Research Radar – Martina Hynan

Interviewee’s full name: Martina Hynan

Current position: PhD Student, Centre for Irish Studies, NUIG
Subject specialization:
Feminist social art practice; Reproductive justice; Post-humanities; New materialism; Environmental humanities

Who is your favourite academic? / Who (academic or not) has shaped your critical thinking the most and why? 

I couldn’t pick just one, but Jo Murphy-Lawless has been hugely influential.  I am still working with Jo—we first started collaborating in the ‘90s when I did my Women’s Studies MPhil at Trinity.  She wrote to me then to ask me to curate an exhibition that she was co-convening with Patricia Kennedy, another sociologist, called “Returning Birth to Women.”  It was held in UCD; I gathered people like Pauline Cummins, whose work I adore.  We’ve stayed in touch since then, particularly through our work at the Elephant Collective in lobbying for legislative change surrounding inquests into maternal deaths, which contributed to a change to the law in 2019.  Jo is the most significant sustained influence.  Nessa Cronin’s impact has been huge as well.  Her love of Environmental Humanities has opened up a whole new world for me as her supervisee.  As an artist, I must also mention Griselda Pollock, Erin Manning, Donna Haraway, and Stacy Alaimo

What are you reading for work and/or for leisure these days?

I’m rereading Staying With The Trouble– Making Kin in the Chthulucene and The Politics of Touch.  I’m also reading Feral Atlas online, curated by Anna Tsing (among others), and I’m absolutely loving that.  For leisure, I’m slowly making my way through A Ghost in the Throat.

What podcast do you recommend?

I’m not a huge “podcaster,” but I do listen to The Irish Times’ Women’s Podcast.  Recently, I’ve started working through the Moore Institute’s catalogue as well as Sarah-Anne Buckley’s podcast related to Mother and Baby Homes (it’s part of the Tuam Oral History Project) Tuam Oral History Project.  Finally, the Clare Oral History podcast associated to my local oral history group Cuimhneamh an Chláir – Clare Memories

What is your favourite archive or library? / What is your fondest research memory?

There’s obviously the National Library, which is beautiful.  What actually pops into my head is the Performance Art archive at the Pompidou Centre.  I have a wonderful memory of sitting there for hours, watching video after video, with my headphones on.  I also love our local Clare Local Studies Centre; it’s a classic dusty, folio-filled, old building with the most knowledgeable team of archivists.

What book or movie changed your life?

I love old movies, flaws and all, although the one I picked isn’t very old: Mindwalk (1990), which I re-watched recently.  It’s about systems and knowledge.  When I first watched it, it seemed like it had very little to do with my work.  However, upon re-watching it, I’m seeing that ideas with which it grapples—the entanglement of place and knowledge creation—are central to my work.  It’s a beautiful film adapted from the short story “The Turning Point.”

Do you play music while you work?  If so, what?

It varies.  Lisa Hannigan got me through the first lockdown.  I find her presence, and her voice, exquisite.  Her work sustains me.  I’ve been known to put on disco to liven me up for work.  I do also work in silence; mornings are quiet and I put Lisa on in the afternoon.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career/degree?

I wish I realized how interdisciplinary my work is, and that I had embraced that earlier on in my previous degrees.  The freedom to do this is what I love about Irish Studies.  There are genuine challenges to rigid disciplinary boundaries happening now, which works for my practice, as I’ve been trying to merge visual art, working with community, and scholarship.  The research creation dimension of my work allows me brings all these parts of my life together.

What is your favourite way to de-stress?

Walking my dog Toby in the Burren and along the Wild Atlantic Way.  The power and the energy in the landscape so close to my house is such a privilege to experience.  I have a friend from Austria who has been living in Ireland for some time now who calls County Clare “a healing place,” and I feel that way too.

What advice do you have for other ECAs? 

Build community, stay in touch, and share your work with others.  I just remembered the play “The History Boys,” and the phrase that comes to mind is… “pass it on, boys!”

Is there a research initiative that you would like to use this platform to highlight?

My research, while very much about birthplace, is also about education.  I had a recent mentoring session with Anita McKeown, a wonderful place-maker and artist, and she identified this common thread of education.  I love the experience of being mentored.  I used to teach a module on “Women and Visual Culture” in NUIG; I would love to see the history of visual culture become more integrated into Irish Studies.  We have the most innovative women artists here in Ireland, and I want to be part of bringing that rich history into the core of Irish Studies as a field.

What are your essential research tools/supplies and why?

My internet connection and my recently purchased standing desk. Oh, and Lisa Hannigan.

How has the pandemic affected your research practice?

Because there are creative and community engagement components to my practice, I’ve had to rethink my project several times since the pandemic started.  In a way, however, the forced isolation has allowed me to delve much more deeply into theory.  It’s been mixed in terms of the challenges and the silver livings.  I’m trying to get back to participating in and planning events, particularly related to creating awareness surrounding birthplace through my wildflower seedcake making events, which I’m planning to host during 2022 (and also contribute to rewilding initiatives here in Ireland).

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