‘A Walk to the Water’ by Patrick McCabe

In her introduction to this book, editor Louise Neri says the impulse for the project came from a profound ambivalence about the “closed-off, stillborn nature of much art criticism”. Described as a book of “fugue texts”, it includes writing by John Berger and Marina Warner and was envisaged as an alternative, after-the-fact catalogue for the solo exhibition Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz held at IMMA, Dublin in the summer of 1994. Patrick McCabe is the only Irish writer among the contributors. His story begins, “In these corridors of white I see him still, padding away on his wee soft feet.” It loops briefly back to 1975 Brixton, London where a bomb has just gone off in a pub, flagging the potential unreliability of its narrator from the get-go: “In those days I lived on cream crackers and acid.” In hospital, he recalls Wee Bunty Brady from The Knacker’s Yard. The artworks are not named in the book, but McCabe’s story is preceded by a black and white image of one which must have inspired it: a photograph of a sculpture of a four-foot man, one of Muñoz’s “Dwarf” series. Mc Cabe was hot off the international success of his 1992 novel ‘The Butcher Boy’, but the editors still accidentally misspelled his name Partick in the list of contributors. His story is a dark tragedy about human disconnection, and the hidden tears of a clown.

First published in Silence please! Stories after the works of Juan Muñoz, Irish Museum of Modern Art and Scalo, 1996