At the time of writing, all cultural institutions, galleries and studio groups remain closed, as part of the unprecedented nationwide restrictions announced on 12 March, aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland. As this issue went to print, the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million cases globally. Thankfully, the figures in Ireland have remained comparatively low. However, the detrimental impacts on the Irish cultural sector are likely to resonate for some time.
Our bi-monthly editorial schedule has allowed us to update some of our previously commissioned content, to better reflect the rapidly shifting scenario. Many of this issue’s contributors frame their observations through the lens of recent restrictions.
For example, Katherine Nolan reminisces about the thrill of encountering live art, as part of Aine Phillip’s recent exhibition, ‘Buttered Up’, at MART Gallery. Ensconced in a sink as “absurd hostess”, Philips greeted audiences by extending a buttery hand, with Nolan commenting on the “intimacy of the handshake, now under scrutiny since the introduction of social distancing measures”.
In a similar vein, reflecting on the comparative freedom of global travel that we enjoyed only a few weeks ago, Lívia Páldi describes the week she spent at the Dhaka Art Summit 2020 in mid February, as feeling like both a “mirage” and a “rare privilege”, in light of subsequent global restrictions and the “rush towards digital space.”
Naturally, the closure of all cultural venues has impinged on some of our gallery coverage. Rather than reviewing ‘Home Truths’ at Engage Art Studios, we are now featuring an interview (conducted remotely by Meadhbh McNutt) with the curator, Evelyn Glynn, whose research with victims of domestic abuse provided the impetus for the show. This interview certainly feels all the more poignant, when we consider those living in lockdown with domestic violence, as the potentially hidden victims of this pandemic.
Among columns for this issue, Matt Packer presents a rejoinder to his ‘Internationalism’ series, outlining the impacts of COVID-19 on the artworld. Declan McGonagle describes the socio-economic impacts of the ‘selfish state’, while Ceara Conway discusses how the current scenario is affecting artists’ mental health.
The May/June issue also features a range of exhibition and project profiles: Anne Mullee speaks to artist Tom Flanagan about his ‘Folk Radio’ project in County Clare; Joyce Cronin interviews Laura Ní Fhlaibhín about her recent exhibition in London; Anne Tallentire and Chris Fite-Wassilak describe the development of hmn – a quarterly sound-based test centre event, running in London since 2015; while Valerie Byrne outlines the evolution of the National Sculpture Factory.
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