Current Project: During the early years of the modern Olympic Games, art competitions formed part of the official Olympic program. From 1912-1948, art contests featured in summer games in Stockholm, Antwerp, Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Berlin, and London, where international artists competed for Olympic gold, silver, and bronze medals in five categories: sculpture, painting, music, literature, and architecture. Increasingly, the world’s most imaginative minds vied to represent their countries at the Olympics, and as impressive as the panoply of artists showing their work had been during those years, the international juries for each category surpassed them in celebrity. At the 1924 Paris games, for example, juries included luminaries Gabrielle D’Annunzio, Paul Claudel, Edith Wharton, Paul Valéry, and Maurice Maeterlinck (for literature), Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, and Maurice Ravel (for music), and John Singer Sargent and Tsuguharu Foujita (for painting). It was a veritable Who’s Who? of creative talent. It was a celebration of the twentieth century’s imaginative genius. It was artists competing against, and being judged by, their very rivals. As such, it was destined to end in disaster.
Though short-lived, the Olympic art competitions offer a fascinating narrative about international artistic culture in the first half of the twentieth century. My project examines the ways in which the artwork selected and sent by the Olympic Council of Ireland projected a national aesthetic that suited politics more than it represented the cultural and creative climate in the country at the time, and it explores competing concepts of culture and the contradictions and strategies of national artistic representation.
When I first learned about the Olympic art competitions, I immediately became interested in Paris, 1924, since that would have been the first time Ireland competed in the Olympic Games under its own flag as a Free State. What specific works, and whose, did the newly formed Irish Olympic Council send to Paris to represent Irish art? Who juried the national art competition and proposed final selections? What criteria were used to judge the submissions and select the entries that the Council would ship to Paris? One newspaper headline announcing the art competitions read, “Games Foster Competition in Genius.” I wondered, then, what did Irish genius look like? Equally important, what did the new Irish government want Irish genius to look like? How would the Free State advertize, project, and display a particularly Irish aesthetic to an international community with its eyes fastened on the fledging nation? My continuing research will take me to Dublin to work through several collections and archives including but not limited to those at the Royal Hibernian Academy of Art, the National Library of Ireland, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the Olympic Council of Ireland. The RHAA is steps away from the National Library of Ireland, which houses a remarkable Ephemera Collection of some 170,000 printed items. Also nearby is the National Gallery of Ireland, which houses several of the artworks submitted to the Olympic art contests as well as several rejected by Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) judges; and a quick train ride away is the OCI itself, which houses what limited records remain on Ireland’s participation in the art contests. I will use the Moore Institute Fellowship period to continue my research at the Hardiman Library and at Galway art and archival repositories, then draft and finalize the book manuscript of “Paris/Dublin 1924: Summer Olympic Games, Art Competitions, and the New Irish Free State.”
Projecting the Future through Political Discourse: The Case of the Bush Doctrine. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, May 2011.
“‘New World Coming’: Narratives of the Future in Post-Cold War National Security Discourse” in Adam Hodge’s (ed.) The Language of War and Peace. Oxford University Press. (in press)