Basic Space is an independent, voluntary-led art organisation, founded in 2010 by Kari Cahill, Hannah Fitz, Greg Howie, and Hugo Byrne, while they were students. Basic Space was established during the recession and from frustration at the lack of exhibition spaces for emerging artists in Dublin. A vacant warehouse was secured just behind Vicar Street and a studio and exhibition space were set up. The venue became an essential testing ground for creative dialogue and risk-taking for a wide range of artists.
Providing a space for ‘things to happen’, and a place to experiment for a community of artists, was the driving force for Basic Space in these early years. Important collaborations and connections were made with other artist-led spaces in Ireland and across Europe at this time. In 2012 Basic Space took part in IMMA’s Residency Programme, which was followed by a move in 2013 to Eblana House in The Liberties.
From 2016 onward, Basic Space occupied a number of locations in Dublin. As the years progressed, empty space around the city increasingly got swallowed up by development. The logistics became almost impossible and it was no longer viable for Basic Space to exist in a physical location. This new nomadic presence led to increased collaborations with established art institutions. Basic Space programmed residencies, staged exhibitions, and held events under an ethos of exploring new and alternative ways of programming without a dedicated base. It became a flexible site for collaboration and engagement, and as different iterations emerged and co-directors came and went, these core principles allowed Basic Space to evolve and adapt to changing socio-economic and political circumstances, while continuing to provide a supportive and safe platform for a diverse range of artists.
Over the past 13 years, Basic Space has initiated over 50 projects through the dedication of 19 different co-directors, who have striven to maintain the organisation as a vital and useful space for the creation and dissemination of contemporary art. Basic Space have collaborated with 126 Artist-Run Gallery, Ormston House, Gallery Eight, CCA Derry~Londonderry, TBG+S, Galway Arts Centre, and ONONO Rotterdam, to name a few. More recent projects include: inviting Diana Bamimeke to curate the exhibition ‘On Belonging’ in the Library Project; a Basic Space commissioned t-shirt from the artist Emma Wolf-Haugh, with proceeds going to support MASI; a solo show by Cara Farnan, hosted by Backwater Artists Group in Cork; and a self-improvement table quiz fundraiser, devised by David Fagan and John Waid.
In the summer of 2020, Basic Space hosted a series of Instagram conversations with various practitioners in response to and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In December 2022 Basic Space were invited to be co-selectors, along with Gavin Murphy and Mark Cullen, for Periodical Review 12 in Pallas Projects/Studios. Most recently, in collaboration with MART Gallery, Basic Space invited Kasia Kaminska and Samuel Arnold Keane to run an urban foraging and anthotype workshop.
Basic Space also curates Basic Talks, a monthly series of informal talks with leading contemporary practitioners, in partnership with the Hugh Lane Gallery. This crucial activity provides steady funding for Basic Space while offering an open platform for artists, curators, writers, and collectives to present their practice in the form of lectures, workshops, presentations, and performances to new audiences. This relationship with the Hugh Lane was forged in 2016 by the directors at the time and, so far, 45 Basic Talks have taken place. Francis Fay, Manal Mahamid, Vanessa Daws, and Venus Patel are among the most recent speakers.
Basic Space is currently funded on a project-by-project basis. While this affects our ability to make long-term plans, it also affords us a degree of flexibility and receptivity that is at the core of how we engage with the artists, audiences, and institutions that we work with. Ireland is well out of recession, but there are still not enough spaces for artists to work. Back in 2010, when Basic Space was founded, artists could just about afford to rent a studio and live in the city; however, this has now become almost impossible.
A lot has changed in the intervening years, but the ethos on which Basic Space was founded – collaboration, inclusivity, experimentation, engagement and providing space for artists – remains as relevant and important as ever. We hope to keep evolving and producing dynamic and valuable events with a strong focus on underrepresented communities within the art world. As an artist-led space in a world increasingly dominated by profit-driven forms of expression, Basic Space exists solely for artists.
Upcoming events include Basic Talks from Laura Fitzgerald, Jonathan Mayhew, and Ciara Roche; an event with Conor Nolan, based on a residency borne from a collaboration between Basic Space and VOID Gallery in Saskatoon; and some exciting fundraising events in autumn.
Siobhán Mooney, Laura Harvey-Graham and Ella Litton are the current Basic Space co-directors.