916, following legislation in the House of Commons, that Dublin’s clocks were also moved to GMT – so Dublin lost its time.
This weekend, a sound-art project called Mean Time will commemorate the legacy of Markievicz and the other female revolutionaries of 1916, by “stealing back” the 25 minutes Ireland lost that day.
The Beginning of Mean Time
Mean Time will take place in the Richmond Barracks, where 77 female prisoners were held following the Easter Rebellion. It’s an international collaboration: half the artists are from overseas.
The co-curator of the exhibition, Rachel Ni Chuinn, explained the idea behind the project while sipping on a coffee in a city-centre cafe on Monday 26th September.
“There were these 25 minutes that Ireland lost, which we’re never going to get back,” she says. “So we decided to use those 25 minutes to think about an Ireland that fulfilled some of the promises of 1916.”
She argues women that have yet to achieve equality in pay, and that great women tend to be written out of history, whether they are artists or revolutionaries.
The other co-curator, Susanna Caprara performs as La Cosa Preziosa (The Precious Thing). She came up with the idea for Mean Time while investigating the 1916 Rising.
Caprara sees the dispute over time as a microcosm of the struggle between Ireland and Britain.
She was inspired by Markievicz, and also wanted to make a space for a women-only project in the field of sound. “There is a strong bias against women working in sound,” she says.
The project aims to use sound to shift the balance in terms of female voices, which are often lacking from our airwaves, she says. It will be broadcast live by Lyric FM.
Ten female sound artists from very different backgrounds have each prepared a piece of sound art examining lost time, Markievicz, and women in revolution.
What’s Sound Art?
Sound can include music, field recording, electronic performance, song and spoken word.
Each of the artists involved in Mean Time has taken a radically different approach to the project. They have created their compositions separately, and have yet to meet as a group.
There are some pieces you might expect, like poetry about Markievicz or music inspired by her. There are others in which the links to the event are more abstract, like a recording of a swim in Seapoint at high tide. Over coffee, Ni Chuinn explained her own recording, which used bones and drums.
“Bones are ritualistic and sacred and they are used in ceremonies,” she says. “I just feel like working with bones is a good way of thinking about the women who died, and who put themselves out there, yet rarely get talked about.”
The rhythms are influenced by the repetitive movement of work traditionally done by women, which is usually undervalued, Ni Chuinn says.
Caprara used letters Markievicz sent to her sister Eva Gore-Booth as inspiration for an aural sketch. She took the sounds mentioned in the letters and created a recording.
Markievicz mentioned a flock of wild geese, for example, so Caprara went out and recorded the sound of geese cackling.
Of the Rising, Markievicz wrote: “All that has happened to me seems to have opened to me such wonderful new doors. I seem to pass through it all now as in a dream.” So Caprara uses the sounds of doors opening throughout the piece.
In the end, Caprara tied all these different sounds together to “paint a picture”, she says.
The ten artists will meet for the first time this weekend and decide how to use all their individual compositions to create an improvised live performance for Lyric FM’s Nova programme that takes exactly 25 minutes.
“Its really unusual for the radio, because usually they vet everything thoroughly before agreeing to air it,” says Ni Chuinn. “We are very lucky that they are trusting us.”
In addition to the Mean Time concert on Sunday, there will be four workshops on Saturday afternoon, also at Richmond Barracks.
Among them, “The Physics of Sound” will allow the participants to “see sound” using non-Newtonian fluid, which will move to create sound waves when placed near bass speakers.
All the workshops are free and ‘The Physics of Sound’ is particularly recommended for children.
The Mean Time event and the broadcast on Lyric FM will take place from 8pm on Sunday 2 October.