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.
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.
JOANNE LAWS INTERVIEWS ANDREW DUGGAN ABOUT ‘PROCLAMATION’, A MULTI-VENUE EXHBITION FUNDED BY CULTURE IRELAND.
Two neon signs in a field
A public act
‘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
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 The atmosphere in the Rotunda Pillar Room’s ante-chamber was withdrawn and respectful; the audience appeared fragile.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.  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  and those who suffered incarceration at the hands of the church (in the Magdalene Laundries for example), it is difficult to argue otherwise.
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”.
JANICE HOUGH OF IMMA INTRODUCES THEIR COLLABORATIVE PROJECT ‘A FAIR LAND’, WITH GRIZEDALE ARTS, BASED IN THE LAKE DISTRICT.
On the first outing to Grizedale Arts in spring of last year, Helen O’Donoghue (Head of Engagement and Learning at IMMA) and I found ourselves driving the entire circumference of the Lake District. After four hours of driving, which should have taken two, we were barely holding it together in the car as darkness fell over the rural pastures of Cumbria. Our failure to locate this peripheral centre led us to discover that there were two Grizedale Arts here. The one we were looking for was in Lawson Park and of course we had followed the prominent signage for the wrong one. After a wrong turn going up the mountain and the squelchy softening of the terrain under the wheels of the car, we reluctantly made the phone call to Adam Sutherland (Director of Grizedale) to assist us back down a dirt track teetering on the edge of a mountain. After this death defying stunt we were warmly welcomed and presented with some of Grizedale’s many culinary delights to help us recover from the ordeal.