Speculative Optimism

Deirdre O’Mahony

Speculative Optimism is the title of the essay film Deirdre O’Mahony produced from research she conducted while artist– in–residence at the University of Reading Museum of English Rural Life in 2017.

Her research began with the proposition: is ‘carbon–neutral’ beef possible? Agricultural research at the University tested the effect of diffferent kinds of forage on animal and soil health and on levels of methane produced by livestock.

Shot in the Museum’s archives, on Reading University Farm, and a farm specialising in the production of heritage seed varieties, this project investigated historical references to forages like Sainfoin and the Museum’s extensive collection of films produced to promote agricultural efficiency.

Deirdre O’Mahony’s work is grounded in collaborative engagements with different rural publics and contexts. Public art projects include X–PO, a defunct rural post–office, re–imagined as a social and cultural public exchange space.