The Headless City

MICHAËLE CUTAYA INTERVIEWS DANIEL JEWESBURY, CURATOR OF TULCA FESTIVAL OF VISUAL ARTS 2016 (5 – 20 NOVEMBER 2016).

Michaële Cutaya: You are the curator of this year’s TULCA and your theme is ‘The Headless City’. The city is a central concern in your work as a writer, curator and filmmaker. Previous projects such as ‘Re-Public’ (Dublin, 2010) and ‘The Headless City’ (Berlin, 2014) explored our relationship with the city and its spaces. Can you describe how this inquiry will manifest in Galway this month?

Daniel Jewesbury: What is interesting for me about the city of the industrial era (Galway has never been an industrial city but it was part of the industrial era) and what is the starting point for this TULCA, is how we historically moved to the city to escape certain types of social and economic ties that were very much linked to place. We exchanged bonds of obligation, religion and family for other types of bonds. There was this idea that in the city you got a certain type of freedom as a worker in exchange for selling labour. This process underpins the birth of socialism and social democracy, movements based on class affiliation and class interest rather than rootedness, family, clans and so on.

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The Proximity of History

We work exceptionally hard in the arts. Whether working day in, day out in studios, travelling the length and breadth of the country, grant-chasing, freelancing or maintaining real jobs at the fringes of day jobs, we move mountains every day. While critical reflection is an inbuilt methodology of what we do, how often do we actually pause to reflect on our progress or marvel at our achievements? As the final Visual Artists’ News Sheet of the year, this issue is positioned to consider recent developments across our sector, while assessing some of the challenges that remain.

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Towards a Post -Patriarchal State

­­­­JOANNE LAWS INTERVIEWS SARAH BROWNE AND JESSE JONES ABOUT THEIR ONGOING PROJECT ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE STATE’.

Joanne Laws: Perhaps you might explain how your collaboration came about and introduce some of your initial ideas in developing this major new project?

Sarah Browne/Jesse Jones: We’d known each other’s practices for many years and felt that at some stage we would find the right opportunity to work together. In 2014, we started discussing a potential collaboration with Patrick Fox (then Director of Create), and later Rachel Anderson (then producer/curator at Artangel, London). We attempted to identify the greatest urgencies for us as artists at that time and felt there was a renewed need to examine and refigure the position of women in relation to a patriarchal nation state. From the beginning of our work together, law and its instruments have been a critical focus. The Irish Sea also loomed large in our imagination.

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Do We Live in History?

JOANNE LAWS INTERVIEWS ANDREW DUGGAN ABOUT ‘PROCLAMATION’, A MULTI-VENUE EXHBITION FUNDED BY CULTURE IRELAND.

Two neon signs in a field

A public act

What’s said?

‘It Only Remains’ (into the night)

(out of the dawn) ‘Until Such Time’

Explicit or evocative, for discourse or meditation

A spell to conjure a desired state of affairs

A declaration that a state of affairs pertains

Sounds: between crying and sighing

What’s projected?

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The Touching Contract

Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones, the Rotunda Hospital Pillar Room, Dublin, 23 – 25 September 2016

The day of the second public performance of Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne’s The Touching Contract fell on a date of heightened emotion for women in Ireland, taking place just hours after Dublin saw thousands take to the streets in the fifth annual March for Choice, part of the campaign demanding that the government repeal the Eighth Amendment. The atmosphere in the Rotunda Pillar Room’s ante-chamber was withdrawn and respectful; the audience appeared fragile.

The third chapter of four performative works in the pair’s first collaboration ‘In the Shadow of the State’ was devised in consultation with local women. [1] Feminist legal scholar Mairead Enright wrote the ‘legal score’ for the work, drawing on the archive of legal documents relating to the treatment of Irish women by the state and by the medical profession, both here and in the UK. This source material reveals a sorry history of medical misdemeanors and the enforced adoption of illegitimate children. The artists view this legacy as a history of violence against women and, given the horrors endured by survivors of symphysiotomy [2] and those who suffered incarceration at the hands of the church (in the Magdalene Laundries for example), it is difficult to argue otherwise.

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Expanding Spaces

Robert Kelly, Draoícht, Blanchardstown, 24 September – 19 November

Robert Kelly is a print-maker whose appetite for exploration takes his work from the flat surface into three-dimensional space. In his latest exhibition, this space is the ground-floor gallery at Draoícht, where some works are conventionally framed while others emerge and expand to more fully occupy the architecture. This choreography leads the viewer on an unfolding visual journey, underpinned by thought and process. The artworks also feature material folds, which manipulate internal spatial relations and introduce conceal-and-reveal dynamics.

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All Mountains Are Moving

Paul Murnaghan, Limerick City Gallery of Art, 15 September – 30 October 2016

Paul Murnaghan’s exhibition ‘All Mountains Are Moving’ explores archaic belief systems by courting wonderment and superstition. This new body of work refers to outmoded ways of magical thinking, but also arouses a sense of mystery in the viewer through a clever use of materials and techniques that make us question what we are seeing.

‘All Mountains Are Moving’ is exhibited upstairs in Limerick City Gallery of Art across numerous rooms around the square first floor balcony space above the Atrium Gallery. The first room on the right omits a yellowy glow, created by an orange stain on the glass window. In the middle of the room is the sculptural work The stars don’t shine upon us, we’re in the way of their light. This is composed of an unlikely and precarious combination of materials, including an arching arm of plastic covered in fake leather, which is held up by part of a peeled tree branch. Nothing is fixed, but rather employs and seems to transcend the laws of gravity. At one end of the arm is an antique weight which roots the structure to the floor. At the elevated end is a hoover-like mouth with synthetic orange rope hanging from its end. Above this, and at the peak of the arch, is a levitating feather-covered ball that rotates slowly around in the air. This element of the sculpture is captivating and introduces the pervasive sense of mystery and magic that permeates the exhibition. The feather ball also adds an air of fragility to the piece as all the disjointed materials appear to be harmoniously balanced, yet could fall apart at any moment. Through its materiality, The Stars … recalls a lineage of conceptual sculpture by combining the drama of Richard Serra’s balancing steel works with the natural materials of ritualistic practices used in the sculptural installations of self-appointed shaman Joseph Beuys.

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Now Came Still Evening On

John Coyle and Gary Coyle, The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, 10 September – 12 November  

‘Now Came Still Evening On’ is a unique exhibition presenting the work of father and son John and Gary Coyle. John’s intimate paintings occupy The Dock’s light and airy Gallery One while Gary has created a vast immersive installation in the largest of The Dock’s three galleries.

John Coyle’s paintings and drawings depict scenes and people close to his studio and home. The works have a conciseness and authority clearly developed over a long career. They are reminiscent of the intimiste paintings of Vuillard and Bonnard, and of works by their more northerly descendants in Dublin and London.

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Glow: Variations on a Theme

Tom Climent, Eamon Colman, William Crozier, Neal Greig, Eilís O’Connell, Peter Martin, James McCreary, Michael Ray, Conor Walton, Catherine Hammond Gallery, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, 9 September – 19 October    

The stated aim of this group exhibition was to explore and interpret the idea and theme ‘Glow’, visually echoing the shift from late summer into autumn, whether experienced as a continuous radiant beam from a light source, the result of energy produced by vibrating electric colours or, contrastingly, through the gentle light of changing luminosity.

Eamon Colman’s two large oils on paper, Seeking refuge, the green earth turned towards the river and Morning swim by the Sultan’s tower introduce a strong warm presence at the front of the gallery with their swathes of expressionistic colour and addictive energy. Referencing landscape, they can be read equally as abstract gesture.

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Embracing Complexity

FIONA WHELAN TALKS ABOUT THE ONGOING PROJECT ‘NATURAL HISTORY OF HOPE’ AND EXAMINES SOME OF ITS HISTORICAL ROOTS AND TENSIONS.

In a 2012 lecture, Tom Finkerpearl used Monty Python’s popular 1979 satirical film The Life of Brian to illustrate a point about a crisis in the art world.[i] At an angry confrontation between the People’s Front of Judea, which the character of Brian had joined, and another activist group, the Campaign for a Free Galilee, Brian calls out to suggest that they should in fact be fighting their common enemy: the Romans. Finkerpearl uses this comedy moment to highlight a tendency in the art world to become consumed in ideological arguments pitting one form of creative approach against another at the cost of a collective fight.

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