HOME: Mieke Vanmechelen

In producing her film Residual MinorityMieke Vanmechelen spent a year working closely with local farmers and their livestock.

The Kerry cow is the oldest breed of cow in Europe and has been present in Ireland since Neolithic times, over 4000 years ago. In Residual Minority, they are captured in austere black and white, grazing in fields of gray mist and fog, herded into barns for milking. Vanmechelen’s camera lingers, close-up, to capture the birth of a calf, watching as the mother tenderly cleans her young, recording its tentative first steps. An accompanying soundtrack merges an ambient musical score by Tony Langlois and Harry Moore with the familiar sounds of the farm; the lowing of cattle, the gentle patter of rainfall, the rustle of hooves on straw. 

The work is atmospheric, attuned to a slower, meditative, pace of life. The rare cattle in her film are part of an Irish cultural identity, realised in legends and literary works such as The Cattle Raid of Cooley and in early legal statutes like the 7th and 8th century Brehon laws. Yet, despite their significance, Kerry cows are in danger of dying out. For Vanmechelen, the longevity of this breed symbolises an ethical and humane minority against contemporary imperatives of individualism and competitiveness. The exploitation of animals and land and its consequences towards the environment therefore demands an alternative to Western conceptions of progress and modernisation.