Gerry Smyth considers the question of ‘listening’ as it relates to two philosophical systems: the phenomenology of listening associated with Jean-Luc Nancy and the existentialist listening associated with Martin Heidegger. Smyth argues that each of these systems connotes metaphysical and ethical approaches to listening, which are of particular relevance to Robinson in his various roles as cartographer, environmentalist, scientist, folklorist and dweller in the landscape.
Matrixial gazing in Tim Robinson’s walk-art-text practice
Moynagh Sullivan argues that Robinson’s powerful literary mapping of Connemara avoids gendering the Irish landscape as feminine, resisting the dominant trope in twentieth-century Irish writing and film in which the countryside stands in for woman and often mother. Sullivan investigates Robinson’s mapping of Connemara and the Aran Islands alongside the work of artist, philosopher and psychoanalyst Bracha L. Ettinger – who also, similar to Robinson, maps psychic dimensions at the edge of consciousness – in order to illuminate the central encounter at the heart of Robinson’s map-making: a walk-art-text practice.
Christine Cusick's essay ‘“And now intellect, discovering its own effects”: Tim Robinson as Narrative Scholar’ argues that scholarship rooted in both experience and academic discourse requires that we examine our assumptions about the sources of knowledge and about our hermeneutic relationship with this knowledge. In doing so, Cusick offers close readings of Robinson's writing as a way to interpret his praxis of narrative scholarship.
Catherine Marshall investigates Robinson’s relationship with other visual cultures in Ireland. Marshall places Robinson and his earlier persona Drever in a visual context of the west of Ireland, alongside other Irish artists such as Paul Henry and Seán Keating, inviting speculation on the artist as voyeur or social activist, on the relationship between images and words, and between art and power. Although Robinson’s maps and writings serve as typical entry points into his work, Marshall explores how they also function as artwork.
Eamonn Wall explores the methodology and reach of Robinson’s work. Even though Robinson is not connected to the academy, his work exemplifies the idea of interdisciplinarity. Wall argues that Robinson has moved slowly and respectfully, allowing him to undertake many avenues of inquiry to great effect that continues to remain relevant in Irish Studies.
‘Catchment’ is the word by which Tim Robinson designates a unit of the Earth’s surface bounded by higher edges and within which springs, rainfall and smaller tributaries converge, in most cases flowing onward to an outlet that joins it to a more broadly encompassing drainage. Every point on the Earth’s surface is mapped in such a way by elevation and the movement of water. In Listening to the Wind, the first volume of his Connemara trilogy, Robinson further characterises a catchment as ‘an open, self-renewing system, supporting and supported by a vast number of life-forms and all their interrelations’. Across the seasons and over the decades, Robinson has walked the catchments near his home in Connemara. In this essay John Elder argues that not only has Robinson come to know the catchments in intimate detail, but he has also tracked their confluence with the geology, language and history of western Ireland.
Derek Gladwin investigates how Collins, who is considered one of the most articulate contemporary documentary film-makers in Ireland, depicts Robinson as a mediator between landscape and culture through his own mapping enterprise. Gladwin suggests that Collins and Robinson share a similar desire in their own forms of documentation to examine the subject of Connemara in order to create a place-based art form that magnifies the landscape while reducing the primacy of the ‘maker’ in the process. Gladwin argues that Collins’s film Tim Robinson: Connemara is not only a documentary about the cultural imagination associated with Robinson’s production of map-making and topographic writing, but also about his process of capturing the essence of place, a process that comes back full circle to Collins primary aim in the documentary.
The collection ends appropriately with a poem by Andrew McNeillie that he wrote about Robinson. Furthering the creative process, McNeillie, who is both a literary critic and creative writer, diverges from the critical essay form and offers a creative reflection of Robinson’s relationship with the landscape and mapping upon his arrival to Ireland through poetic form.
Postcolonialism and ecology in the work of Tim Robinson
Eóin Flannery situates Robinson’s visual and verbal works within contemporary environmental and postcolonial contexts by arguing that his career and body of work are exemplary engagements with the diverse scales of environmental change, degradation and belonging across Irish history. Making reference to each of Robinson’s publications on Aran and Connemara, as well as to his essays, Flannery highlights how Robinson’s work restores a sustainable and ethical relationship with place in the Irish context: place as a historically rooted and valued, while also marked by conscious interactions with the cultural histories of that locale.
Patrick Duffy examines Robinson’s approach to representing the sense of place encountered in the landscapes around Galway Bay. For forty years Robinson has been committed to a minutely-detailed exploration of the rocky outposts of the Aran islands, the Burren and Connemara, all of which are ancient landscapes deeply incised with the marks and memories of human occupation for more than two thousand years. In a world of collapsing distances and faster, more wide-ranging travel, Duffy argues that Robinson’s works in map and text illustrate the potential and possibilities in a reversion to ‘slow’ landscapes. In this respect, Robinson’s ‘endless proliferation of detours’ on foot and bicycle, has permitted a more intimate engagement with nature, environment and community.