Sunday, December 6th 2020
6pm Ireland / 1pm NYC
presented with The Consulate General of Ireland in New York

The Extraordinary Sound of a Silent New York : Part 02

Dancer & choreographer Jean Butler, artist Catherine Owens & architect Shelley McNamara in conversation with author Colum McCann

The Extraordinary Sound of a Silent New York: A quietened, frightened, determined, cavernous, beautiful place.            

I.NY presents two conversations exploring the experience of a New York City stopped and silenced by the coronavirus pandemic, from the perspective of Irish & American artists, authors, musicians, photographers, filmmakers and architects. Part 1 features the photography of Rich Gilligan, and welcomes him in conversation with broadcaster and filmmaker Donal Dineen, while Part 2 features a gathering of esteemed and diverse artists in conversation, including Jean Butler, Shelley McNamara, Catherine Owens & Colum McCann.

(Part 2) None of us could have imagined that we would see a city such as New York stopped, emptied, quietened, but the coronavirus caused that extraordinary happening. I.NY hosts a conversation with Irish and Irish American artists, authors and architects to discuss their experience of a New York City silenced. In combining the insight and sensibilities of those who know the city intimately, and who would acutely feel it change, the bringing together of Shelley McNamara, Catherine Owens, Jean Butler and Colum McCann promises a rare and rich conversation.

Jean Butler

Dancer, choreographer and scholar Jean Butler is a leading figure in the world of Irish dance performance, best known for originating the female principle roles and co-choreographing Riverdance The Show and Dancing on Dangerous Ground, which The New York Times reviewed as “channeling Irish step dancing into genuine artistic expression.” For over twenty years, she has toured the world forging a new space for traditional dance and in 2006 began working in a contemporary dance context. Her work has been commissioned and presented by preeminent institutions such as Jacobs Pillow, The Abbey Theatre, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Danspace Project, Project Arts Centre.

In 2018 Butler founded Our Steps, a not-for-profit organisation committed to artistic initiatives that inspire and expand the way we think about history, practice and performance of Irish dance. Our Steps inaugural project partnered with the Jerome Robbins Dance Division to initiate Our Steps, Our Story: An Irish Dance Legacy Archive, the first Irish dance archive dedicated to the solo step lineage of An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. Butler has taught internationally at Princeton University, University College Dublin, is currently Assistant Professor of Irish Studies at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, and is the recipient of many prestigious awards and honours.

View Our Steps website

Catherine Owens

Catherine Owens is an award-winning Irish artist living in New York City. Her multidisciplinary practice is installation based and includes drawing, painting, sculpture, film, video, LED, 3D technology and VR (Virtual Reality).
Owens approaches her materials as tools for composition, layering and interweaving elements in order to create immersive experiences that  seamlessly bring technology and mark-making together. She is interested in creating work for public spaces, and for non-traditional exhibition venues. The placement of artistic works in the urban environment offers Owens a rich platform for artistic debate and maximum public engagement.

In November 2020, in conjunction with the City of West Hollywood Arts Division, Owens launched REMEMBER, an animated portrait on four digital billboards on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The work honors the names of five women from the Central American region who came to America looking to forge their futures, find opportunities and experience a life without hindrance.
Also in 2020, she installed a second commission for the legendary Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. Integrating a series of seven LED Light Paintings (based on the subject of migration) in the front lobby of the building, this large-scale work creates an immersive color field environment.

Owens has exhibited works in New York at the Feldman Gallery and the Morris Healy Gallery, in Brooklyn at Kustera Projects, and at the Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan, as well as in Dublin, Ireland, at the Oliver Sears Gallery, the Kerlin Gallery and the Dublin City Gallery (The Hugh Lane). As well as her own solo art practice, Owens is known for her collaborative work with the internationally acclaimed rock band U2. As creative director of screen imagery for animation, film and video, she created their visual content for five world tours between 1992 and 2010. Nominated for two VH1 awards, her directorial work on U2’s ‘Original Of The Species’ video in 2006 introduced her to the world of Motion Capture and Visual Effects. This learning curve culminated in her work as director and producer, in 2008, of the first digital 3D film (‘U23D’) made for IMAX theatrical release. Shot in South America, its creation spearheaded a series of major technological breakthroughs in 3D filmmaking. The New York Times hailed it as “The first IMAX movie that deserves to be called a work of art.”


Shelley McNamara

Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell co-founded Grafton Architects in 1978, and in 2020 were named the recipient of both Britain’s Royal Gold Medal and the Pritzker Prize, regarded internationally as architecture’s highest honour. They are Fellows of the RIAI, and International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA. They are elected members of Aosdána, the eminent Irish Art organisation, and in 2018, they were the Curators of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Teaching at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin from 1976 to 2002, they were appointed Adjunct Professors at UCD in 2015, held the Kenzo Tange Chair at GSD Harvard in 2010 and the Louis Kahn chair at Yale in the Autumn of 2011.

View Grafton Architects

Moderator, Colum McCann

Colum McCann is the author of seven novels and three collections of stories. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, he has been the recipient of many international honours, including the National Book Award, the International Dublin Impact Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. In 2017 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts.  His work has been published in over 40 languages.  He is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College. He lives in New York with his wife, Allison, and their family.