A Day in the Life: John Mulloy


AN ACADEMIC ABROADJohn Mulloy in Toledo, Spain, during his Easter break. Pic: Sabine Hiller

A boiled egg is the proper start to any good day, in my books. After the usual ablutions, the first task is to head to the computer and check emails. At this time of year there are always pleas for help with their final essays from students, so today I had a look at issues of appropriation and plagiarism in Van Gogh’s work, and the role of fetishism in contemporary video art. Once I get those out of the way it’s over to Castlebar for the day’s work.
The morning starts with a class called Creativity in Social Care, with the First Year Applied Social Care students, and we are doing a dress rehearsal of ‘My Magical World’, a live action and shadow puppet show that the students have written and are performing themselves.
The story is about loneliness and fear of the stranger, all told in a very simple way. For today’s dress rehearsal we have a group of seasoned performers from Western Care in to observe, and the show will be performed next week in the Educate Together School in Castlebar.  
Lots of high jinks, emergency stapling and duct taping later, I have to get my academic hat on to chair a Programme Board meeting for the part-time art courses. This is a meeting of the staff and student reps from all the classes involved in these courses, which are designed for people who can’t go to college on a full-time basis.
The Lifelong Learning department at GMIT Mayo runs the only such part-time undergraduate degree programme in art in the country – the BA in Contemporary Art Practices – which has been running since 2014. We look for applications from prospective students in early June every second year, so at this meeting we discuss how to promote the course.
One big plus is that this year we have just received news that the Ballinglen Art Foundation will fund an award for the best student, which is a great mark of approval for the course. We also run a part-time BA in Fine Art Level 8 add-on course, a two-year programme that combines studio practice with contemporary critical theory, for people who want to upgrade their existing third-level qualification in art. Other items on the agenda include the ‘Aluminium’ exhibition, a show by alumni from the long-established part-time BA in Art and Design programme, which we stopped delivering in 2017. The exhibition will run from Friday, April 27 to May 1 in St Mary’s Hall on the campus. We have to organise the hall, and sort out the tea and sandwiches for the opening. This will be from 6pm to 8pm, and will be performed by Alice Lyons, the well-known poet and visual artist, who previously taught on the course.
We also need to organise the annual residency, which this year we hope to run from July 2 to August 10. This offers artists a free studio space on campus for the summer, and it will be the fourth year of the residency.
We take a look too at the protocol for field trips, as we are planning a week-long block for the third-year students, called Representing the West, and this year we will focus on north Mayo. This block involves taking pictures, drawing and painting in the landscape, as well running seminars on the representation of the west of Ireland in visual art. Field trips obviously involve a lot of bureaucracy around health and safety – which is not my strong point!
After the meeting it’s a quick bite to eat in the canteen, and then I’m sorting out a few bits for the shadow puppet show next week, taking pictures to promote courses on Facebook, and having a few one-on-one tutorials with students, discussing their essays. Then I have to get my head around contemporary intersectional theory, as part of my preparation for a long class on feminism in contemporary art theory. Before that, I give a lecture on feminist art from the 1960s to roughly the 1990s, looking at people from Louise Bourgeois to Marina Abramovic. Some of the work is quite controversial, and I always enjoy getting stuck into a good discussion with the students!
At about 6pm I head home and meet Sabine, and then we’re off to McGing’s on High Street in Westport to sit in by the fire (even though it is April!) and drink cappuccinos. We love travelling together, and were away in Toledo and Madrid over Easter, so tonight we’re figuring out where we might go for a week or so over the summer. After that we head home for dinner and maybe we’ll flop in front of the telly for a while or read a book before it’s time for bed, and another day dawns.

In coversation with Ciara Moynihan

Name: Dr John Mulloy
Age: 58
Born in: Carrowbaun, Westport
Lives in: Knockrooskey, Westport
Occupation: Lecturer in Art History, Contemporary Art Theory and Creativity in Social Care, GMIT Mayo

Quickfire Questions

Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I can’t text very well, because I can’t straighten the thumb on my right hand – due to a youthful frolic on a bicycle that didn’t end well!

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Jellyfish salad in a Chinese restaurant in Berlin.

Where is your favourite place in the world?  
While I could talk pretentiously about places like the main square in Zamosc in Poland or Bosa in Sardinia, to be honest it probably is sitting in by the fire in McGing’s.

What is an outstanding childhood memory?
Being given bitter lemon to drink by the captain of a Scandinavian timber boat, while standing on the ship’s bridge coming in to the Quay sometime in the mid 1960s – I thought this was the most amazing thing ever.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
I don’t know, because I probably didn’t listen!

Name three things that are currently in your fridge?
Chillies, rhubarb and sauerkraut – taking a cross-cultural selection from a packed fridge.

Who was your first hero/heroine?
Pope John the XXIII – but only because I wanted to be Pope John the XXIV.

What’s your most prized possession?
My record of cessation of church membership from the Diocese of Tuam, confirming that I am no longer a Catholic.

What makes you nervous?
The current drift to the right in politics, which has allowed racism to become normalised again, makes me worried about the future.

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I would look at letters in one form or another –  reading online or in books, drawing letters, signwriting or printing wood type.