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Sibyl Montague
Claí na Péiste (Worm's Ditch)

Through novel means, Claí na Péiste (Worm’s Ditch) engages with the ever-present consequences of British colonialism in Ireland, and how this history has shaped the country’s people, culture, industries, animals, and land. The animated film by Sibyl Montague combines hand-illustrated, CGI animation with puppetry. Set in the Irish landscape, it explores Irish cultural identity using folklore and song to reflect on inter-species relationships and human connections to animals as both product and kin. Using the lyrical form of storytelling in the tradition of the Seanchaí (bearer of old lore), the film’s narrative explores linguistics and cognitive dissonance around the loss of mother tongue, creating instances of slippage, mistranslation, and bursting into song. The narrative is told through the avatars of Pig (Muc) and Worm (Piste) and references early Irish legends that tell of journeys of growth and transformation. The characters shapeshift between timelines, or ‘wormholes’, that chronicle their bond to humans, channelling dualistic themes that display poverty, cruelty, spirituality, technology, and magic in the Irish landscape. Distilling an array of urgent socio-political issues into a cohesive narrative, Montague’s film addresses the complex history of colonialism in Ireland, linguistic and cultural genocide, and various forms of systemic violence wrought against Irish people, animals, and the land they both live on. The work is also underpinned by a need to generate new representations outside of an anthropocentric view of the environment by engaging with themes of biodiversity, speciesism, and borders as ideological constructs.

Sibyl Montague’s multidisciplinary practice combines sculpture, moving image, drawing, sound, installation, textile, digital, vegetable, and ‘poor’ material sources with the hacking and disassembly of commodity goods and media. Her varied work plays with systems of value and worth, where the taking apart and reassembling of found material reveal the economies of labour and extraction embedded within them. Considering how we regard, hold, and consume objects and experiences within a politics of care, Montague’s work is often presented as 'tools' or series of assembled objects of use. Her work focuses on disruptive, intimate, and generative processes of making that aim to remediate and reroot mass material to its base as extractive, sentient, and ecological. Montague’s work further engages with decolonial approaches to iconography and language that realign knowledge gathered from local, rural, and ancestral communities, land, and megalithic sites. Montague's practice has at its heart an expression of fite fuaite – the Irish concept of interconnectedness, belonging, and the association between personhood, craft, and materiality.