Column | Practical Magic


Venus Patel, Eggshells, 2022, experimental short film; image courtesy the artist and Pallas Projects/ Studios. Venus Patel, Eggshells, 2022, experimental short film; image courtesy the artist and Pallas Projects/ Studios.

‘Practical Magic’ is the 12th iteration of Pallas Project/Studios’ annual exhibition, ‘Periodical Review’. Each year, Pallas directors, Gavin Murphy and Mark Cullen, invite two peers to consider the artworks, practices, exhibitions, projects, events, artistic and community initiatives, collaborations, publications and performances encountered in the previous 12 months. The four selectors then nominate the works that stood out for them during the year, and these are whittled down via an editorial process to five selections each, giving a total of 20 artworks. This process of four selectors with subjective viewpoints and positions, choosing work independently of each other, can lead to a show with a feeling of the ‘exquisite corpse’ about it. This format has its challenges but also allows for instinctive and surprisingly rich narrative connections to develop between the work, without the pressure of having to conform to a strict overarching curatorial theme. ‘Periodical Review’ is loosely designed to suggest a magazine-like layout, and in this sense, the spaces between works and the edits are clear. 

After an intense period of inaction and online interaction, 2022 saw an overdue abundance of exhibitions and events happening throughout the country. So, when Basic Space were asked to co-select this year’s ‘Periodical Review’, we approached this artistic bounty with a renewed intensity. For a few years, our lives shrank right down to the essential and the local, and since then, an increase in artistic practices focusing on the internal have flourished. The domestic and the corporal weave their way through the show, from soft pastels to shiny entrails. The multitude of crises that are at the forefront of the current global condition are also tackled head on. A selection of photographs from the now destroyed city of Mariupol in Ukraine, from the group TU Platform, is a particularly harrowing point in the show. In separate pieces, Cold War-era radios broadcast an imagined, but very likely climate catastrophe, and a cocoon of old family photos and sounds draw the viewer in, with nostalgia being felt, both physically and spectrally throughout the gallery. 

Striking palettes, aesthetics and ideas that lean towards the gothic enliven the space and lend a sense of unease: a punk Sheela na Gig and a silver tipped bean chaointe (or keening woman) sit across from each other; leather clad hands perform an unboxing video with feelings of the burlesque and the absurd, as box after surprising box are unveiled on a loop. Time and space are traversed in multicolour, from explorations of the conditions of Indian textile workers, to the recounting of past personal traumas. The walls are postered with monthly newsletters from an active community brimming with self-organised movement, ensuring the show is not without hope or humour – the essential strands that unify us and which we will need in abundance to survive and organise in the years ahead.

The contributors and artworks for ‘Periodical Review 12’ are: Kevin Atherton, Cecilia Bullo, Myrid Carten, Ruth Clinton & Niamh Moriarty, Tom dePaor, The Ecliptic Newsletter, Eireann and I, Patrick Graham, Aoibheann Greenan, Kerry Guinan & Anthony O’Connor, Camilla Hanney, Léann Herlihy, Gillian Lawler, Michelle Malone, Thais Muniz, Ciarán Ó Dochartaigh, Venus Patel, Claire Prouvost, Christopher Steenson, and TU Platform.

The invited selector’s this year were Julia Moustacchi and myself as co-directors of Basic Space – an independent voluntary art organisation founded in 2010, which has programmed educational events, residencies, events and exhibitions, primarily working with emerging and early-career practitioners. The majority of projects are hosted or organised in collaboration with external institutions, where Basic Space acts as a critical force, challenging attitudes and policy and promoting a representative and inclusive framework.

Siobhán Mooney is an independent curator and co-director at Basic Space.