Olwen Fouéré’s PHD acceptance speech

Olwen Fouéré on receiving her Honorary Doctorate from DCU on April 2nd 2016.

 Thank you so much, Dublin City University, the Honorary Degree Nominations Committee, President Brian McCraith, Mary Colgan , Vikki Doyle, Sarah Ingle, Marina Carr and all those involved in my receiving this great honour.

I would also like to thank my close friends and family members who have travelled to be here with me today, your presence on this very special occasion means a great deal to me.

To my wonderful producers Jen Coppinger, Paul Fahy of the Galway International Arts Festival and Padraig Cusack, who are such great supporters of my work, the theatre maker Kellie Hughes with whom I have been working closely over the last two years, my long term great friends and partners – the composer Roger Doyle, the actor Robert O’Mahoney, my husband David Heap, my brother Erwan Fouéré who has managed to travel over from Brussels to be here, my nephew Benjamin Musgrave, who is also an actor, and my grandniece Tianna Barrett. Thank you all.

I asked Marina about what I might say in my acceptance speech to mark this occasion. She said – just say your manifesto.

So here we go.

I believe in artistic endeavor,

I believe that to navigate one’s way through this world as an artist

is to make a radical decision,  one which carries a responsibility to itself and to the world in which it operates.

The decision is often not one of choice, but rather one of ‘no choice’. Maybe it chooses you.

I believe that making Art is a revolutionary act.

It is an act of resistance against the prescribed realities of our everyday world, against everything which controls or subjugates our ways of seeing, thinking, hearing and feeling.

I believe that the world of the imagination is an endless undiscovered country.  It is itself a State, which contains the entire universe of our collective past, present and future.

This State, the artistic space, is a space for what might yet be possible, a space for propositions, ideas and languages that have not yet been imagined, or that have been misunderstood, dismissed, or long buried.

I believe that every true work of Art impels us on a journey into the unknown, into the underworld of our collective unconscious, a place full of shadows.  The journey can be arduous or light, exhausting or exhilarating, it doesn’t matter, as long as we are prepared to plunge deep enough to find the shadow of the idea which has impelled us.

Once we meet the shadow it can be a fight or a joyful reunion but either way we have to step inside it, embody the shadow, and bring it back to the surface to meet the glare of our everyday world.

Today, especially, I am thinking of my late father Yann Fouéré, who fought all his life for an idea he passionately believed in, often against fierce opposition.  He was no stranger to controversy. None of it seemed to bother him. He just carried on with the work he believed needed to be done.  He endured imprisonment and exile and was no doubt aware of the punishing effect his activism would have on my mother, on his family and on his own future. It is always a balancing act, but what I learned from him is that there can be no dividing line between life and art. It is all one journey.

I was very fortunate, as the youngest of five, to be born when my parents finally found a home on the Aughrusbeg peninsula, 60 miles west of Galway, on the edge of the broad Atlantic.  That great barren landscape with its intensity of ocean, granite and sky, has made me who I am and it is as much part of my DNA as the blood of my ancestors.  Whatever accident of fate brought me here, I know that although my blood may not be Irish, my bones have been formed by Ireland and their growth within its human geography.

I finished school at the age of 16 with a decent enough Leaving Cert but, much to my parents regret at the time, I did not pursue third level education. I could not find a field of study which seemed to fit the task ahead. I was also pretty wild and had already embarked on a less structured path of exploration.  That said, both my parents became great supporters of my work as they began to understand what I was after, and respected my choice.

I know they would both be very proud of this moment.

So, in a final act of gratitude for this great honour I am receiving today, a Doctor of Philosophy Honoris Causa, I would like to dedicate it to my late father Yann Fouéré and to my mother, Marie Magdeleine Mauger who is still alive and living in Brussels aged 98.

I would like finish with the last sentence of Finnegans Wake:

A way a lone a last a loved along the                                        END