“When you’re in the water, you see the world differently. You’re not vertical anymore. You see things—I mean, the things you’re familiar with, the land—from this flattened position. It’s another kind of orientation, not vertical, not horizontal, but fluid, your orientation becomes fluid, and the imperatives of the land no longer govern how you’re thinking about space—which is now water, not land, you’ve left the land behind—and you’re thinking with your skin, your breath, your body. It’s through your body you know this place.”
Over the summer of 2021, writer and artist Nathan O’Donnell spent several weeks on the Tipperary shoreline of Lough Derg, exploring the history, ecology, and topography of this place—as a site for trade, leisure, health, tourism—and gathering stories about swimming on the lake.
The Book of Invasions is a record of this process, devised in consultation with local respondents, and with the participation of a number of swimmers who provided interviews about their experience on the lake. Compiled by O’Donnell and designed by Clare Bell, The Book of Invasions combines elements of personal essay and modular writing with transcripts of interviews and archival sources, serving as a repository of place-names, memories, customs, and daily rituals on the edges of this body of water.
The Book of Invasions is the outcome of a River Residency, undertaken between July and September 2021. The River Residencies are co-funded by the Arts Council of Ireland’s Invitation to Collaboration scheme, led by Limerick Arts Office in partnership with the Arts Offices in Cavan, Clare and Tipperary. The River Residencies are curated by Caimin Walsh and Mary Conlon at Ormston House, as part of the Museum of Mythological Water Beasts (2017–ongoing) about, along, and on the River Shannon.