For the September/October issue of the Visual Artists’ News Sheet, I’m focusing on forms of participation and collaboration. This concern stems from a continued insistence in my own practice as a curator in a local authority on interrogating the work of artists working in social, participatory contexts. We are thinking of participation as progressive – as preferable to elitism, exclusion and bureaucracy, for instance – but we need to think of the value of participation as completely dependent upon the value of the project in which one participates. It tells us a lot about how art and artists are being routinely interrogated. And I think this is extremely flawed. In order to delve deeper into the conundrum of participatory practice, I sent the following text to each of the invited contributors as a provocation: “People in the art world seem to have subscribed wholesale to the idea that participation or collaboration is an athletic sport in which artists must compete for their form of participation to be deeper, stronger, faster, longer and purer. The ideal form of participation or collaboration then hangs over every project that even hints at participation. This is not true of the experience of the spectator, who remains outside the work.
Ards Arts Centre, 5 – 14 August
‘Creative Peninsula’ doesn’t operate like a curated exhibition because it isn’t one. It bears mentioning yet seems obtuse to point out, given that exhibition making isn’t really what this collection of work is about. ‘Creative Peninsula’ is a yearly presentation by Ards and North Down local authority, the premise of which is simply to showcase artists and makers within the area. As a result, the work within it is hugely diverse in focus, media and rigour. However, as is often seen in similar wide reaching events – studio collective exhibitions, for example, or final-year student presentations – grouping practices solely on shared geography is not enough to make something more than the sum of its parts. Thus ‘Creative Peninsula’ is more a disjointed collection of solo voices than a cohesive exhibition.
Selected from an open call for applications and commissioned by Queen’s University Belfast, Capillarium (2016) by Kevin Killen is a work located outside the recently-built Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, an interdisciplinary research centre building on the Health Sciences campus.
RHONA BYRNE AND YVONNE McGUINNESS SPEAK ABOUT THEIR COLLABORATIVE PUBLIC ART COMMISSION ‘MOBILE MONUMENTS’.
Commissioned by Fingal County Council Arts office for their 1916 Commemorative Public Art Commission, ‘Mobile Monuments’ was produced as part of the 1916 Centenary Programme over a six-month period. The project involved three trikes with mobile sculptures, which turned into performance platforms becoming ‘forms in action’. The budget for the project was €35,000 and our proposal was selected through an open call submission with two rounds.
The closing event for ‘Eva 2016: Still (the) Barbarians’ was the culmination of one the most well received Eva exhibitions in recent years. Reflecting the scope and complexity of the biennial itself, the presentations and discussions were diverse and ambitious, representing a range of both Irish and international offerings on postcolonial discourse. Curator Koyo Kouoh began by introducing Alan Phelan’s “counterfactual” film Our Kind (2016), which imagines a future for Roger Casement had he not been executed in 1916.
David Fagan, Tactic, Cork, 23 June – 20 July 2016
Sometimes I find it interesting, on my first encounter with an exhibition, to pretend I am illiterate.
A brightly lit, concrete-floored rectangle. A white sentence on a red floating partition. Three separate clusters of green glass beer bottles. On one wall, a black and white photograph of four suited and bespectacled persons unknown; on the opposite, a colour photograph of two men in a pub, one to the rear, one to the fore. A pedestal upon which a ticket and ticket receipt are propped, another sentence in the crook of the wall, this time in red. A video, one moment showing a solitary trolley outside a squat, brick building against a blue sky, the next showing the same scene on a TV screen inside a living room – net curtain, radiator, fireplace – and a tune burbling up from inside the video, a soul song from the 1970s. As the screen blacks out it throws its chorus to a speaker in the ceiling: “Have you seen her? Tell me have you seen her?”
Farmleigh Gallery, Dublin, 10 June – 7 August
‘Two Birds/One Stone’ is an absorbing exploration of materiality. Janet Mullarney has chosen works by a wide range of artists from the last two decades which explore the complexity, tactility and associative power of materials. The exhibition features work by Cecily Brennan, Dorothy Cross, Maud Cotter, Aleana Egan, John Gibbons, Tony Hill, Mary Kelly, Alice Maher, Eileen McDonagh, Locky Morris, Paul Mosse, Helen O’Leary, Niamh O’Malley, Adrian Paci, Rachel Parry, Alan Phelan, Kathy Prendegast, Linda Quinlan, David Quinn, Eddie Rafferty, Charles Tyrrell, Michael Warren and Daphne Wright.
John Byrne, The LAB, Dublin, 24 June – 10 August 2016
The official 1916 commemoration on Easter Sunday was a conservative if dignified solution that marked the de facto centenary of the foundation of our state. Designed to avoid controversy or soul searching, the event sidelined years of colossal social and economic upheaval in favour of a traditional military parade by the Irish Defence Forces. And they did it very well. In contrast, but arguably hidden safely in the margins, John Byrne’s exhibition ‘Would You Die for Ireland?’ is part of the LAB Gallery’s series of exhibitions supported by Dublin City Council’s Commemoration Fund, which asked artists “to consider what contribution we might make to future readings of the Easter Rising”.
CURATOR SANDRA KRIŽIĆ ROBAN TALKS TO DRAGANA JURIŠIĆ ABOUT HER BOOK YU: THE LOST COUNTRY, AND HOW THE ARTIST’S PERSONAL HISTORY AS AN EXILE DETERMINES HER WORK AND HER PERCEPTION OF THE WORLD.
Sandra Križić Roban: In the last couple of years we have witnessed a surge in the number of publications and research works that deal with the former Yugoslavia. While some focus on the legacy of post-war modernism, and others on the post-1990s period and the social divisions that transpired as a result, there are also a significant number that deal with the writer’s own family history and the pursuit of identity. I want to know about how you came to do it. Why is heritage important to you? What have you found out about yourself during this research, and how did you perceive your own family? Did anything change from the things you already knew?
DIRECTOR/CEO NOEL KELLY DISCUSSES VAI’S RECENT ADVOCACY WORK IN SEVERAL AREAS AND DETAILS HOW THE ORGANISATION WILL BE MOVING FORWARD IN RESPONSE TO RECENT CONCERNS ABOUT POLICY AND FUNDING FOR THE ARTS IN IRELAND.
The arts are back in the news. Every change in government and lead up to a new budget brings with it a renewed expression of the sector’s importance and need for support. It would appear that memories are short, as it seems necessary to repeat the same arguments each time and often to find new ways to express them, as the media become more and more hungry for what is new. In reality, our statements are reiterating the same thing.