WRITTEN & CURATED BY MATTHEW NEVIN DESIGNED BY PATRICIA DOUGLAS
Thanks to: Emma Mahony: Thank you for all your guidance. Patricia Douglas: For the Graphic Design. Katriona Woods: For all your support. Ciara Scanlan: For all our MARTian collaborations. The contributors Katherine Nolan, Adrian Duncan Colleen Keough, Darragh O’Callaghan, Martina McDonald, Maria Tanner, Declan Breen, Eleanor Lawlor, Adam Gibney and to Nora o’Murchú & Tanja Ostojić for their support. Declan Long & Francis Halsall of Art in the Contemporary World at NCAD. All the MART Artists. My Family. And finally to all those who have ever plugged in a light bulb, hung a poster or attended a MART event, none of this could have been done without you! Thank you.
• 4 • • 6 • • 8 •
“ARTIST AS CURATOR”
AN INTERVIEW WITH CIARA SCANLAN
THE NON ZERO-SUM ART GAMES
• 14 •
• 24 •
• 72 •
• 74 • • 78 •
“POLITICS AS AN ENTRY POINT” AN INTERVIEW WITH NICKY LARKIN
• 88 • • 92 •
“ACADEMIA IN IRISH ART”
AN INTERVIEW WITH MARGARET O’BRIEN
REVOLT & AGONISM.
VIRTUAL DEMOCRACY & THE QUESTION OF POST-IDENTITY IN THE WORK OF TANJA OSTOJIC
•170• THE AUDIENCE•MARTINA McDONALD •176• SURFACE, IMAGE AND FEMININITY IN PERFORMANCE PRACTICE KATHERINE NOLAN
INVESTIGATING THE POLITICS WITHIN PARTICIPATORY NET ART THROUGH THE CORE PROJECT MATTHEW NEVIN •192•
A ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION
FEATURING: •EMMA MAHONY•ADRIAN DUNCAN• •NORA O’MURCHU•ELEANOR LAWLOR• •ADAM GIBNEY•DECLAN BREEN•
FACILITATED BY MATTHEW NEVIN
Welcome to the MART catalogue March 2013 You are about to experience a journey from MART’s inception in 2006 to the present day! This catalogue covers topics of inclusion, politics, participatory art and the Irish contemporary art industry, through accessible texts and images. MART’s primary aim is to open up the understanding of contemporary art to the masses. Over many years working in the contemporary art world, it has been brought to my attention the considerable amount of exclusivity that can be found within its roots. The analysis of the inner workings of this culture prompted the creation of this catalogue with the prospect of highlighting both the negatives and positives I have experienced while working in contemporary art across the globe. It has not been an easy road; Ciara and I have struggled financially for many years now to keep MART operational. We have seen many other organisations come and go, but we are still getting bigger and better. This catalogue acts as a resource for artists and students, as well as a means of creating an open dialogue between the people in the art ‘know’ and people in the ‘oh no’. I have stayed away from exclusive ‘academic’ speak and commentary to allow the catalogue serve as an accessible entry point to MART and the Irish contemporary art industry. The catalogue includes: a MART retrospective, interviews with artists on their practice, academia and politics, along side a showcase of artists and a round table discussion based on the art world, digital art and art theory. The second part of the catalogue is made up of two of my own texts; the first aiming to find a democracy between visual arts engagement, activism and the role of MART as a small arts organization in the public sphere. The second examines the political framework around online participatory art, the participant’s hold as both sub-artists and spectators and their position in an online public space. The catalogue ends with a selection of curated texts on identity, the audience, the digital world, and three performative texts. An art piece in its own right, this catalogue combines tens of thousands of words, hundreds of images and years of creativity all that have been transformed into a visually stimulating book thanks to the wonderful designer Patricia Douglas. Make no mistakes, this catalogue is for everyone! Enjoy, Matthew Nevin. 5
Mission Statement MART is an arts organisation set up in 2006 by Matthew Nevin, Chloe Freaks and Ciara Scanlan. MART’s primary aim is to create a platform for new media, installation, sculpture, experimental film and performance artists. MART was founded on an inclusive ethos, which aims to break down boundaries in the visual arts through its ability to inspire a curiosity for knowledge and education through art. MART aims to bring contemporary art to the forefront of culture by actively engaging people from all sectors of society in both its viewing and production. MART’s website has grown into Ireland’s largest video art library and collection of active Irish visual artists showcasing contemporary art. The online interactive gallery hosts visual art on display and informative educational text, as a way of enriching an understanding of experimental and challenging artwork. This growing site showcases over 150 of the finest emerging and established artists, making their artwork publicly accessible. MART aims to provide an art resource that is accessible, interesting and enjoyable to the public.
MART holds no exclusivity in targeting its audience, as it aims to showcase to local and international audiences, artists, curators, art collectors, art organisations, not for profit organisations, voluntary art groups and art enthusiasts. To accomplish this, MART actively encourages public participation through workshops, talks and discussions around exhibitions and artist led events held in both contemporary galleries and within accessible temporary locations. MART also acts as a platform and support group for individual artists and curators seeking advice and assistance on hosting their own exhibition in relation to promotion, location etc. MART specialises in international exhibitions of Irish artists and has supported the work of over 300 artists through its previous exhibitions and events. MART has reached an audience of over 30,000 in exhibitions across Ireland, the U.K, Central Eastern Europe and North America. Through an extensive international press portfolio MART has reached over 1 million people. During 2012 MART launched its first permanent gallery and studios ‘THE MART’, an old fire station in Dublin serving local, national and international art endeavours. THE MART is home to artist studios, two galleries, a workshop space and ‘MIAEN’ (MART’S International Arts Exchange Network), a programme that offers an opportunity for international artists/curators to exhibit and curate in Dublin. To become a member of MART & showcase your work, artists can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
MART RETROSPECTIVE “When artists curate, they cannot avoid mixing their artistic investigations with the proposed curatorial project: for me, this is the strength and singularity they bring to curating.” (Basbaum, 2003) ‘Retrospective’ is such an outlandish word, which can be easily conceived to be an obnoxious action to perform on an artist/movement/collective that is still producing new work, never mind a self-reflexive retrospective on your own artist organization. For 2012 MART is undergoing considerable growth by opening THE MART, therefore it seems fitting to recap on how MART has arrived at this point.
time there was very little collective representation of Irish new media art online. Since its inception the website has grown into the largest online gallery with over 150 emerging and established Irish contemporary artists. Artists throughout time have fought for their work to be seen, MART fights this battle by providing a direct online presence for artists to showcase their work both online and through traditional exhibitions.
In 2006 Ciara Scanlan, Chloe Freaks and Matthew Nevin then recent art graduates were full of vitality for creativity working in the art, film and television industries in Galway city. Both had desired to showcase their work in exhibitions after college, however the pair quickly encountered barriers finding most galleries and museums with closed doors to emerging artists. This led the duo to form MART, as an organization to showcase recent graduates working in installation, new media, sculpture, performance and video art to new audiences.
By actively engaging new publics from all sectors of society MART encourages public participation through exhibitions, workshops and talks using new media and technology to transform the audiences usage and the understanding of contemporary art. MART’s targets its audience with the ethos that ‘art is for everyone’. MART aims to break down barriers by making and creating opportunities for members of the Irish public and international audiences to view art. As an educational resource art can be an exciting and innovative tool to stimulate thinking on diverse subjects. MART acts as an educational resource not only for mew media, installation and performance art, but wider social and cultural issues to get the public thinking about unusual and exciting projects, art forms and works that may challenge everyday thoughts.
In 2007 with the assistance of The Irish Arts Council the MART website was created www.mart.ie, at this
Aiming at a diverse range of demographics, MART encourages their participation through
educational workshops that directly involve the public. Artists are asked to consider how their practice can engage the interest of the wider public and open up contemporary art to groups such as local communities, the elderly, special needs schools and youth groups. It is important to bring empowerment to people through art and cultural projects that reduce exclusion and conflict. MART aims to promote art in an approachable manner by welcoming conversation and encourages challenging discussion on contemporary topics.
Who is MART? MART operates under a team of two full time directors/curators Matthew Nevin & Ciara Scanlan, two part time employee’s; Katherine Nolan and Adam Gibney, and a series of temporary, business, curatorial and artistic staff; Sofie Loscher, Lorcan Lawlor, Aoife Giles, Sarah Lundy, Joan Healy and Eleanor Lawlor. Scanlan & Nevin who founded the organisation work as a partnership curating and directing all branches of the MART group; the website, the exhibitions and events, MART Productions, THE MART and MIAEN. Scanlan & Nevin have brought MART from a small endeavour into one of the largest independent visual art organisations in Ireland. Ciara Scanlan is an artist and curator holding a Masters in Art in the Digital World from NCAD Dublin and graduated from Crawford College of art with a First class BA in Fine Art. Ciara
works primarily through the medium of video, performance, real and web based interventions. Ciara recently showed her work in Dublin Contemporary and previously across Ireland, Europe and USA. www.ciarascanlan.com Matthew Nevin wears many hats: a curator, artist, writer and art director. He has recently completed a Masters in Contemporary Art in NCAD Dublin and an Honours Bachelor Degree in Film & Television and Scenography (Design) studies in University of Wales Aberystwyth. Matthew also works as a Film & Television Art Director having previously worked for the BBC, MTV, RTE, TG4 and ITV. Matthew has shown his artwork globally and is currently working on the international piece ‘The Core Project’; (www. the-core-project.com) a multi-discipline curatorial visual art endeavour combining film, installation and net art. www.matthewnevin.com Katherine Nolan is MART’s performance director who curates the educational and performance aspects of MART. Katherine Nolan is a video and performance artist, who recently completed a practice-led PhD entitled “Seducing the Machine: Narcissism and Performance in Contemporary Feminist Practice”. Her work is concerned with the erotic female body as spectacle, in particular provoking questions around narcissism and exhibitionism as seemingly incongruous with critical agency. http://katherine-nolan.blogspot.com Adam Gibney is MART’s right hand man, he is the technical manager and assistant producer of MART events. Adam is a Dublin based artist who graduated
from IADT in 2010. Adam was the recipient of the IMOCA Graduate Residency award, the Aileen MacKeogh Award and is currently the recipient of the Siamsa Tire Emerging Artist award for which he held a solo exhibition. Adam works with a range of media, which include sculpture, projection, sound, video and electronics. His work has also been featured in exhibitions in Berlin, Marseilles, London and Los Angeles. www.adamgibney.com
Past Events In 2007 MART took part in its first main exhibition; a group screening of video work at the open-air projection screen at The Galway City Museum. This was quickly followed by MART’s involvement in the Tulca Art Festival with ‘Mobile Art Cart’, a mobile cart that brought free art to the streets. In 2008 MART screened experimental video work in ‘Bar 8’ Galway. Later that year MART went on to present itself to the world in the exhibition titled The Launch. An exhibition housed in an old warehouse in Galway it launched the MART website and was the first group exhibition containing installations, performances and a multi-artist video screening. Subsequently MART was invited to curate Challenging Behaviour a group exhibition in the 2008 Galway Arts Festival. The exhibition inhabited the Silkes Warehouse and an old Cottage in city, a location which later became a trademark location for the organisation. The same year MART hosted Projecto Electro an art event in Twisted Pepper Dublin and The Free Art Project on the streets of Dublin & Galway.
JOAN HEALY & KATHERINE NOLAN, TRANS WEST, 2010.
In 2009 MART’s exhibition portfolio grew as artists began to receive national and international exposure through the website and a series of exhibitions: two events at Twisted Pepper, a group exhibition This Must be The Place combining Irish Art groups in IMOCA, followed by MART’s second run at the 2009 Galway Arts Festival with Open Door Policy. In 2009 MART also had its first international exhibition sponsored by Culture Ireland at the respected Shunt Vaults in London (www.shunt.co.uk). In 2010 MART held screenings at Not the Unusual in Sligo, Culture Night Galway and exhibitions at A Collective Sigh of Relief at G126 and Beat Yard Dublin. 2010 was another important year for MART, which saw its directors curate their biggest show to date; An Instructional a six city European and North American touring exhibition sponsored by Culture Ireland. The exhibition visited: Entrée in Bergen Norway, Shunt in London, Stattbad in Berlin, SPACE in Bratislava Slovakia, The Molesworth Gallery Dublin and ended in The Lewis Art Gallery in Jackson, Mississippi. MART also co-produced the group show The Galloway Project and performance The Stranger in Millsaps College Mississippi. In early 2011, MART launched MART Productions, which promotes and produces new work from artists working in documentary, music video and other mainstream media formats. It has produced a feature length experimental documentary The Gypsy Soul Disco directed by Nicky Larkin, and the short film Brianna directed by Matthew Nevin, with a comedy mocumentary Spoonfeeders in the pipeline for 2013.
The summer of 2011 was MART’s busiest time to date; with a group video screening in the celebrated Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space Festival, a group exhibition at The Big Picture Tallaght and Freedom to the city in Rua Red Dublin. MART also ventured across the Atlantic and took part in ‘Imagine Ireland’ a year long festival of events in the USA sponsored by Culture Ireland. MART produced Invite or Reject a group exhibition of 15 emerging and established Irish artists presenting works in the Popup Art Loop initiative in Chicago, the artist run gallery at Flux Factory in New York and commercial C4 Gallery in Los Angeles. MART’s main focus is building relationships through national and international events with artists, curators, gallerists. From the rapid growth and success of MART over the past six few years, it is evident that MART must continue to evolve and invest in new and dynamic projects to continue to engage the public’s curiosity.
The Future: In 2012/13 MART is opening THE MART in an old fire station in Rathmines, Dublin. This space shall facilitate an office, studios and gallery to service the Dublin art community through local, national and international endeavours. With thanks to the Dublin City Council MART will also be running ‘MIAEN’ (MART’S International Arts Exchange Network), which shall offer international artists/curators an opportunity to exhibit and curate in Dublin. MART will continue to curate nationally and internationally
in unconventional spaces, disused shops, residential and leisure spaces and commercial galleries. The use of such spaces takes art and culture into the heart of each community, widening participation and contributing to regeneration. With a base MART can provide Dublin artists with equipment and technical support for exhibitions, act as a curatorial service provider, where artists can call upon curators advice, help and services. MART will facilitate internationally curated shows for 2013, which will see global curators and art initiatives connecting with local artists. It will be a unique opportunity for international and established curators to visit artist studios and hold talks in Dublin and across Ireland. MARTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s artistic quality can be seen in this catalogue of exhibitions from which we have established a solid network of artists, curators and cultural spaces throughout the years. As a dynamic and growing resource MART aims to open up the cutting edge of Irish contemporary art to a wider public, to both challenge and delight. By stimulating curiosity, wonder and lively exchange MART provides an uplifting experience out of the ordinary that aims to enrich the experience and understanding of life through art.
BASBAUM, R., 2003. Documenta, I love etc.-artists. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.e-flux.com/ projects/next_doc/ricardo_basbaum.html. [Accessed 15 September 12].
EMMA HAUGH , MART @ POGO 2009
BARRY HUGHES COREY SMITH
ALAN DELMAR jonathan mayhew ADAM GIBNEY
ANDREW CARSON CIARA SCANLAN 14
ANDRES ZUNIGA HILLARY WILLIAMS AOIFE CASEY NOEL MOLLOY
Amy WALSH chloe freaks
ATOOSA POUR HOSSEINI
JANE CASSIDY david bickley BENJAMIN GAULON 15
ROSE MBURU JAMES WARD
MOLLY O’DWYER SAMANTHA MCGAHON
COLLEEN KEOUGH ELLA BURKE
IVAN TWOHIG DEBBIE JENKINSON 16
JOHN CONWAY TONY KENNY
tristan hutchinson VANESSA DAWS
TONYA McMULLAN STEPHEN WOODS
JOAS SEBASTIAN NEBE SARAH LUNDY TRICIA McCARTHY
BONNIE JEAN LAWLESS
SASSU ANTONIO HELEN HORGAN ELEANOR LAWLOR
LINDSAY TUNKL KATHY O’LEARY MISCHA TWITCHIN LORRAINE NEESON
LAURA O’CONNOR LOUISE MARLBOROUGH OLIVE BARRETT MOYA CLARKEN
KELLY O’CONNOR LAURA FITZGERALD 18
OSCAR DE CARMEN
SOFIE LOSCHER RUSSELL CHARTIER
VUKASIN NEDELJKOVIC MARIAN ARAUJO LISA MARIE JOHNSON
JOE HAMBLETON EMILY BOYLAN JOHN MURPHY
Frédérique de Montblanc DARRAGH O’CALLAGHAN
FIONA WALSH 20
JESSICA FENLON JIM RICKS EMANUEL ROHSS
JAMES HAYES CLARE SHANAHAN & BRIAN SHERRY
JACINTA JARDINE CHRISTINE MACKEY CLODAGH LAVELLE
KLAUS PINTER JESSICA KELLY NEASA O’GRADY
MARY DEMPSEY AMIR GUBERSTEIN
COALFATHER LISA O’DONNELL VERA KLUTE
RUTH LE GEAR MICHELLE HALL
NIAMH HEERY REDMONK
Ciara Scanlan “I am a mass consumer. I am in the target audience of 25-35 female, who enjoys the latest fad, the latest trend, the celebrity gossip, the most eye catching commercial, the latest Facebook/Twitter update. I am guilty of sitting comfortably in the apathy and controlled environment of all the above. However I feel my role as an artist is to step outside what society and mass media want me to consume and react to. I have made the conscious decision to upset the status quo of the everyday, of my everyday and of your everyday. My work centres on hope and delusion, particularly in relation to mass media and the “gap’s” appearing in the global “community”. In my art practice I am interested in the ever-present force of the media and it’s ability to both unify and segregate society. I work primarily through the medium of video, performance and web based interventions. I place art works in the public sphere sometimes without traceability to my identity, creating an imagined reaction and situations. I, as an instigator, wonder about what was said and how it affected the area. In parallel, the people of the area may wonder why and where the ‘work’ came from, while participation in the work is not essential for the ‘receivers’ of each intervention. I am embedded into the community anonymously, and only revealed if you actively seek me out. My relationship with the people in the selected areas is as a catalyst for conversation and curiosity. The style and overall visual language of the work is embedded in the absurd, comic and often dramatically over the top. I see the role of humour as a crucial tool in communicating to the public and initially arresting in generating attention. The Clown/ Jester is a common tool used in literature (from Shakespeare to Becket) as social commentator, protagonist for the people. They are the every man and every woman. I want to become a purveyor of disturbance in communities. I am a territorial female leaving her mark on the place where she lives. I will continue to make, work and experience the world I live in through reactionary measures. I will continue to challenge myself and others regarding our relationship as neighbours and fellow human beings.”
Ciara Scanlan works primarily in video, performance and web-based media. Scanlan is interested in the everpresent force of the mass media and its ability to both unify and segregate society. As an artist and protagonist, Scanlan feels it is her role to upset the status quo. Scanlan co-launched MART in 2006 and works as a curator and co-director for the organisation. She has previously exhibited nationally and internationally, including Dublin Contemporary 2011, Galway Arts Festival, Shunt in London, EntrĂŠe in Norway and the Molesworth Gallery, Dublin.
CIARA SCANLAN WHERE DID I GO, 2009.
CIARA SCANLAN, HUNGRY AGAIN, 2011.
Matthew Nevin Matthew Nevin is a visual artist working in Ireland, UK and the US. In 2006 Nevin received an Honours Bachelor Degree in Film & Television and Scenography (Design) studies in Aberystwyth Wales. Most recently in 2012 Nevin completed his MA in Art in the Contemporary World in NCAD. Matthew works as a Designer and Art Director in Film, Television & Theatre working. He has previously worked for the BBC, MTV, RTE, TG4, Element Pictures and ITV. During 2006 Nevin cofounded MART a new initiative to provide a platform for experimental film, new media, installation and performance artists to showcase their work. In 2007 the experimental film ‘Trading Pavements’ focusing on the individual self and secondary persona, was exhibited in Galway City Museum. In 2008 Nevin co curated several events through MART including ‘The Launch’ @ Silkes Galway, ‘Challenging Behaviour’ at Galway Arts Festival. While curating these events Nevin exhibited installations such as ‘i!’, ‘A.D.’ and ‘Selfish Duck’. In 2009 Nevin co curated MART events such as ‘Mart @ Pogo’, ‘The Free Art Project’, ‘Mart @ IMOCA’, ‘MART @ SHUNT’ and ‘Open Door Policy’ at The Galway Arts Festival, while showing his own work ‘D.I.R.T’, ‘D.I.R.T #2’, and ‘The Expansion Effect’ in Dublin and London. In 2010, Nevin showed a preview of The Core Project in ‘An Instructional” the European/North American visual art tour, which was part funded by Culture Ireland. During 2011 Nevin was chosen by Ralph Lauren as an emerging artist to design and produce a Star Sculpture for a Polo Jeans campaign, with French artist Alexone Dizac. While in the summer of 2011 Nevin exhibited ‘Cent Eire’ in ‘Invite or Reject’ for MART which he co-curated the three city tour; as part of Imagine Ireland; visiting C4 Gallery-Los Angeles, PopupLoop-Chicago, Flux Factory - New York,. For 2012 Matthew received funding from Galway City Council to complete The Core Project, which will exist in three formats; as net art online, an installation and film.
“In the first instance I wish to immediately make an impact, grab the viewers attention, keep it, intrigue them and stimulate their senses. I seize the audience by encapsulating them in my work through large or complex installations. My current work focuses on self-reflection through the evaluation of identity and a curatorial practice influenced by anthropological research. I strive to use innovate methods in my work, utilizing inventive technology combined with common recognisable materials. I wish to explore the workings of exclusivity in art, while focusing on the depiction of the body and its existence, by creating a collection of work conscious of identity.” www.matthewnevin.com | www.the-core-project.com
MATTHEW NEVIN, i!, 2008.
MATTHEW NEVIN, RALPH LAUREN ART STARS, 2011. PHOTO:ALEXONE DIZAC
James L Hayes James L Hayes is a contemporay visual artist and member of the teaching faculty at CIT Crawford College of Art. Hayes is a graduate of Limerick School of Art & Design, The University of Vigo, North Spain, De Montfort University Leicester and the University of London in the UK. Hayes’ previous research interests have ranged from industrial archaeology to environmental concerns and economic conflicts while his current research interests are related to ideas about the ‘Trace’, often making art works in a variety of media that response to sites that possess a specific or significant history. Current works are being featured at WCAC in Cork, Redline Contemporary in Denver Colorado and a site specific temporary work is on display in Camden Fort Meagher in Crosshaven, Cork. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 Hayes received funding awards from the Irish Arts Council to attend Sculpture Symposia and residencies in New Mexico, New York and Denver Colorado respectively. In 2011 Hayes recevied funding from the Imagine Ireland program from Culture Ireland to complete a one person show at ‘The Good Children Gallery’ in New Orleans. Hayes has completed a number of significant large scale public art works via the ‘percent for art’ process and most recently works have been completed for Cork County Council, Cork City Council , Mayo County Council and Limerick City. Other recent artworks were shown at “Flotsam & Jetsam’, Tactic, Cork, Occupy Space Limerick, MART’s ‘Invite & Reject’ - Chicago, MART’s Instructional European Tour - London, Berlin, Norway, Bratislava, and Dublin, The Worcester Contemporary Open-2010, ‘Ev+a’ 2008 ‘too early for vacation’ Limerick (curated by Hou Hanru), The USUK International Sculpture Symposia New York, “Global Warming at the ICEBOX” - Philadelphia and The Blankspace Gallery in San Francisco.
“My current work aims to explore and engage with the existing themes and concepts that underpin my practice. With regard to aspects of the ‘trace’ in particular, my use of existing sites or places of historic significance and cultural interest are at the starting point for works. Through my practice I utilise a variety of interests in aspects of the ‘journey’, the recording of travel or the documentation of a time based intervention/event or performance. These themes are also explored through multidisciplinary and sensory-based, sculptural installations. In a recent number of works, the use of the multiple is a recurrent feature of my practice, arising in a variety of forms and materials both resistant and non-resistant. Other recent research in the western United States has aimed to explore the myths and narratives that surround some of America’s most infamous early western, frontier men & women. These film based works aim to explore and historicise issues of notoriety and infamy, as they relate to a contemporary context, tracing a lineage from these prominent historical figures and the legacy that surrounds them to a current fascination with celebrity culture. Through the use of interview based film and staged re-enactments and performances. The work aims to examine the profound impact these iconic figures have had on everyday American society, by examining the role of their legacy in the subsequent creation and embodiment of certain American and western ideals.”
JAMES L HAYES, LOOKING INTO THE LIGHT OF DARK MATTERS.., 2010. Cast bronze & wax, recycled aviation oil, steel & digital video & sound.
JAMES L HAYES, A ROOM FULL OF DOMESTIC BLISS.., 2008. Cast Bronze (multile), MDF & cellulose spray paint.
Margaret O’Brien studied a MFA in Fine Art at The Slade School of Fine Art in London and a BA in Fine Art at Limerick School of Art, graduating with distinction from both. She exhibits internationally and has won many awards for her work, including regular funding from the Arts Council of Ireland and Dublin City Council, scholarships from the Slade School of Art and the Art and Humanities Research Board U.K., as well as national and institutional competitive prizes. Recent exhibitions include Polemically Small, curated by Zavier Ellis, Edward LucieSmith, Max Presneill & Simon Rumley, Torrence Art Museum, Los Angeles (2011); Myles Away From Illustration: The Influence of Flann O’Brien on the Visual Arts, University of Vienna, (2011); Invite or Reject, curated by Mart, Flux Factory, New York (2011); Eureka curated by Blue Leaf Projects, Whittaker Quay, Dubin (2012). O’Brien has worked as a lecturer in Fine Art in many educational institutes in both Ireland and the U.K., and currently holds this position in the National College of Art & Design, Dublin. With a background in printmaking O’Brien has also held the post of master printmaker and print studio coordinator in London Print Studio and Black Church Print Studio, Dublin. Where she was also a Director of the Board between 2001-2004 and 2008-2011. In 2011, O’Brien graduated from MPhil program at Trinity College Dublin with distinction. O’Brien’s practice is concerned with boundaries between the physical and the psychological in the apprehension and negotiation of objects and the conditions of space. O’Brien uses a highly particular mode of immersive installation as a material through which to explore the relationship of the body as a physical and psychological entity, to other physical objects and aspects of space. Through installation, the subjective psyche is manipulated via immediate, involuntary responses to the work as the viewer is forced to negotiate constructed environments physically, in a sensory manner, and psychologically. The work often seeks to explore a Beckettian in-betweenness, to undermine a linear relationship between space and time, and to establish a suspended and circular experience of time through a space in flux. Within this practice, O’Brien also explores the hypothesis of repetition in art as a mechanism
of semiotic destabilization, a visual device that destabilizes an otherwise established meaning or context. She presents mass multiples through repetitive processes on an overwhelming scale that address a condition of possibility and impossibility, along with an experimental use of materials that disturb a pre-existing or familiar relationship to the object. As a means of approaching and challenging this aspect of her work through a period of indepth research, and purposely from a significantly lateral position. O’Brien completed a Master of Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, researching practices of repetition in contemporary art in relation to time, Focalization(1) and context or space. An acute sensitivity to site is instrumental within O’Brien’s practice. The social, political and cultural contexts of site directly inform the conceptual base of the works. Formal development and final configuration are determined by the architecture, physical aspects and challenges of the space, and are often radically amended and improvised during the on-site build, whilst maintaining the integrity of the original artistic intention. O’Brien’s practice is not prescriptive in relation to material, media or methodology. Visit: www.margaretobrien.co.uk 1)Mieke Bal’s term for the focusing of the story in a work of art through specific agents or points of view.
MARGARET O’BRIEN, THE LONG GOODBYE, 2007.
MARGARET O’BRIEN, I LIVE IN THE CRACKS OF THE WALLS, 2008.
Dr. Áine Phillips Performing in and out of the art world and involved in many artist led initiatives for 20 years, Áine curated Tulca Live, a festival of live art and performance from 2005-2007 in Galway. Phillips was the Irish selector for the National Review of Live Art in the UK from 2007 and currently is curating projects in Ireland. Phillips has been working on projects with the Live Art Development Agency in London since 2001, in particular on her initiative “Performing Curation” a support structure for artist-curators in the field of performance and live art. She co-curates Live@8 since 2008 in Galway, a bi-monthly screening of video and live art in social spaces. Áine Phillips has been exhibiting multi-media performance works in Ireland and internationally since the late 80’s. She has created work for diverse contexts; public art commissions, the street, club events and gallery exhibitions including City of Women Festival Ljubljana, NON Festival Bergen, Kyoto Art Centre, Performance Space and The Stanley Picker Gallery London, Judith Wright Centre for Art Brisbane Australia, Tanzquartier Vienna, Moving Image Gallery and The Kitchen New York, National Review of Live Art Glasgow, Mozovia Art Centre Warsaw Poland. In Ireland at The Lab, Irish Film Centre, Arthouse, EV+A Limerick, Galway Arts Centre, The Golden Thread Gallery Belfast and the Hugh Lane Gallery Dublin.
Phillips’ work has been supported by The Arts Council of Ireland, Clare and Galway Arts Offices and Culture Ireland. Head of Sculpture at the Burren College of Art in County Clare, Phillips completed a practice based PhD at the National College of Art and Design Dublin in January 2009 entitled “Live Autobiography”. Alongside making art, teaching and curating she also writes about art as a reviewer for the Visual Artists Ireland and is currently working on a History of performance Art in Ireland, North and South. Áine Phillips’ live performance and video work aims to link autobiographic themes, actions and images with wider social and political realities. Phillips seeks to make connections between the singular and the mutual, the personal and the political. Many of Phillips’ large-scale performance projects are activist and collaborative, involving students, visual artists, multi disciplinary performers, filmmakers and writers. Phillips’ work uses sculptural objects and costumes to perform alternative public rituals that commemorate the private traumas that are sewn into the fabric of Irish society. Phillips’ performance mimes the spectacle of culture; she ‘makes a show of herself’ contributing her memories and actions she exposes the content necessary to attain agency and critical citizenship. Phillips sees her body as a tiny model for humanity, a metaphor for the larger sociopolitical body. Phillips explores multiple identities as an empowering tool in a consumer world where identity is prescribed, consumed and economically bounded. www.ainephillips.com
AINE PHILLIPS, TREE DRESSES, 2011. IMAGE BY NADA ZGANK.
AINE PHILLIPS, EMOTIONAL LABOUR, 2012. IMAGE BY MARCO BERARDI.
Dr.Katherine Nolan Katherine Nolan is a video and performance artist, currently completing a practice-led PhD entitled Seducing the Machine: Narcissism and Performance in Contemporary Feminist Practice. Nolan’s work is concerned with the erotic female body as spectacle, in particular provoking questions around narcissism and exhibitionism as contemporary concerns of spectatorship, that are seemingly incongruous with critical agency. The artist turns a ‘trivial’ and ‘frivolous’ fixation with herself as image’ into a critical weapon, seeking to unravel narcissism and twist its clichéd terms. Investigating the nuances of contemporary forms of spectatorship, her work seeks to provoke acts of looking and being looked at, taking apart and questioning images of desire. Tense issues around the ethics of spectacle arise, as the flesh of the erotic object threatens to erupt from stylized pose into the raw and vulnerable. Recent performances include Producing Untitled (Panties no. 3) at Scope Art Fair New York (March 2012); Peep Hole at Flux Factory New York (July ‘11); Surface Attention at the Golden Thread Gallery (Dec ‘10). A series of bodily interventions in re-used spaces including SHUNT London, Stattbad Berlin, and SPACE Bratislava, as part of MART collective’s An Instructional exhibition (June’10). Collaborative performances: Trans West with artist Joan Healy at Molesworth Gallery and Market Studios, Dublin (July ‘10); with Eleanor Lawlor at Exchange, Dublin Feb ‘11 Memoirs of Youth, The Exchange Dublin.
Exhibitions include Lost in Lust (2012), Scope NY with the Golden Thread Gallery; Invite or Reject with MART at Flux Factory N Y & C4 Gallery LA (2011): In View at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast (2010); Seducing the Machine (Solo), The Link Gallery, UCA, Epsom (2010); Visual Deflections featuring Pipilotti Rist, Corbet Place, London (2009); Unpicked and Dismantled -The British Narrow Examination of the Kaunas Art Biennale, Textile 07, Lithuania (2007); Wink (solo) exhibit at the Foyer Gallery, Epsom (2006). Nolan works as a lecturer and course leader at the University of the Arts, London. Lives and works in London. http://katherine-nolan.blogspot.com/
KATHERINE, NOLAN, SURFACE ATTENTION: THE BOX, 2010.
KATHERINE NOLAN, SURFACE ATTENTION, 2010.
Adam Gibney “My recent work investigates technology’s effect on our surroundings and reality. Through installations that both rely on and question technology, my work highlights in a playful manner the dark undertones that exist in our technological landscape. With the growth of mass-production and the media, objects have developed a reliability on technology to define their function and value. My work highlights the relationship between viewer, object and technology. Inherent in my new work is a need to correct technological mishaps. The humanisation and re-education of technology allows me to deal with issues concerning definition. The role that technology plays in defining our reality must be constantly questioned and re-evaluated.”
Adam Gibney is a Dublin based artist who graduated from IADT in 2010. Gibney was the recipient of the IMOCA Graduate Residency award, the Aileen MacKeogh Award and is the current recipient of the Siamsa Tire Emerging Artist award for which he created a solo exhibition “RE:definition”. Gibney works with a range of media, which include sculpture, projection, sound, video and electronics. Last year Gibney created a solo-exhibition “LimboExcavated”, while his work has also been featured as part of group shows in Berlin, Marseilles, London and Los Angeles. www.adamgibney.com
ADAM GIBNEY, QUARANTINE SAMPLE 10: INDECISIVE LOOP, 2012
ADAM GIBNEY, LESSON NO.58: COLOUR-BLENDING CONTINUED, 2012.
Sofie Loscher “I use and appropriate readymade objects as the primary material of my work. When using these materials I manipulate them within their own capabilities, which are prescribed by their particular function. I harness the core function of the material, as this defines the structure and capacity of the object. I seek to eliminate everything decorative, extraneous and additive, reducing all components to their purest elements. My primary areas of investigation are notions of liminal space, the readymade and the sphere of objecthood. My attention is focused on the ‘space between’, and attempting to make transitory, unstable states permanent. My work exists within a strict self-imposed modular system. Using commercially available materials almost-always in identical units, such as magnets, paper or till rolls, each outcome offers only one type of material. My usual method of cohesion is friction and gravity. By maintaining the objects intact I do not operate any influence over them, I merely direct them. I do not use any other material or adhesive to construct, maintain or to assist in the completion of the artwork. I feel that the physical properties of the material alone should dictate the procedures for evolving the finished work; that the function should define the form. The result, whatever it is, must somehow leave the object essentially as it was found.”
Sofie Loscher is a visual artist based in Dublin. Loscherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s practice focuses on installation with a scientific underpinning. During the past two years Loscher has exhibited widely throughout Dublin, Europe and the United States in venues including The Science Gallery, Dublin (2011), The Chicago Loop Alliance (2011), Lewis Gallery, Mississippi (2010), TBG+S, Dublin (2010) and Pallas Projects / Studios, Dublin (2010). Loscher is currently working toward an MA in Sculpture at NCAD and previously graduated with a BA in Visual Arts Practice from IADT in 2009 www.sofieloscher.ie
SOFIE LOSCHER, TRANS[FORMATIVE],2012.
SOFIE LOSCHER, FAN + BALLOON,2011.
Benjamin Gaulon aka RECYCLISM
Born in France - Living in France, the Netherlands, Ireland Benjamin Gaulon (born 1979) is an artist, researcher and has experience in art consultation, public and conference speaker and lecturer. Gaulon has previously released work under the name “recyclism”. Gaulon’s research focuses on the limits and failures of information and communication technologies; planned obsolescence, consumerism and disposable society; ownership and privacy; through the exploration of détournement, hacking and recycling. Gaulon’s projects include softwares, installations, pieces of hardware, web based projects, interactive works and are, when applicable, open source. Gaulon is currently leading Data 2.0 (Dublin Art and Technology Association) and co-founded the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007. Gaulon is a member of the Graffiti Research Lab France and is lecturer at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. Since 2005 Gaulon has been leading workshops and giving lectures in Europe and US about e-waste and hardware Hacking / Recycling. Workshop participants explore the potential of obsolete technologies in a creative way and find new strategies for e-waste recycling. In 2011 Gaulon created the Recyclism Hacklab; a shared studio space where he leads regular mentoring session to support the Hacklab members in their research.
Lecturer - Faculty of Fine Art NCAD (National College of Art and Design) Director - Recyclism Hacklab (Dublin) Director - D.A.T.A (Dublin Art and Technology Association) Member - GRL FR (Graffiti Research Lab France) → www.recyclism.com → www.uglitch.com → www.corrupt.recyclism.com → www.recyclism.tumblr.com → www.ewasteworkshop.com → www.data.ie → www.graffitiresearchlab.fr
BENJAMIN GAULON AKA RECYCLISM, RES, RECYCLING ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM, 2004.
BENJAMIN GAULON AKA RECYCLISM, L.S.D, LIGHT TO SOUND DEVICE, 2011.
Joan Healy Joan Healy is a visual artist based in Dublin. Healy combines performance, sound, video, and interactive technologies, examining gender roles and the notion of the abject in society. Healy has a B.A. in Fine Art from the Dublin Institute of Technology, an M.A. in Art in the Digital World from the National College of Art and Design, and an M.Sc. in Interactive Digital Media from Trinity College Dublin. Healy’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally in exhibitions such as Transnatural, Amsterdam, Biorhythm in the Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin and Eyebeam, New York; the St Etienne City of Design Biennale, France; Landmark, Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; “What Alice Found Here”, Dublin City Council’s Emerging Curator Programme 2011; STRP art and technology festival, Eindhoven; Rua Red, Dublin; Peacock Visual Arts Centre, Aberdeen; Stattbad, Berlin; Occupy Space, Limerick; Shunt, London, UK; The Eclectic Tech Carnival, Umea, Sweden; G126, Galway; Space Delawab, Belfast; and IMOCA, Dublin. Healy has lectured and given workshops at universities and art foundations including the International Symposium of Electronic Art ’09, Belfast, the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, the University of Umea, Sweden, and Mztech in London.
JOAN HEALY,CYBER ARTBOTS, 2008.
JOAN HEALY, BECOMING A FRANZ WEST, 2010.
Colleen Keough Colleen Keough is hybrid media and performance artist working in video, sound, music, mixed media and interactive new media. An experienced songwriter and producer Keough creates multidimensional works and environments through integrating multiple mediums and genres of expression. Keough’s early video and sound works were created while attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. Inspired by prose and lyrical poetry Keough experimented with creative writing and the video medium creating a series of work, which was screened at various venues including Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art and Museum of Fine Arts. Upon graduating from SMFA and winning 1st prize in the school’s prestigious Fifth Year Traveling Scholars Competition Keough relocated to Chicago, IL and became immersed in its eclectic and vibrant music scene. After a few years of honing her songwriting skills Keough founded the band Rubies, a five piece alternative-folk-rock band and began recording music and performing throughout the city. In 2007 Keough founded the experimental cabaret act ‘ugarfuhk’. The genre defying act merged a collision of performance and musical styles which took audiences on a roller coaster ride of pop culture references, comedic interludes, and glam pop and rock songs. Keough’s desire to fully integrate the many mediums she has worked in over the years led her to pursue an MFA in Electronic Integrated Arts at NYSCC Alfred University in Alfred, NY. It was there she was able to realize her vision of fusing electronic media art and installation with music, sound, and performance. In Keough’s work “Ether and the Voice: an electronic media opera” she investigates the dynamics of human experience, voice, and technology. Keough’s work explores the intersection of pop culture, identity, myth, and technology through narratives and anti-narratives that deconstruct traditional modes of storytelling and performance. Keough’s work has been exhibited in numerous venues in North America, Asia, and Europe. www.colleenkeough.com
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Since the early 1990â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s I have created work that explores the many facets of identity, technology, and language. Through poetic time based works, performances and installations I investigate the symbology of pop culture as it relates to personal experience. I am inspired to create inventive and provocative environments fusing fantasy and auto-biographical narratives to evoke the fluid interchange of perception and imagination. My conceptual interests range from archetypal embodiments of the female voice to natural and sonic phenomena, and the envisioning of future identities and landscapes. Over the years I have played with these ideas and woven them throughout an ever-evolving body of work. Video and sound are important drivers in my creations. As a performer I use video as a shapeshifting vehicle for creating personas and characters. Humour is also a recurring element in my work as is gender play and feminism. My aim as an artist is to create experiences and works that address our physical, spiritual, and psychic relationship to technology, nature, identity and communication. Most of all I am interested in taking the viewer on a journey to witness and participate in performative transformational process through the intersection of art and technology.â&#x20AC;?
COLLEEN KEOUGH, PASSAGE, 2011.
COLLEEN KEOUGH, ETHER AND THE VOICE: AN ELECTRONIC MEDIA OPERA, 2010.
Nicky Larkin â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am primarily an experimental filmmaker and video installation artist. On an initial broad level my practice is concerned with aesthetic bleakness; the grim and the bleak are always my starting points. I am drawn towards places where aesthetic value is not deemed important or even considered; derelict spaces, abandoned buildings, wrecks, conflict zones, aftermathsâ&#x20AC;Ś.this has led me to make work in Chernobyl, Bosnia, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, the separatist state of Transnistria, Moyross & Southill. I have recently completed my first feature-length film project, Forty Shades of Grey, shot on location in Israel and Palestine. While my practice is informed by global politics/ conflicts and more specifically media coverage of global politics/conflicts, my work is not overly concerned with morality or agendas. It is the terrain that I am interested in; the grim environments that these spectacles generally unfold within and produce. Politics is the entry point; the news acts as the link for the next potential hell-hole to research. A nomadic existence is at the centre of my practice.â&#x20AC;?
Nicky Larkin studied Fine Art in Galway-Mayo IT and Chelsea College of Art, London. Working mainly in the medium of experimental film and video-art, Larkin has exhibited widely both at home and internationally. In 2007 he travelled to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, to shoot the experimental short film Pripyat. Pripyat went on to screen at various international film festivals including Locarno, Strasbourg, Madrid and The European Media Art Festival 2008. At home, Pripyat was selected for ev+a 2008 in Limerick, and TULCA in Galway. In 2009 he was commissioned by The Irish Arts Council and The Belltable Arts Centre, under the commissions award scheme, to create an experimental film exploring the notorious Moyross and Southill estates in Limerick city. The resulting film, Beyond The Roundabout?, was selected for The European Media Art Festival 2010, The London East End Film Festival, and the Madrid International Video Art Festival 2010. January and February 2010 were spent in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he created a body of photographic work documenting the lives and conditions inside Tserovani Refugee Camp, which was established as a result of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Larkin has also made work in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Armenia, Moldova, and the separatist state of Transnistria. In 2010 he was profiled in Robert O’Byrne’s Dictionary of Living Irish Artists. In 2011 Larkin undertook his largest project to date; traveling to Israel & Palestine to shoot an experimental, non-narrative film piece. The resulting film Forty Shades of Grey premiered in Dublin in May 2012, and has since been screened in Canada and the UK. In September 2011 Larkin held a solo video and sound installation show based on the Israel/Palestine work, in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2012 he had a solo show in Galeria Strefa A, Krakow, Poland. In addition to his Fine Art work, Larkin has also directed music videos for Adela & The Meanits. Larkin’s written work has been published by Allotrope Press and The Sunday Independent. He is represented by The Molesworth Gallery, Dublin, and Galeria Strefa A, Krakow. www.nickylarkin.com
NICKY LARKIN, FORTY SHADES OF GREY, 2012
NICKY LARKIN, FORTY SHADES OF GREY, 2012
The Launch May 2008. Silkes Warehouse, Galway Curated by Ciara Scanlan & Matthew Nevin. ‘The Launch’ was the unveiling of the online gallery www.mart.ie. The exhibition included performances by Hector Castrillejo, installations by Tristan Hutchinson, Mary Dempsey, Neasa O’Grady, Matthew Nevin, Ciara Scanlan, Fiona Walsh, and videos by Emily Boylan, John Conway, Laura Fitzgerald, Chloe Freaks, Vera Klute, Nicky Larkin, John Murphy, Clare Shanahan, Svetlana Sobenko. Statement from the exhibition: “We hope to establish the website as a nationwide forum and space for artists to showcase their work. We aim to have a large catalogue of artists who will have an opportunity to upload and display their work online for the first time in Ireland. MART shall also act as support group and platform for individual artists. Artists struggling to host their own exhibition can seek promotional and location assistance from MART.”
HECTOR CASTRILLEJO, THE LAUNCH, 2008.
FIONA WALSH, A SUGGESTION OF HISTORY, 2008.
Politics as an entry point. Nicky Larkin interviewed by Matthew Nevin on July 11th 2012 @ NCAD Dub lin M: Nicky, thanks for meeting with me today, I know you’re busy promoting For ty Shades of Grey. So lets get straight to it, you primarily work as a film artist; did your education in GMIT and Chelsea College of Art pus h you into film? N: I studied painting in GMIT and never picked up a vid eo cam era unt il the end of thi rd year, mainly because in Gal way if you study sculpture video is part of it. You get taught and lessons in editing, if you study painting its not part of it at all but they still have all the facilities. It was the lecturer Micky Donnelly who said it to me if I could some how combine the painting and the video I would be on to a winner. The first tim e I did this was in Frankfurt last year where I combined text and images, throwing paint aro und the place, as most Irish art galleries won’t let you do that. Chelsea was amazing bec ause I think it’s important for Irish artists to see that its not all about the perfect whi te space and flat screen TV’s. In Galway, in my degree show, I did a four-screen installation , in the shape of four sides of a 50-cent coi n. You would walk in to the middle of it and it would surround you. I spent six months making this video piece and I thought it was really good and the one criticism the lecturers had was you didn’t sand your wall enough or it wasn’t painted enough or its was a bit messy down at the bottom. That really pissed me off. For ins tance in Ireland we have loads of space and in London there is
no space, so you end up having to do shows in toilets and under tube stations. You have to make the work specific for the space, as apposed to the space for the work - which happens in Ireland. I think especially Irish video artists are obsessed with space. If I go to a video art show in certain Irish art centres or galleries I often feel like vomiting in a bucket, because they will sometimes even paint on the screen where it’s going, or hide wires, the projectors in boxes etc. I think the wires are as much part of the video as the canvas is of the painting, its not a magical moving painting that just happens, don’t try to make it into an omniplex cinema; it’s a fucking art gallery. I think Irish artists are really precious about their space and their presentation and I think that takes away sometimes from the work itself. M: You have a trademark of single long shots that may disen gage from the tradi tiona l appreciation of the viewer, do you see the viewer as playing a key role in your work or whom are you directing your work to? N: I direct it to myself really, to what I like, influenced from watching Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr, both create work that is really slow and boring. Bela Tarr is a Hungarian fella who is still alive, still on the go, but he has this film called Sátántangó which is seven and half hours long and in that there is only something like fifty shots. You have ten minute sequences where the camera is just static or moving ever so slightly; watching cows walking across a field for ten minutes and you think initially this is going to drive me mad, but you get so
sucked into it, its like a meditative thing you get sucked into it. I do pay a lot of attention to the composure to the sho ts and framing the shots but then I just let it off. I could film for twenty minutes and go and then come back and its when your editin g you pick out the ten minutes where the mos t interesting things happen. So its not that I don’t pay attention, I do try to make it look beautiful but I try make the bleakness beauti ful. I spent eight months editing Forty Shades of Grey. M: That can be seen in you r films, you seem obsessive about precise edi ting and the use of layered sound. Your footag e in ‘Pripyat’ is full of haunting images of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear power pla nt, what led you to this project? N: I was reading a featur e in The Irish Times in 2006, my last year in Galway, it was the 20th anniversary of Cherno byl. I was always aware of the incident but never knew there was an actual city beside the power plant that was completely empty. Tha t was some sort of wet dream for me, the ide a of this completely bleak empty city that you could just walk into every house and it’s lik e a time warp back to 1986. It coincided wit h a time I got into Tarkovsky and he made thi s film called Stalker in the early 80s. He made it about five years before Chernobyl and its just eerie. In the film they never say what exactly happens but some sort of disaster hap pens and there is a zone in the film of aliena tion that you cant go into but you can pay this one guy called the stalker to bring you into the zone. Its
nce fiction, science fiction without being scie e were lots ther so ian Russ a and Tarkovsky was as this was l noby Cher with of weird connections another was It . ened happ it five years before e. ther go impetus on why to personally? M: How did the process affect you empathy for. N: There is nobody there to have had as much r neve I and y Its completely empt I had in week the in did I craic in my life as they and guys e Thes al! ment Chernobyl; it was many so are e ther s’, lker call themselves ‘Sta are You . film y ovsk Tark parallels with that the de insi days teen four d only allowed to spen ant, r-pl powe the nd arou us thirty-kilometre radi Depending on and then spend fourteen days out. Ukrainian the tor reac the to how close you work crackpot government have come up with some amount the on cap a put idea where they have od. peri 24hr a in take can of radiation you in ing work l stil le peop of s There are thousand making sure and around the actual power plant apses its coll it if as , it doesn’t collapse closest work who guys The Chernobyl part two. a day tes minu een fift for to the reactor work huge a rb abso they tes minu and in that fifteen e clos how on nds depe it as n, amount of radiatio t or nine you are to it. But they get paid eigh r life Thei . wage age aver n times the Ukrainia of load a get l, noby Cher into consists of going and kids, and money, getting away from the wife r two weeks. othe the for then go off to Kiev them die in They have the life but a lot of because of their forties of lymph cancer. But sphere of that there is this real kind of atmo ic in a way, a party - you know its nihilist . In a way if core hard its they drink, smoke
I had any empathy it wou ld be empathy for them going “ah here lads wha t are you doing!” But still it was good craic. M: So these ‘Stalkers’ seem to live in a form so ci al ex cl us io n, a th em e of ‘B ey on d th e Roundabout’ your film based on the demolitio n process of the Moyross and Southill estates. This perhaps was your fir st controversial piece, on completion how do you think the film was received? N: It was a mixed bag. I had a preview screening before the premiere for anyone who was in the film. I just wanted to show them it and make sure everyone was ok wit h it and there was no challenges to it. It was really interesting because at the preview screening the majority of them said it was har sh and it’s grim but its true and it’s the way it is. Afterwards one or two of them took comple te umbrage to it, a few people felt they had bee n misrepresented but you can’t keep everyone happy. I don’t think the job of an artists is to keep everyone happy its to ask questions and open debate. M: Your work seems to be loaded with debate! It engages with strong nat ional and international political socio-politi cal concerns, do you see yourself as a political art activist? N: No, because Fort Sha des of Grey was the first time my work was overtly political. Up until then it was more about finding the grim, it was Eastern Europe and Chernobyl, it was all about environments , really bleak sparse environments. These wer e was also present in
use it just the Israel/Palestine project beca find these happens to cross over where you conflict or places, which are where there is ntially my politics really present. So no esse t finding work is not about politics; its abou y point! shit holes and politics is the entr philosophical M: Does this interest come from any ct how you art theorists that may actively affe work? sts who are N: I get really annoyed by arti a thesis totally theory based, where they have a number of on everything. I don’t at all for I find it reasons, it doesn’t interest me, creating boring. I don’t think that is what you have to something is about. I think if e of art you read sixteen books to make a piec time I am are at nothing. However at the same filmmakers always weary of artists, writers, es. You have who say I don’t have any influenc that doesn’t to be aware of what is going on but dictate what mean you have to let it completely it would be you make. In fact my knowledge of span for it, small, I don’t have the attention I get really bored by it. your late st M: I woul d like to move on to has received film ‘Forty Shades of Grey’. It pro Israelis a critical reception from both of research and pro Palestinians, what sort in such a did you do before involving yourself controversial project? a historical N: I wasn’t interested in making the day-tofilm. My whole concern was today, obviously day life in a conflict zone. I was ’t go overly aware of the history but I didn made a point study it. When I got out there I
of interviewing pe ople my age, ever yday people as apposed to goin g for the historia ns and the academics and the politicians. I di d interview some of them but they have such a pr elearned patter on it, th ey’re so well re hearsed and know how to talk about it. It is much more insightful to talk to people that yo u identify with yourself peop le that you could be friends with if you were in a different si tuation and see how it affect s them. That caus es its own problems, nobody will talk to you in Israel if you are Irish and have a camera, an d we are the most hostile coun try in Europe when it comes to the Israel issue, because I think we don’t know what we are talk ing about. That is the main problem Irish pe ople have on this pa rt issue; we seem to icular think that just be cause you are pro-Palestine you automatically have to be anti-Israel - an d that’s just bu ll sh it. I am all for a two st ate solution but it doesn’t mean you have to ha te the Jews. I went ou t there with my own precon ceived ideas and then had a turn around. Peop le calling the fi lm Zionist propaganda and it just sickens me as these fuckers haven’t ev en seen the film. I invited them to the prem iere and none of th em up. They will stil turned l bitch and moan about it but they wont actually come and see it. Pe ople don’t like to have thei r prejudices chal le nged. It was interesting I went to Canada re ce ntly and most Jews that came to see it in Canada attacked me and said it wa s pro Palestine pr op aganda! I think its intere sting as it depend s on environment and sc your enario; a country like Ireland anything that give s Israelis a voic e is jumped upon as being Zi onist propaganda , while in Canada they’re ve ry pro Israel, so as a result 84
they were expecting some Disney film about how perfect and brilliant Israel is. It shows the problems inside Israel as well, it is like they don’t want their dirty laundry aired in public by a non-Jew and so they went fucking mental at me. M: How would you describe the content of the film and what did you wish to articulate? N: Seven weeks in the middle east, its just my own experience of it, its not a documentary where everything is fact checked and meticulously researched; its people talking on the streets, its not some heavy weight academic thing. The vast majority of Israelis want peace; they don’t want rockets, which we never hear about in Ireland. Nine out of ten Israelis would give back the West Bank tomorrow if it meant they could live in peace. We just hear about the nasty aggressive Israelis and nothing else, all the shit they do and the most pointed example for me of that is about 10 days in to it I was sitting having breakfast in Tel Aviv with Gary the guy I was working with, and I was reading the Jerusalem Post -which is the main English language newspaper in Israel. In the ten days since we arrived there was a huge increase in rockets coming in from Gaza into the south and a couple of days before they hit a school bus. The rocket killed a kid on the school bus - now these guys just fire rockets not at anything in particular, just at Israel, and whatever they hit happy days. I remember reading this report about how the Israeli defence forces going into Gaza the previous night and dropping a few bombs to try and quell this constant uprising and attacks and try to say “right lads fuck off”.
I remember reading it thinking “get in there and sort that out” and remember thinking Jesus Christ, as I was so pro Palestine at that time. Then I remember thinki ng its so easy to sit in Dublin or London or any where in Europe reading the Guardian. If I was reading the same story in The Irish Times or the Guardian it would have said the nasty Israelis went in and bombed the poor Palestinians last night, there would have been no mention of the previous rocket attack s or kids getting killed on buses. It is really easy to make these moral judgments based on this black and white report ing you get in Europe. Its very different whe n you are sitting there feeling the ground sha ke and you can hear the rockets, you are lookin g at stories of kids getting killed - you jus t want that to stop. And there is no country in the world that would accept what Israel accept s without retaliating. If rockets started coming down from the Northern Ireland we wouldn’t jus t sit there and take it. M: These issues are hig hly controversial and perhaps you need to get the film out there for people to make their own judgements. On so onto a lighter note, would you consider changing the name since the releas e of the steamy Fifty Shades of Grey book?’ N: Those bastards, I hav e the name (of Forty Shades of Grey) for two years and they came along, at the start I was annoyed but then I was thinking how that accidental Google hits might actually help me! M: True! On to MART, wha t caught your eye about MART in 2008 and has it had an influence on your present career?
N: I remember I was in Germany and saw that you had a shout out in the VAI ebulletin, and thought it was a good opportunity. Video art was very much neglected in Ireland at the time and I think that for a lot of different reasons we get very caught up in traditional art forms like sculpture and painting. I just thought it was a good initiative as there was nothing like it and focusing on specifically in media art. I thought it was something worth getting involved in. More recently for instance I opened my eyes to the Berlin art scene when we were there in 2012, what I realised is that Berlin was full of wankers. There are about 40,000 people in one city claiming to be artists and they all look the same! Sheep!! It’s a worse version of the Trendy Modern Wanker syndrome in London, its worse then Shoreditch or Brick Lane on a Sunday; Berlin haircuts, Berlin clothes! The European tour was really hardcore. It was good and definitely did expose me to other peoples work and did open my eyes, it was good to see what was happening in these cities. M: Briefly what is your opinion on the current Irish Art scene? N: It shouldn’t be so much about who you drink pints with, or who you met at an opening. Ireland has a very art industry. People know each other. But I’d like to think it was a myth that this sort of stuff has any real influence. The work needs to speak for itself, above all else. M: Finally in five words what is next for Nicky Larkin? N: Try not to get shot.
Open Door Policy As part of the 2009 Galway Arts Festival Curated by Matthew Nevin & Ciara Scanlan ‘Open Door Policy’ was a transitory interactive exhibition that focused on creating new audiences for the visual arts in Ireland. Between the three exhibition spaces MART negotiated forming new publics through installations, performance and video art pieces that created a conversation and camaraderie between the artists and the Galway audience. Locations: The Cottage - Henry St, Silkes Warehouse, Sea Rd, Galway City Museum. Artists Included Adam Gibney, Ciara Scanlan, Colleen Keough, Catherine Barragr y & Emma Houlihan, Debbie Jenkinson, Jacinta Jardine, Katherine Nolan, Matthew Nevin Margaret O’Brian, Mary Caffrey, Mary Dempsey, Simon Mc Keagney & Siobhan Carroll.
JACINTA JARDINE, THE CARDBOARD CURIOSITIES, 2009.
CIARA SCANLAN, LOVE MACHINES, 2009.
Academia in Irish Ar t. Margaret O’Brien in terviewed by Matthe w Nevin on 24th July 20 12 @ NCAD
M: To begin I would like to discuss the role of academia in the ar ts, you work as a lectu rer in the print dept in NCAD and in the fine art dept in Crawford how has working in an acad emic institution effected your own art practice ? MB: I would say it in terferes with it. I have to work to pay the bills, I cannot surv ive otherwise. If I have to work, I would ra ther work with older stude nts because I find it more challenging. I think it does not allow me to become complacent abo ut what I might think about art practices. I thin k I get a lot of en ergy from it so I do like it in that sense but it does distract me… (I am not going to say ‘you’ or ‘one’ throughout this conversation as I’m talking specifically from my own perspect ive). Unless I have a real ly pressing deadline , I find it very difficult to leave the college and go to the studio an d switch into a diffe rent headspace. I possibly could if I finished at lunchtime but my hours have never been arrange d in that way. I find it very difficult at half four to go to the stud io, where on another day when I’m not at coll ege I wouldn’t find that. I think you know as the week goes on and the year goes on it does drain on my energy an d by the end of the academ ic year I definitely feel the creative energy levels are low. M: How do you think we can avoid institutio nal sn ob be ry an d th e el it is t na tu re of so me academics as they ma y push new publics away from contemporary ar t? MB: Friends of mine who do not have an intere st in art often make co mments and I am very aware
att itu de or tha t the y are com ing fro m an g very illbein or ’ wing position of ‘not-kno is or can art rary empo cont informed about what tude is atti on comm most be today. Perhaps the piece a at look will body that a certain some skill ing amaz lay disp n’t of work and if it does s of term in l skil any as or what they perceive ogy odol meth nal itio trad or drawing or painting as it iss dism and it, its easy to dism iss etc. ” that do can old year ‘rubbish’, “my two the work is The whole critical intention of or not even od rsto unde not completely missed, d to happen boun is this realised. I think that engaged not is that ic within a general publ There art. of tion ecia appr or involved with an ion between is always going to be a distinct position the and tion posi the nature of that in some ly ical crit lved invo of someone who is that’s her whet , stry indu way within the art say dn’t woul I . tice prac in appreciation or e ther k thin I but be ld shou that’s the way it . Obviously will always be an element of this who aren’t there is a percentage of the public art, but in lved invo ’t aren practitioners and rstand unde and art in rest perhaps have some inte nd beyo tice prac of rs laye different levels and ider cons not do ly onal pers technical skill. I I make my an ‘un-informed’ general public when shall we s peer ical crit my own work. I consider I think , work own my ng maki say. I guess when ical viewer, of what I might think, as a crit had made else body some if of my own work - as tions ques and iry enqu ical it - and what my crit try for that would be in relation to the work. I myself from ve remo to try I to be my yardstick. question the ask and it ng the work when maki then that to er answ an is e “So what?”. If ther if and g, thin some g doin is I can advocate it I then ?’ what ‘So that to there is no answer 93
think the work is n’t doing anythi ng, and its not operating as a piece of art sh ould. I can’t really make work like that. I feel the work has to be doing someth ing. It should be active; art is a verb for me. I do of course ma ke work that doesn’t do anythi ng, but I don’t put it out there. I do make work that isn’t ve ry good and that does not go out there either. M: How do you make that decision? MB: It has to pr ovoke something in me. I try not to fool myself with what that is . So I look and ask is it doin g something, is it triggering so me th in g, ei th er a se ns or y re sp on se or an intellectual resp onse, or is the wo rk changing something in me when I look at it . Even in a temporary moment in a way, you know when you go into a gallery an d see a great pi ece of work, and it gives you a little feeling, wh atever that might be, even if its as simple as ‘oh what is that’.. but for me it has to spri ng a little thought trigger. M: For me its jeal ousy, whenever I see a piece of work I am so je alous of. MB: Oh that’s gr eat, oh I can of ten feel like that and think, why didn’t I thin k of that. Mostly when I fe el like that, it ’s something that is quite simp le but brilliant. M: Many art grad uates leave with hope and big aspirations, whic h can be easily sq uashed after a few months in th e ‘real art world’ , how could one prevent being hurt by negative responses in funding or show ap plications? MB : I th in k th at ’s ve ry tr ue an d th at do es happen and I have been there myself as a new graduate. I think you just have to grow a thick skin. You just ha ve to decide that it is part of th e bu si ne ss an d yo u ca nn ot le t it st op 94
n you are a graduate, you. It is very tough whe different stages not but it can be tough at ists, we are always just at that point. As art ‘achieve’ (I mean striving to ‘perform’ and re is always the the those terms abstractly) so nge, which can lle cha push forward, and it’s a nk practice is thi I of course be hard at times. as an artist on iti pos always changing and your There have at. gre is is always changing, which middle of the in ht been times where I am rig nging and lle cha and work and I think its great e four hav you w kno things are happening you ivity act of el lev t shows coming up but tha you if in Aga be. ’t isn’t sustainable, it can nge lle cha to ing try are making work and you are e lik e rat ope t can something all the time you . iod per n dow a be to a factory line, there has er nev am I ke flu all Then I might think it was e that again, I’ll going to be practicing lik in. There are peek never make a good piece aga duate I would say gra and troughs. But as a new ing for things try p keep making the work, kee ations in the ect exp and try not to have huge distinction at gre a beginning, even if you got ld going wor le who a try to realise there is just one are you and on out there without you ing the mak p kee t small thing in it and jus going k, wor ing see p work and keep trying. Kee oning iti pos of way d to see shows, that’s a goo all we But . ned rte hea yourself and don’t get dis s one ky luc the be may do at times, most artists of s iod per h oug thr e don’t! I certainly have gon you know, I still do. feeling disheartened and your discipline. At M: To move directly on to tallation as a sole university I was thought ins k to Ireland I saw discipline, when I came bac faculty. For me ure it was part of the sculpt
they are separate things, only because that is what I was thought. Do you think academies in Ireland shape the way what Irish art is and how it is received? MB: I think it’s an intere sting question, and I’m interested to hear wha t it was like in Wales where you had that discip line of installation. I see it as a different lan guage to sculpture as well, and certainly it can cross over with sculpture or video or anythi ng. I do not see my own work within any specif ic discipline. I use materials, and for the las t couple of pieces I have made or worked with objects rather than sound or video. I probably move towards objects or sound more instinctivel y than I do to video. At least, that is where I have been with most recently with the work. I never think ‘I work in sculpture or installat ion and what new work am I going to make in tha t area now?’. I just respond to a trigger. It could be anything; I am not specifically in one thing or another. I often have a sense of materials I want to use, always in relation to and underpinned by the critical enquiry, but for ages I may not know how to shape or use these materials, and they can remain in the bac k of my head for a few years. So I have the ingredients and the objective but not the recipe , the form the work will take remains elusive. I think the constant in the work is the instal lation, the form of installation in an immers ive sense, I don’t mean how some artists can use installation as a display or mode of pre sentation, I am not interested in that side of installation. I am interested in it as an imm ersive medium. M: Your work “the long goo dbye” is referential to Duchamps ready-mades, they present domestic Tupperware in a new life. Wha t was your influence and thought process behind the piece?
re in MG: I showed it in the Droichead Art Cent e sinc ions Drogheda. I have done smaller vers t abou was e then, sections of the wall. The piec it is That the fragile nature of being human. use in a nutshell. I wanted to use china beca the nded inte of the nature of the material. I the of use piece to overwhelm the viewer beca look to it material on that scale. I wanted and I as if it coul d and migh t fall down , That le. ssib wanted it to look like the impo It it. with something impossible had been done love mean t was about relationships, and I don’ as relationships. I mean relationships that very e thes human beings we have to engage in, It is fragile structures that will break down. way. a in s probably one of my most literal piece ng it” M: Your piece ‘say nothing & keep sayi or rnal inte refers to the psychology between did e rienc external isolation. What form of expe you wish to create? of MG: I want ed ther e to be an elem ent ed want I ed. surprise when the letter box open with at thre ther e to be a slig ht sens e of much a the whispering coming through, not so I was it ng threat but invasion. When I was maki that c, basi thinking, and this sounds kind of one some what you don’t have much control of king thin was puts through your letterbox. I the of that in personal space terms, and of ide outs and body as the door between inside ox’ terb ‘let experience, a permeable barrier or I s gues I l. between physical and psychologica was e spac r wanted the viewer to feel that thei this vulnerable and a little bit invaded with lot A ugh. gush of whispering that came thro sion divi the of my earlier works did reference the between what we feel or think inside and ion trat frus a outward projection of that, and 97
an d mi sc om mu ni ca ti on be tw ee n th e tw o. Th e letterbox was about that, the discord be tween the interior self-exp erience and exterior selfexperience. M: I would like to mov e onto the contemporary art industry, it has chan ged globally in the past 20 years, new institut ionalism allowed for self reflexivity. The arts in Ireland have evol ved into two fragments; a clear divide between craft and the insular cont emporary art scene. Where would you like the Irish contemporary ar t to go from here? MG: I agree with you. I think what I would like to see happen is more competition. I can ta lk about it more in re lation to London wh ere I spent 6 years. It is a very competitive pl ace, its so competitive th at the focus is alwa ys on the work, its not on who you know or who you hang out with. In my experience there, it has nothing to do with an y extenuating factors , it is just about the work , and it seems no gall ery or curator can affor d to let anything sl ip or slide as there is al ways someone waitin g to take their spot. Beca use of that they have to do their job really well, as do artists, there is no room for grey areas. I think the same ethos needs to be he re as well. Ireland has some fantastic artist , and fantastic works being made, but some of th e really good contem porary artists aren’t gettin g a look in. It’s al most like you have to make it somewhere else fi rst and then Ireland appr eciate you. While it is a small town and a cert ain few have the mono poly I don’t know how it’s going to change. I th ink ar ti st le d or ga ni sa ti on s an d in de pe nd en t curating shakes it up and this is badly nee ded. I think what is happ ening in the last 510 years is a good thin g. Artists are no lo nger 98
in Ireland before they waiting to have success scene, and this is great. tackle the international opoly in Ireland I think I think because of the mon te unhealthy; it’s not the competition can be qui d. If there was greater always about what is goo sations, galleries and competition between organi s, then the focus has to curators for opportunitie rather than distracted be directed on the work l factors, and there is sometimes towards periphera within their respective less room for complacency raises then. practices. I think the bar on self curated our own M: Ciara & I have on occasi ate, some people have work into the shows we cur is your opinion on selfproblems with this, what curating? urating is so commonplace MG: That practice of self-c that is what I mean by within the wider world behind. It is actually a Ireland being some years in the UK and the States, well-established practice ator practice - and why that of artists slash cur able enough and astute shouldn’t we? If we are cap eli gib le and we are eno ugh , our pra cti ces are not include a piece we artists, why on earth should ate? It is still frowned in selected shows we cur sations and some schools upon here within some organi hilarious. I have been of thought, and I find it lly where I have had to in that situation specifica for being involved as an put the argument forward ing I am curating, and exhibiting artist in someth t believe I have to have inside I am thinking ‘I can wasn’t curating this you this conversation!’ If I exhibit and you would be would be happy for me to ement in this capacity, delighted with my involv it, my involvement as an but because I’m curating ger a good thing. Where exhibiting artist is no lon quality of the artwork is the consideration of the y parochial view of and in this? I think it’s a ver ctice. approach to curatorial pra 99
An Instructional June – November 2010. European & North American touring exhibition Curated by Ciara Scanlan & Matthew Nevin. ‘An Instructional’ was devised around the ‘Readymade’ approach to art making. We invited artists to submit proposals of work influenced by the concept of the readymade and re-constructible. ‘An Instructional’ aimed to challenge the exhibition format with a unique interplay between artist, curator and artwork. MART collated a dynamic collection of video, installation, sound and performance works from contemporary Irish, British, European & North American Artists. MART developed an extensive network of contemporary visual art spaces that saw the exhibition visit Europe and North American destinations. Locations: ‘Entree’ in Bergen, Norway. ‘Shunt’ in London, England. ‘Space’ in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. ‘Stattbad’ in Berlin, Germany. ‘Molesworth Gallery’ in Dublin, Ireland. ‘The Lewis Art Gallery’, Jackson, Mississippi, USA. Artists: Aine Phillips, Ane Sagatun, Alison Slack, Cian McConn & Eve Vaughan, Joan Healy, Louise Ward, Katherine Nolan, Martinka Bobrikova & Oscar De Carmen, Rose Mburu, Barr y Hughes, Darragh O’ Callaghan, David Bickley, Emanuel Rhoss, Malina Cailan, Mischa Twitchin , Nicky Larkin, Peta Adderley, Ruth Le Gear, Vukasin Nedeljkovic, Adam Gibney, Chris Johnsen & Øyvind Næss, Ciara Scanlan, Clodagh Lavelle, Colleen Keough, Debbie Jenkinson, Eleanor Lawler, Emma Wade, Ivan Twohig, James L Hayes, Jim Ricks, Matthew Nevin, Noel Molloy, Sabina Mac Mahon, Sofie Losher, Stephen Woods.
Debbie Jenkinson -Three Word Phrase II - Bergen Norway 2010.
ane sagatun - ready made by, 2010.
An Evolving Showcase Joan Healy
‘An Instructional’ was the European touring project by MART in 2010. It was based on the concept of brocolage, or more specifically ‘making-do’ – that is how artists respond to the challenges posed by their environment by using their own creativity and available resources. DIY culture has always been hugely influential on artistic practice. In Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life he highlights the many ingenious ways people subvert capitalist systems of top down cultural consumption, by using their collective ingenuity to produce new tools, meanings and uses from existing systems and objects (De Certeau,1984). This subversive ‘tactical’ ethos seems particularly relevant now in times of global economic recession’ and the increasingly difficult financial situation that many artists find themselves in. The tour was an experiment in how to – with only limited means – create a cultural space for artists to express their ideas and promote their work. In each venue, the artist-curators Matthew Nevin and Ciara Scanlan chose a different mixture of artworks from a pool of over 30 participating artists. Their idea was to use works that could be adapted to the unique architectural context of each different exhibition environment. Working on a limited budget, the artworks on the tour had to be easily transportable or reproducible onsite. Practices of potlatch (1) and
skill sharing were employed, in this way resources were distributed amongst the artists, with each artist actively participating in the production and running of the exhibition. Travelling to Norway, the UK, Slovakia, Germany and then back to Ireland, ‘An Instructional’ took place in venues such as Shunt in London, Space in Bratislava, Stattbad in Berlin, and Entree in Bergen. Some spaces such as in Bergen’s Entree were traditional ‘white cube’ gallery spaces with a dedicated audience made up of arts professionals and visual art students. In contrast to this, and possibly due to the low exposure of artists from Western Europe in Slovakia, when ‘An Instructional’ was exhibited in Space in Bratislava, the work was received with massive local media interest. Other spaces such as Shunt in London – a cavernous underground structure– attracted a mixed audience of artists, musicians and theatre-goers. Stattbad in Berlin is a huge abandoned 1950’s swimming pool complex that had been turned into artist studios and an art venue. Stattbad’s unusual architecture and the legacy of its former use, meant it was a particularly challenging space to curate, but it also opened up new opportunities for work, particularly for artists who wanted to play with the small dark cubicles and odd acoustics of the space.
Some artists interpreted the theme of making do in a very literal way, while others interpreted the theme in more reflexive ways. Ivan Twohig exhibited work specifically made from a workshop he facilitated at the Glor Arts Centre in Clare. It comprised of a modular paper sculpture, made through collaboration by local students, it was designed to be easily assembled and disassembled in each new location. Others used found objects or ready-mades as a source for their work. Jim Ricks’ ‘505’ for example used a photograph he had taken of gang graffiti found in Oakland, California, and reproduced it in a selection of the venues. Each time physically mimicking the territorial tagging of the gangs from whom Ricks reappropriated his image. Adam Gibney’s ‘The Semionaut’s Agora; Scene 342’ comprised of copies of found imagery of mass produced consumer food items, distorted and reconstructed into confusing simulacra of the original items. Layering found sound from film and TV advertising, he constructed chaotic narratives. Debbie Jenkinson’s ‘Three Word Phrase’ consisted of a hacked analog flip clock, whereby a new panel had replaced each number panel with an image hand painted onto it. The images rotated in the three sections of the clock, which changed every hour, every minute and every second, according to the clock’s demonstration of the passing of time. They combined to form a transient visual puzzle, the sequence and narrative of being defined by the parameters of the clock mechanism. Aine Phillips’ wearable piece ‘Strap Wrap’ was also designed to be easily transportable and adaptable to any location. It took the form of a shawl made from the straps
of 123 discarded bras. The bras were given to her by friends and family as a monument to the 123 women in Galway who had breast cancer in 2009. Although made from humble materials, ‘Strap Wrap’ is a powerful piece loaded with the symbolism of the brassiere as a cultural signifier, both of female sexuality and of patriarchal oppression. In the combination of the intimate personal items of so many women into one wearable unit, Strap Wrap became a new symbol of women’s strength and collective support for one another. Vukasen Nedeljkovic displayed laminated immigration papers that he had received from the Irish / UK governments along with a letter stating that his asylum visa would not allow him to leave Ireland to go to his mother’s funeral in his native Serbia. Because of his identity as a foreign national, Nedeljkovic’s participation in the project served as a personal examination of the darker authoritarian systems of power that control every aspect of his public life. While his artwork was allowed to travel, the artist himself was not. Eleanor Lawler’s Wall playfully interpreted of the themes of the exhibition. Using found fabrics; she created an environment where viewers had to lie down on the floor to view a video piece. What viewers saw, replicated the viewpoint they now occupied, the underside of a bed. The piece recalled the child’s game of ‘hide and go seek’. In the video footage we see feet running around the bedroom in response to nonsensical instructions coming from the direction of the camera, a small space and moving around with difficulty. By creating
this immersive installation environment, Lawler imposed a kind of kinesthetic viewing experience upon the viewer, whereby viewers were both physically and intellectually engaged with the work. A strong performative contingent was also featured in ‘An Instructional’, with artists such as Katherine Nolan making temporal body art works where she interacted directly with each space. In ‘Surface Tension’, Nolan, dressed as a burlesque artist, put on a simultaneously erotic and grotesque display where she uses the architecture as a fetishistic prop to explore the narcissistic impulse in performance. For my own performance piece – ‘Becoming a Franz West’ I used discarded objects found on site such as tubing, old furniture and even a toilet bowl to make a living sculpture inspired by the Paßstück sculptural works of Franz West (2). The piece was made from other cheap materials such as foam, plaster bandage, sticks and painted in bright colours, and I turn myself into an object to be consumed. While the performance ‘Our Common Future’ by Martinka Bobrikova and Oscar de Carmen, used a simple Junior Cert science experiment, with materials such as copper and zinc nails bought from the hardware store, and potatoes, apples and tomatoes, to create miniature electrolytic cells (batteries) which were used to create abstract sounds. The sugar-energy contained in the vegetables created patterns of small analogue electrical signals that were amplified to create an unexpected orchestra of noise. MART’s ‘An Instructional’ was a great way for the participating artists to gain exposure to new European audiences. It also gave them a chance to interact with the local art communities
of each different city. The tour also grew into a great platform for artistic experimentation, through the combination of so many artists from different backgrounds living, working and travelling together; new opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange were facilitated. Pioneering artist / architect Markus Miessen suggests that a new model of participation can be created “through the conscious implementation of zones of conflict” and that through these conflicts new artistic and design ideas can be created (Miessen, 2007). In the creative environment of the tour, with so many opportunities to perform, exhibit and collaborate, the MART’s ‘An Instructional’ tour became an evolving showcase of new ideas and a great example of participatory art practice.
Bibliography & Notes De Certeau, M, 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. 1st ed. Berkley: University of California Press. Miessen, M., 2007. Skills Exchange at the Serpentine Gallery. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. studiomiessen.com/skills-exchange-at-the-serpentinegallery/. [Accessed 17 September 12]. 1. The term ‘potlatch’ meaning “to give away” or “a gift” originates in the culture of the people of the Pacific Northwest of the America’s. It went through a history of rigorous ban by both the Canadian and united States’ federal governments, and has been the subject of study of many anthropologists. 2. Details of Franz West’s work can be seen at www. gagosian.com/artists/franz-west/
MATTHEW NEVIN, THE CORE PROJECT PREVIEW, 2010.
Invite or Reject As part of Imagine Ireland. June – August 2012. Curated by Matthew Nevin & Ciara Scanlan Locations: Pop Up Art Loop – Chicago Flux Factory – New York C4 Gallery – Los Angeles ‘Invite or Reject’ was an ambitious exhibition that saw fifteen Irish artists shown in diverse contemporary art spaces in the heart of three of most influential US cities: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The curators asked artists to submit work that is challenging yet irresistibly welcoming for American audiences to interact and communicate with. The exhibition showcased some of Ireland’s leading and emerging visual artists and highlighted the strength of the work in the international contemporary art scene. ‘Invite or Reject’ refers to the duality of understanding and miscommunication that existed when Irish people first immigrated to America. The reception they received on entry to the United States was of rejection and mistreatment for the early part of 19th centaury in the USA. The current political and social climate in America means it is difficult to gain a working entry visa, which leaves it now as a holiday destination for most Irish, a stark divergence to its history. Through the exhibition MART aimed to breakdown stereotypes, while the audience were able to physically interactive and engage with the works. The exhibitions ran as part of ‘Imagine Ireland’; Culture Ireland’s strategic focus on promoting Irish Arts in the USA in 2011. Artists: Adam Gibney, Adrian Duncan, Benjamin Gaulon, Ciara Scanlan, Colleen Keough, Ella Burke, James L Hayes, Joan Healy, Katherine Nolan, Margaret O’Brien, Matthew Nevin, Nicky Teegan, Sofie Loscher, Stephen Woods, Tony Kenny. 108
ADAM GBNEY, LESSON NO 1: THINKING ABOUT THOSE THINGS, 2011.
SOFIE LOSCHER, ABSENCE-PRESENCE, 2010.
Artist as Curator. Ciara Scanlan interv iewed by Matthew Ne vin on July 12th 2012. M: Thank you for me eting with me toda y; I know you’re a busy woma n. C: Yes very. M: I’ll get straig ht to it. Can you describe your artistic mode of production, whet her it is of an instinctive, theoretical or deve lopmental approach? C: I work developm entally. The work I made with the Product Se rvice Company for in stance, where I set up a fake company, was based on what it was to be an artist and the negative equity of putting money time and ener gy into art; it being a li near line of financ e going out and nothing comi ng back in. I wanted to make work that explored what it was to be an artist working within the public sphere. I wa nted to question the role of audience partic ipation in artworks. I felt certain community projects could be quite co ndescending so I thought I would work with the public in an anonym ous way, as a fake company, as a fake person, th at they wouldn’t know I wa s an artist. It be came more of a process and developed more in to phases of engagement. I wo uld start with an idea and take it as phase 1, phase 2, phase 3, phase 4 that is how I deve loped it. During ea ch phase I wouldn’t know wh at would happen ne xt. It always just develo ped along with the reaction of the public and audience who dictat ed what it was about.
element in M: This participation is a clear tically poli in t your practice, a core componen tical poli er; pref engaged art, which role do you r? make art y art activist or participator e pse udo C: I wou ld say bot h. I hav e don ty Look ‘Dir the political projects such as t the abou more in the Dail Day’ . That was nt hala nonc our and apathy of the Irish people deal t don’ we gs, attitude to dealing with thin about the with things face on. I was talking it being than er general public’s actions, rath tical. poli vely ersi a political act. It was subv of the hy apat the t The purpose was to highligh re of sphe atmo an public at that time. There was with d ione llus disi anger and everyone was so ests prot h Iris in the government. Generally the left, there are always the same people, tation. I esen repr there never is a populace coul d yone ever g was tryi ng to do some thin le on peop r ange d relate to but I knew it woul is this ng sayi gs, the political side of thin get did I est. prot pointless and not really a discussion some bad reactions from certain web doing this n lata boards saying who is this char received and tion stupid thing. I liked that reac Irish The and y a lot of press from Ray Darc ing talk was and it Times. Everyone knew about what t abou tion ersa about it, it started a conv cts change is protest and what actually affe rds to rega With with in poli tica l prot est. artist an as out t participation, I didn’t star ation, icip part ence who makes art about the audi te crea who sts it was more questioning arti sts arti n; atio icip art relying audience part . I wanted making a mountain out of a molehill ects are, proj e thes to question how successful
that is why I was an onymous, I didn’t wa nt to be known as Ciara Scan lan, I wanted to be kno wn as some weirdo who ca me into the communit y and left soap operas, st range letters and vi deos. M: So ar e yo u ac ti ve ly tr yi ng to ma ke a difference through po litical intervention s or what kind of actions are you trying to cr eate? C: I suppose I am actively trying to upset the status quo of ev eryday life. I leav e it anonymous; I don’t le ave an opportunity for a response. I like this idea of a story behi nd it that I never real ly know, but I can im agine the ‘happenings’. Fo r instance the lett ers I sent on Valentines Day might have led to a break up or a fight, or a romance; all th ese stories could have ha ppened that I will ne ver know about. I wish my actions to affect peop les everyday existence an d maybe get them to th ink a little different, be unnerved, question do they know their neig hbours and who is wa tching them, and what it mean s to be an urban dwel ler. I want to be anonym ous because if not I fall into the category of ‘artist in the commun ity’ trying to engage with public and you know it just looses interest for me, and then I wo uld gain and I don’t want to gain like that, I gain by imagining what pe ople might think. M: You also deal with the fundamental prob lems within the art indust ry, such as the fund ing pr oc ed ur es fo r em er gi ng ar ti st s wh ic h ar e continuously in conten tion, what would you like to see happen to cr eate a more open pl atform of funding? C: With the Artist Se x Line I started it as a joke, MART hadn’t been funded by the Arts Cou ncil
it was desperate since its first year in 2007, out funding and I times on how we could figure ustry! I developed thought what about the sex ind an tour, launched it as project for the Americ would generate. it to see what interest it goo d ide a and I sti ll thi nk it’ s a rea lly g up a ‘Porn for continue to look into settin make money from Arts Initiative’. Artist would s would go into it and a percentage of profit ld award funding a fund that once a year we wou artists need to to selected artists. I think lic funding as realise you cant depend on pub nly not in the its no longer there, or certai has been cut and abundance. The Arts Council you cant just its much more competitive, but ro funding like give up either! I think mic eful new means Kickstarter or Fund-it are hop need to come up of funding projects. Artists nging in money by with alternative means of bri thinking outside the box. lin Contemporary, M: You were recently in Dub g a contemporary Ireland’s answer to hostin successful in its international art festival, s, was it hard to numbers, it divided the critic your preparation, avoid its controversy during ? the exhibition and aftermath sy but from the C: I heard about the controver Christian were inside the curators Jota and it was a good team really great to work with and a really exciting overall. I think the show was erated debate. It exhibition for Dublin; it gen ry but it brought may have made some people ang temporary art in in a whole new audience to con the diversity of Ireland. It was amazing to see go in every day people that attended. I had to ld see such a vast to update my piece and you wou
range of age groups, kids and people who would never go to see art. It wasn’t perfect. I got a lot of press for it and enjoyed talking ab out my work to such a wid e audience internationa lly; it was a positive ex perience for me. M: You previously st ated your piece ‘Hun gry Ag ai n’ , wh ic h yo u pr od uc ed fo r Du bl in Contemporary, tackle s globalization, soci eties gr ee d an d “t he un re le nt in g po we r of ho pe and determination to survive in the face of adversity”. The piec e created a theatric al, performativity and te chnological composit ion; with such strong elem ents what result did you receive? C: The response was great; people would come up and say they saw it, or people who di dn’t know about the work would mention it or talk about the piece to me. The audience go t to interact, be on stag e and say the line ‘A s God as my witness I will never go hungry agai n.’ For a lot of people it may have seemed fu tile or pointless but in a way I liked the fu tility of the line just disa ppearing into cybers pace and becoming another YouTube clip. I had about 3000 people who reco rded it, creating a large catalogue of YouTube clips. Even that al one, the voice of the Iris h people and the audi ence exclaiming they will survive was great! Some people would say it angrily and other qu ietly or with a sense of ho pe and fun. M: Moving on to MART, I am going to hit wit h you a burst of quick ques tions, so be prepared !... We often speak of wh y ‘we’ the curators set up MART, however wh at was your own pers onal feelings and agenda on its creation?
and working with C: I love setting up shows uni ty to mak e art ist s, cre ati ng an opp ort what we still do something together and that’s this platform for and why we started; to offer nk the difference people to show their work. I thi e centred around now is that before we were mor lation art, but media, performance and instal ’ from MART and now we have dropped the ‘media in contemporary bringing in more disciplines art, widening our scope. r come and what M: What barriers has MART ove its results on is your overall perception of ne? the contemporary Irish art sce mai n iss ue, we C: Fin anc e, fun din g is our Arts Council for haven’t been supported by the g support from years, but we have had amazin ls and of course Galway and Dublin city counci t we have become Culture Ireland. Because of tha anisation, which a very international art org the new studios is a great result. Even with it will have an and gallery we are setting up international international focus and having les would be ugg str curators coming in. The other setting up on g the day to day admin and workin e artists som h wit shows, dealing with obstacles l with dea to how but over the years you learn ns and nio opi ent these difficulties from differ t we fac the o Als conflicts of personalities. rs, yea few a y for didn’t live in the same countr so , lin Dub in elf you living in London and mys pe. Sky r ove e don much of the past few years was h in Dublin we bot are we d nge cha has Now that up something for are concentrating on setting the future.
M: Do you think having the lack of money to pay for support hindered our operations? C: Yes we have ended up doing so much of the organising ourselve s because we didn’t ha ve money to pay people . Even though we ha ve ha d amazing help from so me of the artists it s ju st sometimes not enough . The fact we didn’t have a space to work from hasn’t helped but at le ast now that will change . M: So do you think we have had any effec t on the contemporary Iris h art scene? C: I suppose our ro le in the past year s has been to bring Irish art abroad, but obvi ously we have done a lot of shows in Ireland, Ga lway Arts festival, Rua Red, Molesworth Gall er y. We are known to help emerging artists, an d we don’t just pick peop le for their names, we go for quality. M: Do you think our on line gallery effected how Irish people see art? C: Maybe now, but at the start no, we ju st didn’t have the view ership but now we ge t a lot of hits, and in ternational hits. It has become something wher e the public can ea sily access and view Iris h visual artwork. We need to promote that lega cy and that its ther e as a resource, a library of contemporary Iris h art. M: Personally what po sitive and negatives has MART had on your arti stic career? C: Positives, it keep s me moving, taking part in some of the show s ourselves as artist s it becomes an opportunit y to create new work ; it allows me to be bold and take more risks with
my work. Negatives, I suppose I would question the same, our involvement of our own work in the shows, I think its good because we do work alongside the artists and you have that equal ground as an artist/curator along with someone who you curated within the show, it’s a nice grounding thing, but it can be a confusing element. M: Do you believe we made the right choice in remaining as an initiative or organisation rather then a collective? Defin itely , it sets us apart , as its just us drivi ng it, we are more about creat ing initiatives and new ideas and new platforms and frees us up to be risk takers. We can apply for things that you wouldn’t normally do as a collective, as we don’t have the politics within a collective of artists. Saying that we do include our artists in how our exhibitions form. M: To step back in time, can you describe the feeling at The Launch our first large group exhibition; I know for myself there was a great atmosphere in the old warehouse and buzz around the city from the show, what are your memories? C: It was our most exciting opening, we spent sixteen hours a day for five days cleaning a warehouse, painting it, setting up lighting, cover ing up fitti ngs, absol utely made it spotless, made this amazing temporary exhibition space. It was probably one of the best shows we did and it was our launc h. It set our standards for all our future shows. It was really thrilling start, we had a great group of artists, which we still continue to work with. It was really an exciting time. 119
M: Now back to the American tour ‘Invite or Reject’, it visited Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, can you give an insight to the MART curation process of the exhibition. C: We wanted to bring a group of Iris h artists abroad as part of Imagine Ireland. We developed the concept of the exhibition and put a call out to the artists we worked with befo re and to new artists through VAI (Visual Artists Ireland). We had a huge response from our call out. We sifted through and selected the peop le we were interested in showing and started communication with them; meetings, telephone call s, emails. We selected fifteen artists that woul d be spread out through the three cities. That was the first step, the selection, then came the logistics; getting the work to the venues. We had to find out the requirements and weight of the work, the transporting of the works was one of the hardest elements of the tour. Like our European tour ‘An Instructional’, most of the artists would not be there to set up thei r work, so they had to leave very clear inst ructions for us to set up the work exactly how they wanted. We would take photos of the work and email the artists to make sure they were happy. That was a challenge to please people’s concept and installation process. We had a mixture of emerging and established artists. There was a variety of video, performance and installation works. The three shows were very diff erent, in Chicago we worked with the Pop up Art loop who take over abandoned buildings and lets artists in to transform the space. There was a more corporate, business vibe behind it but they were really open to letting you do whatever you want.
and adjusted We had to adapt to an old shop unit my ‘Artists the work to suit the space. I had attracted a Sex Line’ piece in a window, which in New York lot of attention! The Flux Factory een studio is an artist led space with up to sixt to meet ity artists. It was a great opportun grass this new artists and curators who set up with es leng roots space; there were some chal s show two that show. Such as Flux factory had a do to us opening besides ours and they left amin Benj ed lot of our own promotion. We plac ssible area Gaulon’s ‘Corrupt’ video in an acce d corrupt for audience to partake as you coul through ds and play with the visuals and soun a live did n a metered sensor. Katherine Nola two les, Ange performance in New York and Los h whic d lope different performances that she deve Los In . work led her to a new approach to her new piece of Angeles, Adam Gibney produced a an Duncan work a 3D sculpture video work. Adri inary cipl and Tony Kenny both showed multidis al erci comm work in C4 Gallery, a contrasting best the of gallery to the other venues. One ng a varied features of the USA tour was havi range in venues. compared M: Can you compare overseas curating to producing shows in Ireland? er side of C: In many ways there is an easi acce ss to cura ting in Irel and as you have is, you ng materials. You know where everythi your know know who to approach for press, you But up. crow d is and who is goin g to turn been have we its more exciting going abroad; interesting to Mississippi that was a really pre ss in of exp erie nce. We reci eved a lot stations o Jackson. We were on NBC, FOX and radi e going leng and there is a really exciting chal abroad trying to get known. 121
M: MARTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s online galler y is one of the key factors that differentiate MART from other artâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s organisation, can you des cribe the difference and opportunities digital curation creates? C: A lot of artists might be very active in their own work and get the ir work out there but might not very good at dis playing their work online and so we offer tha t resource. They can use MART as their link to promote their work; it is an offer of a new dig ital platform, a good way of promoting yourself and being part of this pool of artists. The websit e is actively used by curators scouting for exhibitions. We also support and promote our new artists on social media, and if we have an opp ortunity we contact our artists first before we do a call out. M: One of the cor e pri nci ple s of MAR T is generating new publics thr ough our exhibitions, do you think this has been a success and can you describe the process in how this is carried out? C: Creating and connecting with new publics has always been such a big par t of MART. When we started and did the first launch in an old fruit market warehouse and the 200-year-old thatch cottage in Galway, the loc als were amazing. They began to talk about the architecture and history behind the buildings . In turn they would view the art works and beg in having another conversation. It is great to get the viewpoints from these people rather the n regular audience. They may have come in to view the building and left with a new perspecti ve on it, that aspect
eption has been very successful. Our public perc le in peop ned, wide has ad and reputation abro is a that and name our know America or London they say cant le peop of lot massive bonus, a . base ence audi d have created a broa cts M: We often argue over the different aspe is what e, scen art h Iris the and contentions in it? of es aliti inequ or ity your view on the equal e that C: I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the Irish art scen or ness busi any like its k is unequal, I thin art The et. mark ive etit comp any career based or a world is always going to have pretentions that le peop have to g goin ys hierarchy, its alwa le peop with ons, reas g wron get places for the the have that le peop t righ who network with the way it money and the contacts. That is just the and Irel e mayb ways some In works unfortunately. part huge a is ng orki netw is more insular and there of that, as it is also internationally, ing plac tors cura of ern patt does seem to be a s. show r friends into thei Ciara M: Finally in five words what is next for Scanlan? ion, C: Space, Intervention, Creation, Destruct Invention.
The Non Zero-Sum Art Games March 7th - 24th 2013 The Non Zero-Sum Art Games was part of Culture Ireland’s ‘Culture Connects International Programme’, marking Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Locations: Dublin – MART @ Unit 4. Lisbon – Plataforma Revólver Athens – metamatic:TAF A Non Zero Sum Game is in game theory a situation where one decision maker’s gain (or loss) does not necessarily result in the other decision makers’ loss (or gain) – a win-win game. They generally have both competitive and cooperative elements. Players engaged have some complementary interests and some interests that are completely opposed. ‘The Non Zero-Sum Art Games’, curated by Matthew Nevin & Ciara Scanlan, was a program of exhibitions and performances focusing on the power that Art and people have to transform the socio/political psyche of the public in 3 European cities; Dublin, Lisbon & Athens all whom have recently hit by financial crisis. Two groups of 5 Irish Artists travelled to Athens & Lisbon to work under rules, financial and time restrictions imposed by the curators. While in Dublin Aoife Giles curated 2 Portuguese and 2 Greek artists. Rules include: Artists played against each other to win a game with no results. Artists were not permitted to bring any materials or equipment with the exception of 1 Mobile Phone & 1 Laptop Artists were given €100 to source materials / equipment in the host country. Artists must have worked with at least one local artist / resident. Artists showcased their work on March 7th with a live link between 3 cities. All artworks were destroyed when show was complete. 124
Artists in Dublin: George Gyzis, Orlando Franco, São Trindade, Maria Tzanakou. Artists in Athens: Andrew Carson, Adam Gibney, Samantha McGahon, Matthew Nevin,Ciara Scanlan. Also featuring collaborations with Greek Artists : Stefanos Athanatos, Panos Profitis, Kyrgiakos Tsiftsopoulos, George Gyzis, Maria Tzanakou, Christos Papasotiriou 5 Normanou str. 105 55, Athens. Runs March 7th – 24th. Artists in Lisbon: Vanessa Daws, Francis Fay, Eleanor Lawler, Katherine Nolan, Aine Phillips. Also featuring collaborations with Lisbon Artists; Rui Mourao, Nuno Lacerda, Pedro Azevedo, Marias Teixeria, and Sara Maia. www.martgames.com 125
ANDREW CARSON, ϚΘUΠΔ ΛΠΔ ΓURΨ ϚΙGΠΙΓΥΙΝG ΠΩΤΗΙΠG, 2013.
FRANCIS FAY, THE PILGRIM, 2013
The Mart After 6 years of successful national and international exhibitions MART is setting up a new visual arts depo â&#x20AC;&#x201C; THE MART in Rathmines, Dublin. Fresh from North American and European tours, the organisation is setting up a venue which houses two contemporary art galleries, studios and workshop space in the iconic old fire station. THE MART will engage national and international artists, local communities and curators. It will provide studio space and offer comprehensive curatorial and art programs. THE MART will be a gathering of like-minded people within an open public sphere where visions convene and art happenings collide! With a base MART can provide Dublin artists with equipment and technical support for exhibitions. THE MART will also be home to MIAEN - Martâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s International Arts Exchange Network that will offer professional development for artists and curators from around the world to curate an exhibition in Dublin with local artists. This network will introduce Dublin audiences to exceptional international artistic practices.
MART Productions MART Productions is a boutique initiative that produces experimental and exciting creations by visual artists working in film, television, media and event industries. By showcasing emerging and established directors and designers MART Productions aims to bring artistically driven creations to the forefront of mainstream media. The initiative was launched in 2011 at Filmbase Dublin with a screening of The Gypsy Soul Disco, an experimental documentary directed by Nicky Larkin. The film charted the journey of the 2010 MART European tour - ‘An Instructional’, providing a behind the scenes insight into the challenges shared by the eclectic group of artists. In 2012 MART Productions along with a mix of professional filmmakers and Youthreach students produced a short film – Brianna. The aim of this production was to develop confidence in students from diverse backgrounds by actively engaging them in the filmmaking process. Brianna is where art-house meets b-movie; it is packed full of laser guns, pregnant nuns, talking goldfish and some reckless special powers. A surreal superhero comedy, the film portrays the inside of a teenager’s mind. The movie premiered in July 2012 at the Irish Film Institute to a large, enthusiastic audience. For 2013 MART Productions is aiming to introduce their audience to an eccentric comedy/drama – Spoonfeeders. The new project hardheartedly follows the lives of the staff of The MAAM Agency - a semi successful talent agency based in Dublin. It unveils the lives of musicians, artists, actors, models and the staff as they compete and struggle to break through in the aggressive creative industry in a dwindling negative economic climate. Watch Brianna: http://youtu.be/EZVZsVVIjws 131
MART as a Democratic Proposition Matthew Nevin Introduction The role of the ‘elite’ within any business or cultural context is what drives an industry. From working in the arts and television management, I have witnessed how discriminating factors, such as the latest trend where organisations are overflowing with unpaid interns, play a role in how these industries operate. Through this text I will address the art ‘elite’ and compare political democracy to democracies found in the art industry. I will argue that MART and other artist-led initiatives are examples of organisations that operate a truly democratic position. Additionally that artist-led initiatives such as MART are crucial, influencing organisations in the art industry, where larger institutes monitor and borrow ideas from the smaller more experimental initiatives. Bearing this in mind perhaps the power struggles in the art industry should be spread amongst artist-led initiatives and funded institutions equally, through proportionate distribution of government resources and funds, a method that could reform the industry and give art back to the public. I will focus on MART as an example of a small arts organisation playing a key role in the development of the Irish art scene. By comparing state funded
institutions to artist-led initiatives I will analyse their power structures, the role they play in the public sphere, how democratic they are, and to what extent they are reliant on the existence of an elite. It could be argued that institutes steer their own discourses with certain guests by selecting and inviting particular artists and curators producing predetermined artistic, theoretical and political positions (Möntmann, 2008). I will discuss how these positions and institutional systems have created a limited art scene in Ireland and address how institutes have begun loosing sight of their role as an art producer intended to serve a wider public. I will interrogate the Irish art scene where independently run organisations, state funded institutions and commercial galleries all compete for engagement with the ‘art crowd’ and generating new publics. I will argue each party is striving to create their own niche within an industry, which may be slowly failing to serve the public. I will discuss how the control of the formal mechanisms of contemporary art, such as the role of the arts council, who regulate how institutions, galleries and government bodies operate, has led to a structure of smaller organisations catering to the larger. Furthermore it could be argued that art
activism can create political discourses and truly cause an effect on the individual and society, while questioning whether its hostility can be channelled through activism to create new cultural objectives. To begin however I would like to address the role of democracy and point out the importance in the distinction between political democracy versus democracy in art.
Democracy & The Elite. Political democracy is based on when a government is formed through election, while citizens have an equal say and participation in a society. This is intended to enable an open society free of a singular hierarchal control. Democracy can never represent the masses, as its main intention to bring ‘power to the people’ is contradicted by a governing body that dictates and controls how the society is run (Etzioni-Halevy, 1988, p.325). Fundamentally, it should operate as a model of equality and open dialogue, however this is rarely the case, this often leads to political protest and art activism such as the Pussy Riots, which I will discuss later. The politics and democracies in the art industry are of a different kind. Liberality is central to the working methods of the industry yet it could be argued that autocracy has always been at its backbone. The creation of art generates an open dialogue; it displays an artistic discourse. The ambition of its youth and new initiatives keeps open a mentality of hope through the creation of new enterprises and reassessment of how art should be produced. However, the few making the decisions at the top
of the art industry permits limited artistic freedoms. Selection panels or curators in large institutions chose the artworks that form the collection and select the artists for its programme. In contrast to a situation that would produce an open dialogue with the public on the selection process. Kojin Karatani suggests in his ‘Transcritique: on Kant and Marx’ that a lottery selection process, first used in the Athenian Democracy, may be a relevant mode to revolutionise our modern democracies. Karatani suggests “Lottery functions to introduce contingency into the magnetic power center. The point is to shake up the positions where power tends to be concentrated; entrenchment of power in administrative positions can be avoided by a sudden attack of contingency” (Karatani, 2005, p.183). Perhaps this form of lottery could be implemented in both the appointment of curators and in the selection process of artists. It would of course be a controversial form of selection but it surely would see a decrease in the control of the artistic bourgeoisie. This leads onto the questions of who are artistic elite? What is their role within the industry? It could be argued the ‘art elite’ are those who run, educate, control and earn from contemporary Irish art. For instance in the Irish domain perhaps the curators at IMMA, RHA, Douglas Hyde, head academics at NCAD or IADT or dealers at some of Dublin’s commercial art galleries, all could be seen as influential heads in command. These ‘elite’ are what I understand as the controllers of the Irish art industry, akin to any industry, they are the most
powerful participants in the art scene. Many of whom have perhaps worked their way up to the top, but it could be argued have positioned themselves in a manner of which they have enabled and created an Irish art industry that caters directly to themselves and not to the wider public. Of course, without some sort of management system any industry might fail, it is just the extent of their control, which can be problematic.
Independent spaces have begun converting to a more ‘normalized’ and traditional art institutional format to gain further recognition in the art industry. While in their place there is a new swarm of autonomous, artist-led groups; MART, Block T and The Joinery in Dublin, Occupy Space in Limerick, and Tactic in Cork all have emerged in the last decade. From this an idealistic sequence for artist’s careers has emerged:
This is not to say Ireland is unique in this matter, art scenes across the globe function similarly just on a larger scale. Comparable to most artist-led initiatives MART was set up to counter balance the larger institutions and galleries who often overlook emerging art practitioners. Paradoxically, these bigger institutions often allege that an artist they are showcasing is ‘emerging’, when in fact they have been on the independent art scene for many years, claimed in order to gain the status for being the first venue to show the artist. Perhaps their understanding of ‘established’ is when an artist becomes a frequent participant in established institutions rather then frequenting independent spaces. MART was created to bring a new discourse between its artists and their new audiences, opposing the exclusivity of the established art institutions.
1) An emerging artist will normally get their first break in an artist-led space.2) This leads to an invitation to exhibit in an institutional setting such as a small, state-funded gallery like Project Art Centre or Temple Bar Gallery. 3) This may lead to their representation by a commercial gallery. 4) In turn this leads to a solo exhibition in a bigger publically funded institution (or their inclusion in a biennial).
The contemporary Irish art industry is a microcosm of the likes of Berlin, London or New York, however, Ireland has fewer galleries, curators, organisations and less finance available. Over the past twenty years, Ireland has seen the growth of state-funded contemporary art galleries and museums, alongside the rise of independent spaces and artist’ collectives.
This of course is the ‘dream’ scenario, which in most cases does not occur. The demographics that large galleries versus artist-led initiatives pitch to are often quite similar; organising exhibitions for the wider public. For instance the RHA aims directly at challenging the public’s appreciation of the visual arts, stating it is “dedicated to developing, affirming and challenging the public’s appreciation and understanding of traditional and innovative approaches to the visual arts” (RHA Academy. 2012). This of course is pleasing for anyone working in the arts; the question is whether or not this mission, along with many other institutes, including artist-
led initiatives, is completed in an open platform free from prejudice. Independent spaces like MART are often founded to counter balance the established spaces. One might view this as part of a sequence within art and culture, where those who initially oppose the system from the outside, eventually become part of the system, e.g the French Impressionists, Modernists etc. Perhaps Irish art producers who refrain from opening their organisation to a wider range of artists are enabling a lack of diplomatic confrontation and competition within the Irish art industry. This enables the emergence of discrimination that can be seen when artists are recycled through galleries across the country. This lack of confrontation, competitiveness and emphasis on consensus leads to a lack of political participation in an industry (Mouffe, 2002, p.57). Politics is one of the driving forces of the art industry and without natural competition the industry becomes stale. The wish for similarity and avoidance of confrontation or differences, along with the strong hold by the larger institutes over the pubic, is creating a lack of democratic competition in the Irish art scene. These factors contribute to a stagnation occurring where the industry becomes undeveloped and deficient from international art trends or movements. By competing as adversaries, not stagnant contemporaries, the industry would progress greater by developing a stronger, less bias artistic programming.
MART In 2006 as recent graduates, Ciara Scanlan and I felt we were not treated equally within the art industry, including lack of opportunity to showcase our work. This lead to the creation of our own platform: MART. Like other autonomous spaces, MART aims to provide opportunities to showcase emerging artists and recent graduates who are confronted with a lack of opportunities. MART’s primary aim is to create a platform specifically for artists working with new media, installation, sculpture, experimental film and performance to showcase their work and provide an art resource that is accessible, interesting and enjoyable to the public. MART targets both the wider public and art enthusiasts, by encouraging public participation through workshops and discussions around exhibitions and artist led events. All of which are held in contemporary galleries and within accessible temporary locations nationally and across the globe. As others have paved the way for MART’s existence, we simply strive to influence and contribute to the evolution of the Irish art industry. The majority of our exhibitions to date have been international events, which set us apart from other similar artistled organisations that may produce exhibitions directly in their own locality. As MART is run as an organisation compared to a collective or studio group, it frees artists up to join the network and avail of MART’s opportunities while remaining in their own faculties; studios, galleries, spaces etc. The main differentiating factor of MART is its online gallery, which is host to over 150 artist’s work.
It has become the largest showcase of contemporary Irish art online. The artists themselves control the content of this online gallery, as compared to an actual gallery. They, not a curator, decide what work is shown. The website has led to many of the showcased artists being picked up for other national and international exhibitions. To refrain from having similarities to larger organisations, MART needs to continually question who and what public the work is created for. To do this, an initiative of self-reflexive workshops is key in the programming of MART’s new gallery space. All of MART’s curators and artists must continually question and revise MART’s role and ethos, to ensure that new endeavours engage and create accessible works of art. The programme of events must not cater only for ‘the art world’ but also for the members of the public who do not have an art background. It is by means of critical participation – through workshops, events and discussions– that new publics for MART will be produced. MART’s key philosophy must continue to be public inclusive, achieved by generating nonexclusive events focusing on engaging and accessible art. Rosalyn Deutsch proposes that an art public does not pre-exist, in contrast to an art audience, it is produced by “participation in political activity” (Deutsche, 1998, p.288). MART’s activities and participation through art exhibitions will create these new publics; essentially it is the goal of MART to operate as a public sphere. This method of everyday participation and utilization of artistic political
engagement is essential to MART’s inclusive strategy and operations as an artist led initiative.
Artist-led Initiatives Independently run organisations and artist-led initiatives are vessels for new activity, whichare able to keep their pulse on programming contemporary issues. Artist led initiatives have been a stable feature of the Irish art industry since the 1970’s. The Artist Led Archive has documented their history, an archive begun in 2006 by Megs Morely, it is now housed in NIVAL in NCAD. It aims to document and decipher cultural conditions and significance during a time of social, political and economic change in Ireland (The Artist Led Archive, 2012). New initiatives aim to counter act the norm by breaking moulds. The temporality of these initiatives is important in respect to their ability to address contemporary art concerns. However, many succumb to members leaving the group and so the initiative disbands, or, as previously mentioned, they begin emulating established institutions. MART’s structure is unique, it was set up as an artistled initiative without a base, producing exhibitions in unused, derelict locations and having its only stable existence as an online gallery. MART’s un-sited web existence allows it to continue to exhibit nationally and internationally, with networked bases in Galway, Dublin and London. From this platform MART gains access, unparalleled exposure and connection to a wider public. Initiatives such as Blue Funk in the 1990’s paved the way for the likes of MART, as they set out to promote media, performance
and installation work by exploring art and politics through their communicative practice (Blue Funk 2012). However the group perhaps did not have the permanency to have a lasting effect on the art industry as an organisation. MART’s longevity is due to the organisation developing and evolving through time, such as the recent opening of the new permanent gallery. An acknowledgement of ‘new institutionalism’ is key to this argument; as it describes the transformation of art institutions from within. In the early 90s, small to medium scale state funded galleries (mainly in Northern Europe) began to embrace project-based or participatory artworks. Institutes began to interact and influence society through new methods while addressing the developments of their own management and programming. New Institutionalism utilizes participation and process based works while maintaining itself as the necessary platform to showcase art through critical debate. This revised working methodology harnesses the working systems of artist-run initiatives and artistic practices in accessing new publics. For example, fifteen years ago MoMA PS1 in New York set up their Warm Up session. A series of outdoor live music events, which was originally started while PS1 was an independent space. As successful means to create income, the model has been reproduced and appropriated from many international institutes, most recently by the Project Arts centre in Dublin. This mode is not a negative form of operations; it is a clear example of the necessary position held by artist-led initiatives in the reconstruction of the art industry.
Like a new institution, MART strives to be a think tank, a creative engine that creates opportunities, while offering itself up as a ‘place’ that expresses political desires and that acknowledges common trends in the art industries. Large art institutions such as Tate Modern or Hayward Gallery in London emulate corporate models by focusing on audience numbers, income and pleasing board members. For example the 2010 festival of independents No Soul For Sale exhibition at TATE Modern included the Irish initiative ‘This is not a shop’. The exhibition celebrated “people who contribute to the international art scene by inventing new strategies for the distribution of information and new modes of participation” (No Soul For Sale. 2012). Perhaps it was an attempt as a subversive critique by the independent organisation, but it was a clear sign of a large institute emulating or trying to jump on the bandwagon of the smaller more progressive groups. Smaller institutions, often for their own tactical reasons, have unbeknownst to themselves begun catering to a supply and demand system. By carrying out the leg work for larger institutes they fish out potentially successful artists for the preying larger museums to swallow up and churn out as a ready made show. As these artist-led initiatives do not rely on large amounts of income to stay afloat, they are freed up to be more imaginative and to take risks. They build up their profile and position in the public sphere by curating a strategic program of events that shape
their relationships with their publics and promote self-critique. It is with this counter strike against globalization that the new institutions critique the established by maintaining and expanding their participation in the public sphere (Möntmann, 2009. p.158). MART never set out to change existing structures, but solely to subsist, from which it has developed its own strategies, expressions and impressions by the use of a collaboration of networks and expansion of participation in the public sphere.
Power Structures Dissecting the power structures and intentions within the systems of art is key to the understanding of MART’s democratic proposition. Deutsch states (after Laclau), “power stems from the people but belongs to nobody. Democracy abolishes the external referent of power and refers power to society” (Deutsche, 1998, p.273). This referral of power to society as a whole, allows democracy to locate its influence with the invention of public space, where debate can take place amongst the people. Whether this debate takes place amongst the controllers of the industry, or between art enthusiasts or local communities, etc., is another problem. MART runs as a ‘collective for the people’, operating as a not for profit organisation, which endeavours to maintain and possess a collective consciousness. Although we utilize a curatorial selection process for the addition of new
artists to the online gallery, studios or exhibitions, MART aims to refer power back to the artists through various mechanisms including: proposed exhibitions, visiting curators and franchising. Artists can also use the MART brand to create their own opportunities by self curating and promoting their own work, utilizing MART’s national and international presence. Charles Esche when describing the 2005 Cork Caucus stated that the goal of the project was “to provide the platform that expresses a collective will” (Cork Caucus, 2006). MART strives to follow this democratic expression through each of its branches, allowing for discursive and constructive situations, such as the recent Invite or Reject exhibition in Flux Factory New York. This included an exhibition, live performance event and discussion seminar on contemporary art amongst New Yorkers and local artists. MART has avoided confrontations with major players in the Irish art scene by creating opportunities for artists to bypass institutional obstacles through a service of online representation and international exhibitions. As with all democratic procedures, MART’s ambition to be truly democratic in its curation, operations and accessibility is not fully achievable. True inclusivity can never sincerely happen nor can a “fully constituted political community” be formed (Deutsche, 1998, p.289). A component of exclusivity will always exist, whether it is the elements of the curational process; such as the choice of artists, the exclusion of certain art disciplines, or the manner in which MART displays the artist’s work. All of these processes conjure up elements of unavoidable exclusivity. However an
awareness of this exclusivity allows revisions to be made for inclusivity and equality to subsist within the core structure of the organisation.
Public Sphere How art plays out in the public sphere, accompanied by its presumptions, has been contested for centuries, furthermore its positioning has never seen full coherency or acceptance. The public sphere is an opportunity to express the concealed, and in this context, is the space where people, art, and opinions can interact. Within this sphere artists and art spaces can produce new publics through their exhibitions and discursive events. Chantal Mouffe describes critical art, in her anti-Habermasian approach to the public sphere, as an agonistic approach that is “constituted by a manifold of artistic practices aiming at giving a voice to all those who are silenced within the framework of the existing hegemony” (Mouffe, 2007). Providing a voice to the unheard is at the core in developing new publics in a diverse globalized public sphere. MART set out to create its own public rather then catering to an established or specific audience. This is accomplished by creating new relations between emerging art forms, disciplines and artists, which in turn generates new audiences in Ireland. MART’s role became intrinsic in how the Irish public received and perceived these art forms. The website, however, did not generate a new public, but widened the audience base, bringing these disciplines direct to home computers, tablets
and mobile devices. This new structure created a less limiting platform then before, as previous artistled initiatives were limited to independent spaces exhibiting mostly in Dublin. MART has developed a strategy of creating and generating new publics by producing exhibitions across West and Central Europe and across North America. Curating for an international audience opened up prospects that did not easily exist for MART in Ireland. MART was met immediately with less resistance, with a more engaging and accepting series of art spaces that led MART to focus and branch into having an international strategy in its early years. MART has moved itself into a brand or tree with many branches, with sub directors and producers brought on board to operate each branch. 2006 saw the launch of the exhibition programming under the name of ‘MART’, while the online gallery ‘www. mart.ie’ went live in 2007. ‘MART Productions’ was created in 2010 to produce independent art films such as ‘Gypsy Soul Disco’; an experimental documentary by Nicky Larkin. ‘The MART Umbrella’ in 2011 began franchising our ideas across America and Europe. As exampled through the exhibitions of Invite or Reject and An Instructional, from which MART has partnered with several independent spaces such as SPACE in Bratislava and Entrée in Bergen. Finally ‘The MART’ is home to studios and gallery hosting contemporary art exhibitions in a disused fire station in Rathmines, Dublin. While MIAEN; Mart’s International Arts Exchange Network will begin offering professional development for artists and curators from around the world to come and curate an exhibition in Dublin
with local artists. Through these endeavours MART can continue to generate new publics through exhibitions, events, talks, debates and workshops. This franchised approach is an aspect that TATE, Guggenheim and Dublin Science Gallery have taken by creating international franchises of their own. It may be an institutionalized format of operations; however MART’s core ethos is based on the creation of new opportunities compared to larger institutions that may have a more profit driven goal.
Engagement The engagement with new audiences to allow inclusion is crucial to all art establishments. MART operates with the core ethos to ensure that art is seen. To understand artistic engagement we must address how artwork is created; from theoretical, instinctual and developmental processes. The connection between an artist and their work is the first engagement an artwork experiences as an entity. The work is controlled by its relationship with the artist, where it can be made or destroyed through quick moments of engagement. The artist releases the controls of viewership by dissolving their jurisdiction to a curator who forms an occupational engagement with the piece. The method of display is fundamental to how an audience will engage with the piece. Many film and video works are intended solely for exhibition in a gallery space and cannot be showed online. For instance Takashi Murakami’s video ‘Akihabara Majokko Princess’ starring Kirsten Dunst was shown in 2009 in the Tate Modern’s ‘Pop Life’ exhibition, while it is non-existent in official form online. MART’s survival and longevity is due
to the nature of its engagement with the viewer as collaborator through its programming, localities and press. Walter Benjamin in ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ states; “the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence”(Benjamin, 2005). Institutions that rehash previous retrospectives or educational formats are eliminating what Benjamin describes as the ‘aura’ of the work (Benjamin, 2005). Hence the engagement of the true relationship between audience and art form is lost. By focusing on monetary or statistic goals, an art institution is substituting the artistic accreditation of the work for capitalistic purposes. Keeping the quality of work to high standards and innovative means of engagement is key to evolution and the progression of Irish art. Benjamin explains this awareness further stating art has two fundamental principles, “with one, the accent is on the cult value; with the other, on the exhibition value of the work” (Benjamin, 2005). One can compare the Stone Age paintings to Greek artefacts and to the Mona Lisa, they are all contenders in this battle between cult and exhibition value while focusing on their accessibility or production. The cult status of an object feeds the needs of the art institution, curator, dealer or collector, while the exhibition value serves the publics need of engagement, stimulating a twofold
situation feeding off each other. Art institutes thus begin operating through a cult mentality, working to stay on top they exchange artists, boast through press and play off each other to keep their art industry alive. Newer organizations such as MART strive to find the balance between the established and the forging of new agendas into a new self created public sphere, away from an ‘art crowd’ or institutional process. Art dealers, who appropriate successful artist’s work, gain full control over the audience and their engagement with the work, the nature of which can be contentious. However there is a new energy in town, the influx of new spaces/independent groups emerging from the recession – Block T, Joinery, BASIC SPACE etc, which I previously mentioned, have created accessible audience engagement with local communities. Louisa Buck, in ‘Market Matters’ the Arts Council of England’s addresses these dynamics of the contemporary art industry, stating; “small-scale and more informal, artist-run and emerging spaces and some commissioning agencies provide a crucial showcase for the most experimental work and are also an important entry point for younger as well as more established collectors” (Buck, 2004, p.20). Block T’s recent Link Culturefest is a good example of this as it aimed to showcase experimental and contemporary artists to communities in Dublin 7. A series of events were curated for the public including exhibitions, concerts, screenings and
tours. MART carried out a similar program during Imagine Ireland in 2011, where a combination of exhibitions, workshops, performances and discussion groups engaged with new audiences in North America, specifically aimed at the Irish American communities. The historian Alexander Dorner, stated that museums will become “more like a power station, a producer of energy,” (Doherty, 2006, p.3). MART and Block T are such producers, creating and revitalising old procedures to critically engage and bring art to wider audiences.
Art Activism Art acts as an entity engaging and on occasion dealing with politics and identity that create new political discourses that enable new publics. Whether art creates new politics can be speculative but what can be suggested is that artist-led initiatives can set themselves up as an alternative way of targeting the will of the people (Cork Caucus, 2006). Targeting these opinions produces alternative political discourses and opens up discussions around the role of art and its effect on the individual and society. A contemporary example of artistic intervention is the Russian feminist, punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who staged an intervention on 21st February 2012 in a Moscow Cathedral targeting both Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. Claire Tancons describes the democratic interventionists providing an; “iconic representation to the crisis of representative democracy. Pussy Riot have played no small part in providing heightened visual currency and affording
new subjective agency” (Tancons, 2012). Pussy Riot’s actions, which resulted in a three-year jail sentence, triggered protests for the freedom of expression across Russia and support internationally against this sentencing (NYtimes.com, 2012). Their carnivalesque protest has become paradigmatic of the anti-capitalist movement in Russia. Pussy Riot ignited an alternative political discourse by targeting the will of the people, fighting for their liberties against a repressive regime, consequently highlighting the problems evident in Russia’s democracy. Their actions have brought new publics, nationally and internationally, directly to their cause, accomplished through shared art activism. MART has always concerned itself with the collective consciousness. However individual ideology, which runs against and finds no solution for group mentality in the social world, is fundamental in the make up of our democratic society. The hostility that subsists in human societies subverts and antagonizes the dominant hegemony, by creating new cultural, social and political objectives. Mouffe describes this battle between individual and the multiple as “characterized by a rationalist and individualist approach which is unable to grasp adequately the pluralistic nature of the social world, with the conflicts that pluralism entails; conflicts for which no rational solution could ever exist” (Chantal Mouffe, 2007).
Mouffe continues by stating artists can play a role in this “hegemonic struggle by subverting the dominant hegemony and by contributing to the construction of new subjectivities” (Chantal Mouffe, 2007). If art is for everyone, then it is the artist’s function to disrupt and continue to construct these new subjectives while creating new cultures and creative linguistics to its publics, in retaliation against the dominant hegemony.
Conclusion Stating MART is a conceivable fore runner in advancing Irish contemporary art, is an ego driven statement, which pushes other art producers out and ironically implies MART’s elitism. Therefore this text may be interpreted as becoming elitist itself having a political self-righteous dimension contributing to the blinkered scene that is the Irish art industry. Mouffe stated that “every form of art has a political dimension” or “contributes to the deconstruction or critique of it” (Doublesession. net, 2010), consequently the ethos that ‘art is for everyone’ is quite feasibly a politically motivated agenda deconstructing and created to subvert a democracy that I myself am knee deep in. Time will tell if MART has initiated a new form of existence in our democratic society, which perhaps needed to be reimagined to replace the established and combat the globalized tenure, allowing a more equalized true heterogeneous art industry.
Throughout this text I have argued that art can be and should be for everyone. It should not be lost between the diplomacies or elitism or catering for the ‘art crowd’, a trait that can be seen in many art institutions, organisations and museums. A focus on the art and on the egalitarian nature of the industry can be lost sometimes in the structures of art institutions that often disregard their role in our public sphere. The art industry in Ireland has seen a rise in independent run spaces, this is a clear deviation away from the established institutions. These independents have begun creating their own platforms as art activists and are triggering new negotiations between the art industry and public sphere. The supposition of this argument is that MART needs to continue its deviance away from the conventional stream of art operations and organizations. It must maintain its evolution and concentration on generating new publics, while never truly conforming to the fate of the previous generation of independent organizations; that is to become part of the establishment.
Bibliography: Books DEUTSCHE, R., 1998. Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics. 2nd ed. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. KARATANI, K., 2005. Transcritique: On Kant and Marx. 2nd ed. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Articles/Chapters MÖNTMANN,N., 2009. The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism: Perspectives on a Possible Future. In: Nowotny,S., Rolnik,S., Lazzarato,M., Ray,G., 2009. Critique of Creativity: Precarity, Subjectivity and Resistance in the ‘Creative Industries’. 1st ed. London: MayFly Books. pp. 155-161 Web Resources BENJAMIN,W., 2005. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/ works/ge/benjamin.htm. [Accessed 14 September 12]. BLUE FUNK, 2012. Blue Funk. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theartistledarchive.com/Blue%20Funk. html. [Accessed 14 September 12]. BUCK, L., 2004. Market Matters, The Dynamics of the contemporary art martket.. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.takingpartinthearts.com/download. php?document=287. [Accessed 14 September 12]. CORK CAUCUS. 2006. EIRE VERGARA Art, Possibility and Democracy. Interview with Charles Esche. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.corkcaucus. ie/context/context_detail.php?recordID=29. [Accessed 14 September 12]. DOHERTY, C., 2006. New Institutionalism and the Exhibition as Situation . [ONLINE] Available at:http:// www.situations.org.uk/media/files/New_Institutionalism. pdf. [Accessed 14 September 12]. DOUBLESESSION.net. 2010. Every form of art has a political dimension. [ONLINE] Available at: http://doublesession.net/indexhibitv070e/files/ greyroomroundtable.pdf. [Accessed 14 September 12].
ETZIONI-HALEVY, E, 1988. Inherent Contradictions of Democracy: Illustrations from National Broadcasting Corporations. Comparative Politics, [Online]. Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 325-340. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/ stable/421807 [Accessed 22 September 2012]. MOUFFE, C., 2002. Which Public Sphere for a Democratic Society?. Theoria, Vol 49, No. 99, pp.55-65. MOUFFE, C., 2007. Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. artandresearch.org.uk/v1n2/mouffe.html. [Accessed 14 September 12]. MĂ&#x2013;NTMANN,N,. 2008. Playing the Wild Child. Art Institutions in a Situation of Changed Public Interest. [ONLINE] Available at: http://classic.skor.nl/article3631-nl.html?lang=en. [Accessed 23 September 12]. NYTIMES.com, 2012. An Award and More Support for Pussy Riot. [ONLINE] Available at: http://artsbeat.blogs. nytimes.com/2012/09/21/an-award-and-more-supportfor-pussy-riot/. [Accessed 22 September 12]. NO SOUL FOR SALE. 2012. A Festival of Independents. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nosoulforsale.com. [Accessed 14 September 12]. RHA ACADEMY. 2012. Academy mission. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.rhagallery.ie/html/academy/ academy_mission.html. [Accessed 14 September 12]. TANCONS, C., 2012. Carnival to Commons: Pussy Riot Punk Protest and the Exercise of Democratic Culture. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/ carnival-to-commons-pussy-riot-punk-protest-and-theexercise-of-democratic-culture/. [Accessed 14 September 12]. THE ARTIST LED ARCHIVE. 2012. Home. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theartistledarchive.com/home. html. [Accessed 14 September 12].
MATTHEW NEVIN, CIARA SCANLAN, THE STRANGER, 2010. 145
Ether and the Voice Colleen Keough
Ether and the Voice: an electronic media opera” is a hybrid performance, video and interactive installation work which premiered at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, NY in March 2010. The work was the culmination of a two-year investigation in which I explored the phenomena of the voice, identity, and electronic processes. Grrlsound recently asked me to do a self-interview on the piece, at first I was apprehensive about it but as I mulled it overthe many voices and characters that inhabit my interior sprang forward eager to facilitate the process. The Dreamer, The Vegan, and The Blonde are three characters I created for the opera and serve as the opera’s chorus and narrators. They represent the psyche of Ether (the main character) and speak solely through large video projections and sonnet style poetry. The “girls” as I refer to them, speak directly to the audience and critique Ether’s journey as she traverses through three distinct environments, which are represented by Acts 1, 2 and 3. Here they have graciously taken on the role of interviewer.
The Dreamer: Why did you cweate an opwah and what was your pwocess wike?
Colleen: Well, I didn’t set out to create an opera.
It really just evolved from the process of creating individual works that happened to possess recurring themes and threads of connection between them. I resisted calling it an opera for some time, but gradually I got used to the idea and then really embraced it. There is something about the excess and opulence of opera that is exciting to me. Some of the feminist theory I was reading at the time discussed the notion of female excess and the idea that woman with all her emotion, sexual power, and hysteria was just too much. The spill over of woman was seen as something that needed to be contained and dominated...for her own good. This is where the archetypal siren enters the scene. Hers is a “voice that is invisible and monstrous”. The power of the siren’s voice for evil and death is a story that has been told time and again. In my story the sirens assist Ether in her quest to recover the voice.
My intention was to create a multi-media performance work that pushed personal, artistic and conceptual boundaries. I’m interested in integrating different mediums: video art, music, sound, installation and interactive video instruments. I wanted to create a work that not only integrated mediums but also fused different literary, sonic, visual, and musical genres. This is something that I have experimented with in the past and really liked the results. For instance, a rock song can live next to an experimental sound work, a theatrical monologue, and prose and sonnet styles of poetry. In the same vein, I wanted the performance to take a multitude of shapes: video projection, live performance, and vocal performance. For whatever reason
I am compelled to throw everything in the pot and see what becomes of it, in my mind anything and everything is fair game. For me there are no boundaries when it comes to mediums, genres and the creative process.
The Dreamer: What do you think wies behind the impulse to merge these diffewent ewements?
Colleen: I think Ether says it best in the first act
of the opera when she declares, “It’s all a mosh of information and sensation”. That line embodies how I experience the over saturation of visual information, electronic processes and modes of communication. Everything starts to merge, it all lives on the same plane and we are all accessing that plane and forming our own ideas, perceptions and fantasies about it. I think my creative process reflects that phenomena. “Integration and Interdisciplinary” are such a key words in technology and arts. How many elements can be integrated? Where do we draw the line? As artists does there even need to be a line? I know there are many artists who believe in definitive boundaries when approaching different mediums and genres of work. The frame in which I work from is quite porous. I am simultaneously drawing from multiple sources of information and referencing seemingly disparate genres of expression. It may be that this is just how my brain is wired. It’s really not a conscious and calculated effort. The creative process has a mind and order of its own. The work becomes an alternate reality constructed by Ether’s psycho-techno-social experiences. It explores the psychic, subconscious and fantastical realms of Ether’s psyche. We get to see how she is dealing with the dynamics of living at the crux where culture, body and technology intersect. In the prose monologue “the L’s the I’s the P’s” Ether expresses her frustration with texting and emailing.
There’s an absence of physical voice and emotion in those forms of communication. She says “Don’t misinterpret the text, it’s static, the breath just hangs, it waits at the end of an exhale gathering strength, a foreign body in foreign lands”. This introduces the concept of the disembodied voice and the separation of the voice from language, voice from text, and voice from body through electronic processes. Here is where the voice escapes and starts to roam on it’s own, hence the name of the name of Act 1 “Extreme Roamer”. Ether embarks on a journey to retrieve the disembodied voice and that’s how the whole story begins.
The Vegan: In what ways do you think this work challenges traditional notions about performance?
Colleen: I believe performance can live in multiple spaces
and exist simultaneously through multiple mediums. With this work I really feel like I am poking a stick at all these different areas and seeing what kind of reaction I might get from the audience and the mediums themselves. The first act consists of a prose piece that is recited in theatrical/monologue form, the twist is that my voice is triggering an interference signal through an interactive interface; this interference disturbs the visual and sonic environment. The first act “Extreme Roamer” is predominately cinematic with several composed sound works. The second act “A Boat, A Home, A Future” is a collection of songs and scenic video projections, while the third act “ The Bright Side” breaks that fourth wall and spell of theatrical and cinematic illusion by inviting the audience on stage for the improvised “Somewhere Above the Sky” number. In this number I control the electronic signal with my interactive video instrument, the “Crystal Ball Magic Box”. The third act is an improvisation and my favourite because it can be reinvented every time the opera is performed. To answer your question, I think the work
starts to blur the lines dividing these different genres, mediums and electronic processes. At the end of the day I am telling a story, but the story as well as the process is about the influence of technology impacting outmoded structures, whether they are psychological, social, artistic, theoretical or physical. Technology facilitates a cycle of destruction and creation. What it creates and destroys is sometimes good, sometimes bad depending on your point of view.
The Vegan: Can you tell us a bit more about the “Crystal Ball Magic Box”?
Colleen: The Crystal Ball Magic Box is an interactive
video instrument I designed for the opera’s third act. I wanted to create something that was a playable video controller/instrument. I’m a songwriter and I’ve played in rock bands in the past, I am used to having an instrument with me on stage. I love the idea of live processing and manipulating video and sound through an interesting looking object. It’s not just knobs and dials being turned, the sculptural aspect of the piece adds a bit of drama and stage presence. The solid glass spheres were created in the glass studio at NYSCC/ Alfred University. The wooden box houses an arduino interface, which is connected to a computer and Max/ MSP Jitter patch. When I turn the crystal balls I am manipulating the video signal. I am interested in creating more of these kinds of instruments and getting others to play with me.
The Vegan: Why is the voice so important to you?
Colleen: The voice is what started this whole journey
for me. The voice, sound, and music, resonate in a similar way for me. The voice is a vibratory and sonic manifestation of human emotion and communication. The voice allows us to connect more deeply to one another and identify with each other’s joy, pain, rage, sorrow, excitement, fear etc. I think I am also drawn to its multiplicity of meaning, it’s symbology and it’s multi-dimensionality. The voice is the great storyteller, the carrier of myths, and histories. I also like the idea that voice allows anyone or anything to speak.
COLLEEN KEOUGH, OVERTURE, 2011.
Revolt and Agonism
Virtual Democracy and the question of postidentity in the work of Tanja Ostojic. Text by Maria Tanner Introduction Rapidly transforming definitions East and West of Europe - Global Market Capitalism has profoundly altered concepts of identity old and new. In mutual accord, the seamlessness inroads created with the advance of new technologies and transnational exchange continue to transfix contemporary imagination. Now freely interchangeable as recipients and content creators our shared capacity for organization and political agency reverberates with a complex multiplicity that contemporary discourses seek to harness as a force effecting social change. As with all social change, points along a trajectory affect it; therefore this text concerns itself with locating particular catalytic points in the Eastern and south Eastern European, route to and assimilation of, the global new media revolution of recent years. Drawing on aspects Lacanian psychoanalytical theory along with Julia Kristeva’s aligned theory of semiotics; I will consider strategies of politicisation with respect to identification and dis-identification arising on a post communist experimental field of experience and how this can be problematized in relation to Chantell Mouffes theory of democratic agonism.
The project (Looking for a Husband with EU Passport 2000 - 2005) by Berlin based contemporary Serbian artist Tanja Ostojić, will function as an exemplar of critical conditions surrounding transitional assimilation points within global media practices.
Transitions In the ten years prior to the fall of the iron curtain in 1989 the communist state system operating in Eastern Europe harshly suppressed freedom of speech, press and assembly, all of which enable the production of the life of publics. Under the imperatives of communist political praxis, independent opinion was criminalised, and virtually every member of society had to guard against their own guilt, insofar as self-censorship silenced its participants. Locked down behind the communist uniformity and schematism of thought, the absence of comparison, evaluation and open debate, profoundly affected intellectual and artistic development across the Eastern Bloc. Tanja Ostojić: The “ad” from “Looking for a Husband with EU Passport”, 2000–05 Participatory web project / combined media installation Photo: Borut Krajnc Copyright/ courtesy: Tanja Ostojić
In the effort to effect change on the intellectual and cultural impasses that had developed around life behind the Iron Curtain, anti communist dissidents, in pursuit of intellectual freedom went underground. During which time, they formed necessary connections with their Western counterparts in defiance of state imposed isolation. In Czechoslovakia, for example, dissident philosopher Julius Tomin, in 1978, sent a letter to four Western Universities asking them, to support his efforts in creating underground philosophy seminars, to be held in his apartment. Responding to the urgency of the call, Western European intellectuals began to gather in solidarity, and in 1980, the Jan Hus Educational Foundation was established by a group of British philosophers in Oxford University. The work of the foundation ran over a near ten year period, with influential philosopher such as. Richard Rorty, Paul Ricoeur, (1980) Jacques Derrida, (1981) Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Jacques Merleau- Ponty(1984) named among its involved supporters (Day,1999 ) Member of the Jan Hus Foundation and professor of literature, Dan Jacobson went to communist occupied Prague in 1983, as part of the foundations underground programme. The intention of the visit was to set up a seminar for English speaking Czech writers. Jacobson gave an account of his experience of life behind the iron curtain at the time. He stated; “What I had found was worse than I had expected a crushed and eerie silence […] the subdued wretchedness of the demeanor of the people” (Day, 1999, p.198).
The public exterior of compliance to state injunctions, however, by no means represented the increasing power of dissent that had begun to take shape in the underground activity of those years leading up to the fall of the Berlin wall. In 1986, Jacobson revisited Czechoslovakia and noted a major change in atmosphere. As Barbra day writes, Jacobson ‘‘became aware of a strong sense of urgency, of life going on under the crust conducted by impressive, attractive people who were not crushed at all” (Day, 1999, p.200). Gathering aggregate force, the unofficial discourse of Eastern European counter movements, gained distribution in multi-contextual spaces of circulation, through the phenomenon of samizdat (home publishing), underground University Lectures, home seminars and discussions of oppositional political stance. Reflecting what Nancy Fraser terms the subaltern counterpublic, Eastern European underground movements opened “a parallel discursive arena where members of social groups invent and circulate counter discourse to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests and needs” (Warner, 2002, p85). A self-determination by a self constituted public that enabled “the transposition from the act of private reading to the figuration of sovereign opinion”, that eventually brought about the internal collapse of an oppressive regime in the Eastern Bloc (Warner, 2002, p.89).
The communism that existed in Yugoslavia differed from the communism in other Central and Eastern European countries due to the Tito-Stalin rift of the late 1940s. “Being independent of Moscow brought Yugoslavia a special relationship with the US, which included the guarantee of special access to Western credits in exchange for Yugoslav neutrality and its military capacity to deter Warsaw Pact forces from invading Western Europe” (Delevic, 1998, p.3). After Yugoslavia broke with Stalinist Soviet Union in 1948, Tito embraced Modernist art and architecture, as a method of asserting ideological distance from Moscow, (Nevenka, 2002). Through Tito’s open cultural policy, the art’s began to thrive and by the 1970’s across the Western world, Belgrade was considered the canonical home of Avant Garde theater. On the wave of the experimentation, in 1971 the Student Cultural Center was also established in Belgrade, marking a period of radical change in artistic production, as it broke from modernist entrenchment into the dematerialization of conceptual and post conceptual art (Nevenka, 2002). Raša Todosijević former founding member of Student Cultural Center in conversation with art critic Dietmat Unterkofler stated that, “during the times of the SKC we were in intense contact with artists all over Europe, even in America. We had contacts with the Vienna Actionists; with the people from Art & Language around Kosuth;
with the Italian Arte Povera scene; and a little later with the “ “Young Wilds” from Germany. It is an interesting fact that Czech artists for example sent their works to us so that we could send them to western countries” (Unterkofler, 2011, p.1). The vibrancy of this transnational exchange did come to an abrupt end however, after the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe in 1989, Yugoslavia no longer held the geopolitical importance the US had previously attributed to it (Delevic, 1998). Following Yugoslav war during the 1990’s and severe austerity perpetuated by multilateral economic sanctions from the west, gradually complete isolation from international contact ensued. Not again until the later part of the 1990 to early 2000’s when Serbia gained UN membership did the weight of isolation begin to lift, where once again civic and artistic agency could begin to approach self determination.
Personal becomes the political Now over twenty years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the incursions of western neo liberal order on social and political landscapes of Eastern and South Eastern Europe have brought into sharp relief, questions of Identity. Questions critically tied to the complex nature of questions about democracy in its entire ideological spectrum, from its potentiality as a route to self actualisation, to its polarity, as source of exploitation and exclusion. With due account, to the underlying cultures,
discourses and practices that together give identities their complex and differentiated forms, I aim to approach the question of identity. How it is stabilised through utopian logics of inclusion and also how it is deconstructed, following “realist logics of exclusion, struggle and criticism” (Groys, 2008, p.169). In sourcing the necessary coordinates from which to approach the question of identity, I will draw from psychoanalytical theories of the unconscious in pursuit of a critical examination that “specifies the semiotic as a psychosomatic modality within the signifying process” (Kristeva, 1984, p.73) that leads from the collective and on to differentiated knowledge of the subject. For psychoanalytical theorist Julia Kristeva, “the subject as always elsewhere, unconscious, drive motivated, a “sujet-en-proces” a split subjectivityin-process” (Becker-Leckrone,2005, p.164-165). This process orientated understanding of subjectivity remains in a constant state of negotiation between semiotic and the symbolic aspects of signification. The symbolic order is signified within the social domain, while the semiotic unconscious by contrast designates an emotional field, articulated through primary processes, in other words, connected to instincts. In this sense the semiotic opposes the symbolic, which correlates to the stricter denotative language that fixes identity within the symbolic fabric of the world. Therefore, considering the function of these interchangeable and abstract equivalences in constituting the subject, it becomes clear, that transformation within the social order
cannot come about without a transformation of the subject and meaning. As visual art is an activity of the sign it is also event through semiosis can occur, in the release or agitation of what the symbolic order tends to repress. For Kristeva this process is termed a revolution in poetic language, the epidermalisation of the subversive semiotic, through which meaning and the subject can be altered fundamentally. From this basis of understanding, I will consider in the first part, the 2000-2005 web-based projects Looking for a Husband with EU Passport by contemporary interdisciplinary and performance artist Tanja Ostojić, as a critically productive example of where “affective and somatic forces enter language and culture” and devise the space through which the personal becomes the political (McAffe, 2005, p.113). Looking for a Husband with EU Passport 200005 is a project that foregrounds an unmediated desire for agency, protest and critique against the bio-political injunctions place on South- Eastern European citizens without the privilege of an European Union passport. The project is presented to the viewer in the form of a website advertisement where Ostojić, positions herself in real-time search for a husband with an EU passport, described by the artist in terms of ‘KZ WW2, concentration – camp aesthetic, (Ostojić,T. 2012). The viewer is confronted with deeply unsettling image of the artist, standing naked without expression and with all hair removed from her body and head. Formulating critique of the underside and dark surplus of sexually commodified images of women posted
on RussinBride.com or AsianBride.com. Ostojić, leverages the critical potential of advertisement, exploiting its direct association to discourses and practices of free market economy. Subverting the image of marketed reality, Ostojić instead presents an uncompromising epidermalisation of the trauma that underlies the social, economic and political conditions of migrant women, whom Ostojić terms “Prisoners of Europe” (Ostojić,T. 2012). Through this image performance, the semiotic appears through the visual sign, as an un-integrated “insistent energy and heterogeneity that deeply disrupts something within the signifying function” (Silverman, 1998, p.28). A disruption that can be said to occur in the realisation that Looking for a Husband with EU Passport is not art for art sake but art for realities sake. Occupying a state of painful exclusion, the artist is presented as the radicalised Other, suspended in a state indefinite detention, alleviation for which, can only be arrived at through the nature of affect on the part of the viewer, for example, empathy, guilt, jouissance etc., in other words, through a kind of investment and trading of libidinal economy within symbolic chain of signification that transcends nation states.
The Question of Post Identity Occupying virtual reality, beyond the authority of nation states, Looking for a Husband with EU Passport, opens out directly on to the question of post-identity, signification for which, occurs through both dialectical oscillations and negation
between identification and dis-identification, power and resistance. The artist’s identification with a project that sets out to undermine a prohibitive juridical structure that regulates the movement of the non EU body exists along side the artist’s politics of dis-identification with fixed positions and boundaries. Paradoxically the virtual, domain, while representing a site of necessary identification also represents a site where a certain stabilisation of dis-identification can be preformed. The mediating strategy as (live web presence) takes on significant importance in this regard, as the artist can address everyone simultaneously. This web-based audience is scattered and transitory and as a result of the arbitrary nature of the participating audience, there is a lack of coherent organisation that can be termed identity. What occurs, in spite of this, is a community of subjects or public who share the experience of the artwork. Moving across virtual synaptic space, strategically bypassing the symbolic prohibition of movement specific to place (Serbia), the work is opened to outcomes unregulated by institutional processes and governance structures. These symbolic structures are rejected in favour of imaginary simulacra with which the artist identifies. This identification with imaginary simulacra as a form of dis-identification with the symbolic structure of states enforces a sense of the artist as object, devoid of a constitutive place or identity, a preformative strategy of displacement that confronts its audience with the image of the artist as she approaches the point of almost selfannihilation.
Conventional political discourse tends to sharply distinguish between the public and the private domains, yet through Ostojic’s Looking for a Husband with EU Passport, the audience is led directly into an experience of radical ambiguity, and an encounter with the hybrid subject of a postcommunist condition. A dialectical negation that lies in the apparent dissolution of the structural order between subject and object, public and private and the artist and the role she assumes. Engaging with the notion of a radically unbounded public sphere, the audience that this project generated was global in its reach, engaging the random surfer to the particular addressee, the male EU passport holders. The artist received hundreds of responses from potential husbands from around the world, and eventually succeeded in discerning a suitable individual, a German artist by the name of Klemns G. The artist arranged their first meeting to be held as a public performance Crossing Over, 2001 to be held on the lawn in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade. A month later the two were officially married in New Belgrade. In 2005 as a result of inadequate fulfilment of visa requirements, the artist’s then made the decision to divorce on the occasion of the opening of her Integration Project Office at project Room 35 in Berlin, 2005 where the artist also organised Divorce Party 2005 (Ostojić,T. 2012).
affect of abjection. Kristeva understands abjection as one of the most painful and ambiguous manifestations of the narcissistic crisis. For Kristeva the crucial feature of abjection is its “resistance to definition, its objectless negativity, the abject has only one quality of the object –that of being opposed I” (Becker-Leckrone, 2005, p.151). Kristeva argues that ‘abjection draws the subject to the limits of its own defining boundaries, this crisis of place (‘’where am I’’?) Precipitates a crisis of meaning and identification (‘’is that me?’’) (‘’what am I’?)’ (Becker-Leckrone, 2005, p.32). For Kristeva however, if the violent nature of the drive directed at the self, is redirected into language and culture it constitutes and undermines the stable distinctions between the “lives of the psyche and the life of the polis” (Ziarek, 2005, p.2).
Revolt and Agonism
In this regard Looking for a Husband with EU Passport circumscribes a sphere of appearance within the public domain where the affective forces are reinvested in the practice of what Kristeva’s terms revolt culture. On art, possibility & democracy ‘Which Public Space for Critical Artistic Practices?, political philosopher, Chantal Mouffe argues for definition and calibration of public space, but rather than Kristeva’s model of revolt culture, Mouffe calls for conflictual consensuses of agonism within existing democratic structures (2006,p149-171). Mouffe expresses this political space by arguing that
Julia Kristeva theorizes the fault line of traversable boundaries of the public/private, drawing on the
“every hegemonic order is susceptible to challenge under the climate of an antagonistic society and
the extent of this antagonism (enemy/friend) is determined by the different types of we/ them relations, according to the way we/them is constructed” (2006 p149-171.). The main task for democracy that Mouffe has identified is the diffusion of potential antagonisms, a sort of discursive taming that is constructed on an agonistic common ground where mutually respected adversarial forces meet. Mouffe also emphasises the importance of the affective dimension in the field of politics, which she refers to as ‘the passions’. Though Mouffe refers to the passions unlike Kristeva, she makes no attempt to elaborate on the constitutive dynamics of affects (abjection, disgust, melancholia etc.) or how precisely they might reinforce or destabilise ruling hegemony. In quite abstract terms, Mouffe sees the passions as the constitutive bond that leads to the realisation of collective political identities. However when attempting to define the critical function of art in the development of a plural conception of democracy, Mouffe considers it necessary to exclude the passions when they are presented to the public as the negative gesture. Mouffe states, “there is too much emphasis on dis-identification at the expense of re-identification” (2006, p.157). ‘This negative perspective, she states, while claiming to be very radical, remains trapped within a very deterministic framework’ (Mouffe, 2006, p.157). It seems that Mouffe’s concern, is, that the determinism of disidentification within critical art practice can impose an accepted way of seeing within a hegemonic order that does not correlate with the “necessary manifold practice, through which identities are constituted”
(Mouffe, 2006, p.154). It is from this point of perspective, that one must question the emphasis put forward by Mouffe in terms of dis –identification in favour of re-identification. If we are to consider the truly serious appearance of language within Looking for a Husband with EU Passport, it is immediately evident that its bare dis-identificatory position has the power to bring the political out of its concealment, by directly designating a required awareness from the viewer, of political field from which the artist’s dis-Identification must take place. Paradoxically dis-identification in all of its hybrid alterity leads us to the recognition of the artist’s sovereignty that emerges precisely at the moment when the rule of law is suspended or dis-identified, “as sovereignty names the power that withdraws and suspends the law” (Butler, 2004 p.60). However, if we are to apply Mouffe’s rejection of dis-identification as a political strategy within contemporary critical art, Ostojić’s work belongs to the category of anti-political, radical determinism. I would argue that Mouffe’s model of agonistic identities belong to an understanding that permit only allusions to the nature of affect or the passions, within contemporary critical art. Mouffe’s model excludes the practice of dis-identification so that question of the actual relations between the psyche and the polis are fact subordinate to an agonistic need for a boundary of identity that constitutes agonistic discursive space to begin with. A boundary of identity which Mouffe refers to as the, we/them relation, it is my opinion that the political associations of we/them are asserted too rigidly. The strategy of dis-identification within Ostojić’s project delivers to its audience a confrontation with
a subject of un-relenting revolt against identification because of its social positionality. Ostojić instead performs the affects of a private abjection of the inassimilable split in subjectivity into public virtual space. In doing this, the potential violence of abjection against the self is redirected, not toward an antagonistic space of violence towards the Other, but towards a restructuring of the symbolic order, as a direct address to a political consciousness and the question of democracy from the position of an Eastern European periphery. What becomes clear at this point is an understanding that the affective relations of drives are as much in operation within the subject as they are in social relations as conflict. It is the particular character of this relation that is important in realising the integrity of agonistic space. The question then is what reconfigurations of drive need to be acknowledged in the production of greater transparency within the discursive domain of agonism? Cultural theorist, Frances Restuccia in her essay, Black and Blue: Kieslowski’s Melancholia, states; “a process of globalisation devoid of melancholic dimension that maintains rather than denies loss and death will only sustain a demeaning, destructive, racist conception of the other” (Restuccia, 2005, p.204). In order to prevent against deep antagonism of this kind, that continue to produce deadlocks within society, Restuccia calls for the assimilation of loss and death into the globalising symbolic order. The author proposes this model so as to recognise “the inassimilable otherness within us and the exorbitant alterity of others” (Restuccia, 2005, p.204).
Looking for a Husband with EU Passport appears on the fault line between public and private, subject and object, the national and global, art and life. It is from these unstable boundaries of distinction that the inassimilable alternity of the artist remains open. It is art political gesture of this kind, which lead to necessary discourses of identity that are radically open to the complexity of the self and its relations.
Bibliography Books BUTLER.J., 2004. Precarious Life, The powers of Mourning and Violence,London Verso Press DAY, B., 1999. The Velvet Philosophers. Claridge Press. GROYS, B., 2008. Art Power, MIT Press.p168 LECKRONE Becker. M., ed J. Wolfrey, 2005: Julia Kristeva and Literary Theory. New York, Palgrave, Macmillan p151 MOUFFE, C., 2006. ‘Which Public Space for Critical Artistic Practices?’, Cork Caucus: on art, possibility & democracy, ed. Tara Byrne (Cork, Ireland: National Sculpture Factory & Revolver Press, pp149-171 SILVERMAN, H.J., 1998. Continental Philosophy VI: Cultural semiosis, Tracing the Signifier London: Routledge p86 WARNER, M., 2002, Publics and Counter Publics, Cambridge, Zone Books. p85. ZIAREK, E.P., Chanter. T, eds. 2005. Revolt, Affect, Collectivity. The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva’s Polis. New York, State University of New York. p113
Articles/Chapters KRISTEVA, J., 1984.Revoloution in poetic Language. In. Redman. P, ed 2000. Identity; a Reader. Sage publications London in association with Open University pp 69-75 McAFEE, N., 2005. Nk Political Affections: Kristeva and Arendt on Violence and Gratitude. In: Plonowska Ziarek. E, Chanter. T, ed. , Revolt, Affect, Collectivity. The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva’s Polis. New York, State University of New York press pp113-125 RESTUCCIA F.L.,Nk. 2005. Black and Blue: Kieslowski’s Melancholia In: Plonowska Ziarek. E, Chanter. T, 2005. Revolt, Affect, Collectivity. The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva’s Polis. New York, State University of New York press pp193-207 Web Resources DELEVIC,M., 1998. Economic sanctions as a foreign policy Tool;The case of Yugoslavia . Available: http:// www.gmu.edu/programs/icar/ijps/vol3_1/Delvic.htm. Last accessed 12th Sept 2021. NEVENKA,S., 2002. Contra aesthetic: the struggle for the New Art in post 1968 Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Available: https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/12226. Last accessed 12 Sept 2012. UNTERKOFLER,D., 2011. Raša Todosijević in conversation withDietmar Unterkofler . Available: http:// www.artmargins.com/index.php/interviews/629-raatodosijevi-interview-dietmar-unterkofler. Last accessed 12 Sept 2012. OSTOJIĆ,T,2012. Looking For a Husband with EU Passport.[E-mail]message to M,T.Tanner(tannerchop49@ gmail.com).SentWed,Sep12,2012 at1:37.http://goo.gl/ Emx8u[Accessed 13 September 12].
Darragh O Callaghan
Darragh O Callaghan’s work is a combination of video, performance and installation art that explores power and gendered relationships based upon her own experience. Her work is held in international collections, and she has just returned from Australia where she undertook a residency at Bundanon. She is currently working on a collaborative installation with composer and performer David Sudmalis for Australian Centre for Photography for November 2012. www.darraghocallaghan.com Darragh O Callaghan is a Taurus, born in the Year of the Rat. This performative paper examines Boxing Who? the video installation by Darragh O Callaghan exhibited in Shunt in 2010 as part of MART’s ‘An Instructional’ tour. The paper takes the form of a dialogue (after Socrates) in which two protagonists – Mr Bull and Ms Rat – discuss the context, form and possible meaning of the work. Deliberately open-ended, the paper weaves its way through the intersection of sometimes competing ideas and perspectives, raising at least as many questions as possible answers.
Situation: Ms Rat and Mr Bull meet on a flight and get talking, sharing their similar interest of sport: she boxing, he cycling. They decide to go for a drink to get to know one another...
Ms Rat: The fight, you know, it the demons within as it is fig is as much about fighting hting your opponent. Mr Bull: Even more so about fin your skill to pick that score ding your opening and using pay the price if you don’t. Th, to protect yourself and cat and mouse game must be at I can understand. The constant pursuit, near captura contrived action involving es, and repeated escapes. Ms Rat: You make it out to that goes around in circles. be an endless pursuit everything is cyclical – fortun But I appreciate that – and especially physical for e, politics, economy, love is strong and weak, it grows m and training. The body tires. Isn’t life about staying and wilts, it energises and game? That’s the beauty of just one step ahead of the meets mental strength to lausport – physical prowess who may of course be yoursed it over your opponentlf! Ms Rat: I think ‘laud it’ is a bit strong. Maybe I prefer th e ter m ‘co mp ete wi th ’. Bu t mo vin g on fro m th e physical, it is the layers of the psychology that also interest me: the individual and the collective; the power relationships between the pro tag oni sts – their gender; the spaces in-between; what is seen and unseen. Mr Bull: You’re making it soun d like ‘art’ now. I don’t care much for art. Ms Rat: But everything is an artform if you look upon it that way. Did you see that sh ow at Shunt in London? Mr Bull: The MART show in the Actually, I did. The setting wa old underground station? dark pathway repurposed for s interesting I thought - a a screening in what looked like a dismembered part of an ins old cinema style seats. Approide of an aeroplane with the exhibiting artists who hav priate, I thought, for e come from artist from post-Celtic tiger Ireland. Ms Rat: Yes a bit like Twin To wers for Ireland hey! The falling of the great. Mr Bull: Did you see the boxing piece? 165
Ms Rat: Boxing Who? Mr Bull: What?
Ms Rat: Boxing Who? I did. Confronting...
Mr Bull: Really? How so? I didn’t find it confronting – a naked woman slavishly appropriating the physical gestures of boxing.
Ms Rat: ‘Naked?’ More like ‘nude’ I think? And I think there’s
much more than just an appropriation of the actions of boxing in there...
Mr Bull: How so?
Ms Rat: Well, I think ‘naked’ is without apparel, but ‘nude’ is a
body re-formed – possibly by hardship, but definitely by experience. Don’t you feel we are being invited into the artists’ world through her openness and honesty – almost the purity of her physical form? It’s not sexual, but there is a biology – actually, almost a biological memory – that is reflected in the piece. And Tthe boxing it – well it is both defence,it is and attack., Iit is physical and mental strength, a resilience borne through experience. ..Otherwise, why the repetition of the boxing movement? Jab, opposite punch/ cross, hook and uppercut over and over. You’d think it would get tiresome to watch but it has some sort of physical mantra going on – each repetition becoming more and more laden with meaning and intensity.
Mr Bull: I was thinking about that? Is she boxing some imaginary opponent? Or is she breaking down that fourth wall and boxing us – the viewer?
Ms Rat: Maybe both. Maybe neither. Maybe she is boxing herself?
Mr Bull: Maybe. Either way, she seems determined, unrelentingly
persistent to carry on. Her face gets redder and redder as she continues repeating those actions. But there’s something quite odd about the way she looks while she is doing it.
Ms Rat: You know she is hung upside down don’t you? Mr Bull: Upside down?
Ms Rat: Yes. Upside down. You didn’t look very closely did you?
The jarred hips, her restricted legs...as the piece progresses we notice that she is actually hanging upside down and that the video has shown it inverted. She is restrained,- nothing moves but her arms. The camera zooms in to concentrate on the facial movements. She is essentially immobile – paralysed – using only her arms, breath, and face as the communicators of action and intensity.
Mr Bull: Well, you seem to have all the answers.
Ms Rat: Yes I do,Hmmm…. Boxing Who? externalises thoughts
through the use of the body and its behaviour. The rhythmic sound of short bursts of exhaled air and the repetitive punching actions exemplify the determination and persistence to proceed in a world that is difficult to comprehend and understand. The woman’s’ body may seem strong in its performance but is also vulnerable in its naked existence. T– though if you think of the body as nude rather than naked then there is a fully formed strength happening at the same time too. Each punch thrown hits nothing demonstrating the pointlessness of striving to seek reasoning behind our perseverance to endure life’s battles and struggles. The body and its unorthodox actions act as a vent to release understandings and happenings within the world. Or maybe the action is reflected back into the performer, a way of coping with the voices that haunt and demand action.
Mr Bull: What voices? I didn’t hear any sound other than the exhalations?
Ms Rat: Not voices in the video Mr Bull – our own voices. The
ones in our head, the ones that doubt, instil fear, demand panicked action...
Mr Bull: Oh yes, the ones at two o clock in the morning -. dDoubt and strength. The constant battle for those seeking to find their way. She is talking about my experience there.
Ms Rat: It is not just your experience. It is mine too, and I think many people’s. There’s something universal about that feeling, where you doubt, but where you must make the call to fight on
and overcome, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how open and vulnerable that can make you.
Mr Bull: Aah, hence the nakedness. And its complement nudity. Vulnerability and strength. Whole and incomplete.
Ms Rat: Yes. That’s what I think. Mr Bull: Hmm
Ms Rat: It does touch on the way that a work can be a reflection
of what people feel. An unconscious stream of what is happening in society – of what is to come perhaps. Capturing, defining and articulating the zeitgeist.
Mr Bull: But can the performance ethos point in two directions at the same time: one back into life and the other to art?
Ms Rat: Can it be any other way?
Mr Bull: Probably. You know more about this than I do. I am but a novice, and you are the expert.
Ms Rat: We are all experts of own our experience. And tapping
into that universal experience through art is what Boxing Who? does rather well. You observe the struggle of the artist, but you understand it through your own struggle. How did you feel when watching the piece?
Mr Bull: I think it was to bring about a catharsis in the observer and in some way draw out feelings, emotions and sensations that are left dormant in the reader.
Ms Rat: I’m not asking you what you think it should make you
feel or why she did the piece but how you felt when watching it.
Mr Bull: Okay! Don’t be so aggressive!
Ms Rat: It is not aggression – just look into yourself. What did
Mr Bull: Well, entranced and frustrated at the same time. Entranced
at the physical mantra of doing the same thing over and over again, but also frustrated – for the same reason! Why the repetition? Why keep doing the same thing over and over to no discernable different outcome?
Ms Rat: The repetition of the repetition is just that – how we repeat the same old same old and don’t learn from it.
Mr Bull: So are you saying that we don’t learn from repeating?
Ms Rat: There can be good repetition, and bad repetition. Healthy
habits and destructive habits. Do we truly control our habitual instinct? Is it in seeking pleasure? Is it in avoiding pain? Is it remembering? Is it forgetting? Distraction? Does repetition strengthen or weaken our motivation? Is repetition exact – or is it evolving? Minute differences that grow, multiply, a slow change so that the original act is changed into something different – recognisable, but how with a different set of drivers?
Mr Bull: So we do learn from repetition?
Ms Rat: Possibly...probably. But what we learn might not be what we seek. It brings the past into the present, it can drive our future – but it can also obliterate it. There is a consistent inconsistency to repetition – similar but different – like something half remembered, or seen through a new perspective. Mr Bull: Memory is like that I think - always alive, always on the move – malleable, but not interchangeable. Like me it is restless.
Ms Rat: A universal human condition? I mean everyone has their cross to bear...
Mr Bull: Yes, we all do. We are always dealing with the relationship of what moves and what is still, between what has happened in life and what can be learnt from it. Maybe that is one of the secrets of living...
Ms Rat: Maybe. But do you think she is boxing herself? Mr Bull – Herself and her world.
The Audience Martina McDonald
The role of an audience and discussion of underlying social issues. The term ‘audience’ is traditionally used to describe a collection of listeners or spectators who gather together to observe a particular performance or show. This collection can vary quite drastically in size, and can classify any amount of people, ranging from several individuals to a crowd of millions (depending on the spectacle in question). In some instances, even a single person could be considered an audience, it simply depends on the role that he/ she acquires. For the most part, ‘audience’ is used in conjunction with topics surrounding shows, operas, theatres, concerts, exhibitions, seminars and television. Essentially, for anything that is to be considered ‘viewable’, there is an audience to cater for it. The role of an audience, however, is not so effortlessly defined. Typically speaking - and from the performers point of view - the desired outcome of their audience would be for the viewer to: • Effectively witness the event. • Willingly receive the performance as a whole. • Give feedback on the piece while it is taking place (this usually takes the form of clapping and/ or cheering where appropriate). • And also for them to leave feeling satisfied, be it from a play, a film or an art exhibition.
This is very easy to say, in theory, whereas in reality, this idealised result becomes more difficult to obtain due to a few key issues surrounding the performer’s spatial awareness and particular perception of satisfaction itself. For example, more often than not, in the case of visual art, film and performance, it is not unusual for the performer/artist to intentionally take on an oppositional role towards the viewer or to purposely try to provoke the audience. This deliberate action is usually concerned with the theme of work and plays a vital role in the audience’s experience as a whole, even if they find discomfort in it. They might provoke the audience by intruding upon them spatially, through body contact, voice, or most commonly through the subject matter of the artwork itself. The societal issue is chiefly that of what is acceptable and expected of us when we enter the public eye, especially when it involves co-operating with other people. Each type of audience holds a variety of expectations unique to its situation, which is determined by the context, space and time. At the opera for example, we are usually expected to be seated and remain quiet for the majority of our time there. The interval is officially scheduled by the organisers, who bear the most control of the environment. Obedience is necessary for the overall enjoyment of everyone and opposing the administration generally goes untolerated. As Gordon R.Wainright notes in his
book Teach yourself Body Language, when you are in crowded situations such as these, it is not just the setting that restricts the possibilities, we also realise that certain types of behaviour are expected from us and so we act accordingly; we look to others for guidance (Wainright, 2003, p. 24). Within audiences there is very much a feeling of ‘if everyone else is doing it, I should be doing it too’. This feeling is defined as ‘social proof’ by Robert B. Cialdini; a seminal expert in the rapidly growing field of influence and persuasion. Cialdini believes that we as humans view certain behaviour as correct when we see others performing it. These types of social validations are sought not just in audiences, but span the social spectrum. Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theatre, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in defining the answer (Cialdini, 2007, p.116). According to Cialdini, a major practical discovery relating to social proof was made by psychologist Albert Bandura. Bandura and his colleagues undertook a study of children who were exceptionally afraid of dogs. They showed the children a little boy playing happily with a dog for twenty minutes a day. After four days of this, Bandura discovered that 67 percent of the children were now willing to climb into a playpen with a dog and remain confined there, petting and scratching it while everyone else had left the room (Cialdini, 2007, p. 118). In addition to this, he noted, that to reduce the children’s fears:
• It was not even necessary to provide live demonstrations of another child playing with a dog, because film clips had the same effect. • The most effective type of clips were those depicting not one but a variety of other children interacting with their dogs. • And finally, Bandura announced, that the principle of social proof works best when the proof is provided by the actions of a lot of other people (Cialdini, 2007, p.118). The psychology of social proof has a significant impact on the behaviour of audiences; very few people like to break the mould and draw attention to themselves in audience situations – unless being part of the audience requires participation. For instance, in many art audience circumstances the interaction of the viewer is necessary to complete the work, in which case similar rules of imitation will apply. To summarise, one of the most basic human instincts is to copy the people around us; one of the primary ways we determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. When analysing an audience you must realise that it is not just the event that you are there to see which defines the audience’s experience, the setting itself also plays a huge role in creating the atmosphere. As Michael Argyle suggests in his book Bodily Communication, “the size and shape of the room, and the arrangement of furniture may act as constraints on how close and at what angle people sit…The existence of physical barriers may make it possible for people to sit much closer than they would otherwise” (Argyle, 1975, p.303).
When there is a physical barrier between people, they tend to find comfort in it (e.g. the arm rest dividing two seats in a cinema theatre, acts as an arm rest, but also disconnects the two or three people from each other), whereas, if there are no seats and there is just an open space for the audience to wander around in (e.g. in galleries) the comfort level may go in either of two extremes. It may become incredibly relaxed because they understand and trust the limitations of the fellow group members, or alternatively the tension may heighten as they are unable to gauge the intentions or spatial needs of their fellow audience members. In turn, they become more aware of the absence of the physical barriers/ protection; their minds become full of anxiety because technically anything ‘could’ happen.
Unobtrusive Behaviour And Bodily Contact. According to Desmond Morris, a lot of effort goes into the masking of territorial rights when we enter audience circumstances – or, in other words - the behaviour, that we as individuals tend to acquire, as if to appear unobtrusive or detached from the crowd of people we are in. i.e. blank expressionless faces, infrequent verbal communication, no body movements or even less obvious movements and postures, to mention but a few (Morris, 2002, p.198). Argyle argues “bodily contact stimulates several different kinds of receptors – responsive to touch, pressure, warmth or cold, and pain. The skin sends several kinds of signals about its condition – by its colour, taste,
and smell (e.g. of perspiration), and temperature” (Argyle, 1975, p.287). Human interaction is very personal, and often feared. Yes, most people do not want to be disturbed themselves but they also, interestingly enough, do not want to intrude on anyone else’s personal space either, generally out of politeness. As humans we feel almost as if we own the space which we occupy, it is our territory and belongs to us for as long as we inhabit it, or so we presume; the space “is not formally his, but he always uses it and others avoid it” (Morris, 2002, p.195). By way of illustration, if we happen to brush off the person sitting beside us during a seminar, our initial urge is to pull away, but if it happens regularly for the full duration of the seminar, then it becomes an irritating preoccupation, creating tension. There comes a point in nearly every communal situation, when you must accept territorial invasion, and furthermore, give up altogether and allow body to body contact. Because the world is full of unavoidable intrusion, you will always lose control of the situation you are in to a certain degree - by participating in anything as a viewer. After all, “the mechanism by which the viewer becomes involved in the piece is through an engagement of his or her personal space”(Etlin, 1998, p.3).
The Art Audience. When you become part of an art audience at an exhibition, generally, you are free to walk around and observe the work in your own time. You can talk to one another without restriction or interference. Of
course the limitations of conversing may alternate depending on what you are actually there to see, i.e. a hung painting or a performance art piece would obviously require different degrees of attention. The social rules and regulations are undeterminable and often blurred until you are actually ‘in’ the situation itself and all the components become readable. Art events tend to involve a great deal more social interaction than other events, and in turn become more about self-reflection and observation than strict entertainment. The precise nature of a contemporary art exhibition is, that it “creates free areas, and time spans whose rhythm contrasts with those structuring everyday life, and it encourages an inter-human commerce that differs from the ‘communication zones’ that are usually imposed upon us” (Bourriaud, 2002, p. 16). As mentioned earlier in this text, an artist may even try to oppose or provoke the audience as a means to stimulate particular emotions and/or concerns within the space; to force you to see clearly the issues they want to raise. In the art world, viewing a piece of work is an action very loosely defined. Abstracted by the diversity of self-expression, the viewing of an artwork can range from reading a poem to becoming involved in a live performance piece. Anything is possible when it comes to art – because it is ultimately the pure self-expression of the artist in question – regardless of the form it ends up taking. That is why, when you allow yourself to become part of this type of audience you are in turn allowing yourself to let down some of those personal barriers, territories and inhibitions to which you
clutch so tightly in more formal environments. In most circumstances, our curiosity takes over and we stay because we want to view, witness, experience and participate. Guy Debord, the French theorist, writer and filmmaker states: “Life’s chief emotional drama, after the neverending conflict between desire and reality hostile to that desire, certainly appears to be the sensation of time’s passage” (Debord, 1957, p. 99). Which springs to mind the question, ‘if I am a witness either actively or passively to something does this mean I am an audience to it?’ – In my opinion, yes! Yet, the answer to this question will undoubtedly change depending upon each person you ask, based on their way of thinking and personal background. It could be argued that everybody is an audience to their own life and the lives of people around them on a daily basis, because you are always the observer of your own life. Furthermore the personality, character, age, race, temperament and spatial limitations of the person or people you interact with, all determine how passive you are as an audience member. One could go so far as to say that there is no such thing as a passive observer. In the early 14th Century, an artist’s most prominent desire was to be recognised by their peers and artistic hierarchy for their outstanding skill and technique. Art was seen more as a trade than as an expression. Of course artists differentiated themselves from one another by their unique technique and talent. It tended to resemble a competition to see who could draw, paint, carve, or sculpt a religious figure, rather
than an attempt to provoke new questions and ideas within the art world and society. There was a huge preoccupation with the finished piece and with the ‘object’ with very little asked of the viewer. The Renaissance brought “an emphasis on unique personal styles which led to more specialization”, which is still very much present (Kaprow, 1958, p. 10). On the whole, artists have remained quite preoccupied with creating a particularly interesting aesthetic since the Renaissance, however the ideas behind their work have definitely become more important in contemporary times as the observer is now seen to have a lot more control of their experience. The desire to satisfy the viewer still remains, but in a slightly less refined way. It is more satisfaction that comes in the form of knowledge, questions and participation. The viewer becomes satisfied because the artist has aroused a fresh idea or outlook in their mind. They have explored a theme that the viewer finds interesting, or perhaps they facilitated a purely experiential atmosphere for them to engage with. As Nicolas Bourriaud cofounder and former director of Paris art gallery ‘Palais de Tokyo’ establishes in his book Relational Aesthetics – the role of an artwork is no longer to form an imaginary and utopian reality, but instead, to actually be a way of living and a model of action within the existing real - regardless of the scale chosen by the artist (Bourriaud, 2002, p. 13). Relational Aesthetics was not just a title for Bourriaud’s book, it was also the term he used to describe the majority of the artistic output during the 1990s. He defined ‘Relational Aesthetics’ or ‘Relational Art’ as a set of practises which
“take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space” (Bourriaud, 2002, p. 113). Some of the artists involved in these practises were Felix Gonzales-Torres, Carsten Höller, Maurizo Cattelan and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Relational Art is an art form that is heavily based on audience participation; it strives to socially unite its audience through the intertwining of their personal experiences and reactions to the work. The audience is recognised more as a collection of human beings, who have unique spatial interpretations and opinions; they give the art its meaning through their physical presence inside the space, rather than just being a crowd of people who come to look at the work and leave. In 2002, for example, Carsten Höller created an installation entitled Light Corner in which the viewer was invited into a room full of flashing light bulbs; hundreds of light bulbs pulsated at the speed of a human heart. The constant flashing “created dazzling patterns everywhere, even on the inside of the retina” (Art Safari, 2004). Within the installation, viewers were encouraged to close their eyes because the flashing was so strong and could have caused severe damage to the eye. They became united through the shared experience of temporal ‘blindness’ and disorientation. Bourriaud also protested that 90s art was carrying on the fight between itself and that of the avant-garde… previously art had been intended to prepare and
announce a future world, whereas today it is about modelling possible universes (Bourriaud, 2002, p. 13). Relational artists were not, and still are not, connected together by any particular style, theme or iconography, instead, the link lay within their similar concerns of social activity – or the lack of – within the world around us, more specifically, the sphere of inter-human relations (Bourriaud. 2002, p. 43). English writer and director, Ben Lewis, in his BBC documentary Art Safari Relational Art: is it an ism? suggested that relational art, takes its sleek looks of minimalism and the use of everyday objects from conceptualism. In addition to that, there is another significant element within the work: its need for real people (Art Safari, 2004). In other words, contemporary art calls for interaction, for communication and for closeness between real people, be it emotional or physical. It is a type of art that ultimately unites artist and audience, bringing social issues to the foreground and, more importantly, breaks down territories, social barriers and spatial zones between people - through body language and audience engagement. Perhaps sociability is in the foreground of art today because it has become scarce elsewhere. There is quite an absence of informal interaction between strangers in today’s society, but fortunately, many artists have become aware of this issue and are attempting to counteract it through their use of the audience and human engagement. The audience is undoubtedly going to become more involved as time goes on so we as individuals must embrace it, and see what happens next!
BIBLIOGRAPHY BOOKS ARGYLE, Michael, (1975) Bodily Communication, New York: International Universities Press, Inc. BOURRIAUD, Nicolas, (2002) Relational Aesthetics, France: Les presses du reel. CIALDINI, Robert B, (2007) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, New York: Harper Collins. MORRIS, Desmond, (2002) Peoplewatching the Desmond Morris guide to body language, London: Vintage. WAINRIGHT, Gordon R., (2003), Teach yourself Body Language, London: Hodder Headline. CHAPTERS: DEBORD, Guy (1957) ‘Towards a Situationist International’ in Bishop, C. (ed), Participation, London: Whitechapel, 2006, pp. 96 – 101. HOLLER, Carsten, (2000) in Bishop, C. (ed), Participation, London: Whitechapel, 2006, pp. 144-145. KAPROW, Allan (1966) ‘Notes on Elimination of the Audience’ in Bishop, C. (ed), Participation, London: Whitechapel, 2006, pp. 102 – 104. JOURNALS/ ARTICLES: ETLIN, Richard A, 1998, ‘Aesthetics and the Spatial Sense of Self’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 56, Winter, pp. 2-19. DVDS ART SAFARI 1, Relational Art: is it an ism, 2004. [DVD] Ben Lewis, UK: Art Safari .
S u r f a c e , I m a ge a n d Feminity in Performance Practice. Katherine Nolan.
Surface, Image and Femininity in Performance Practice.
Katherine Nolan This text explores ‘surfaceness’ as a condition of femininity, in connection with ideas that the adornment and decoration of the body is a definingly feminine pursuit, and characterises woman’s relationship to the self-‐image as narcissistic. As a metaphor of femininity, Laura Mulvey states that ‘An over-‐insistence on surface starts to suggest that it might be masking something or other that should be hidden from sight, and a hint of another space starts to lurk inside a too plausible surface.’ (Mulvey, 1991: 288). Thus, femininity is structured as a dichotomous metaphor of attractive surface and rotten interior, and woman comes to represent a schism between artifice and truth. This text in particular explores this metaphor of surface in the context of the hyper-‐mediatisation of culture and how this might be heightened, disrupted or transformed through performance practice. ‘Surfaceness’ emerges as a recurrent theme in performance practice concerned with woman's relationship to representation and her role as object in the economy of the visible. In SOS Starification Object Series (1974–79) Hannah Wilke’s parodic game of ‘dress-‐up' in front of the camera subtly provokes, through the pose, the surface of the image as mirror. Ana Mendieta’s early performance works Glass on Face (1972) and Glass on Body (1972), evoke a sense of pressure on women’s bodies. This seems to have further intensified 20 years later, as reflected by Jenny Saville’s Closed Contact (1995) series, in which her body seems to meld with the surface of the photograph to materialise a violent action of the image on the body. In my performance practice I play with qualities of surface, which my body – as an example of a body marked feminine in a socially and culturally loaded context – engages with and becomes visible through. Pressed against crumbling damp brick walls of the tunnels under London bridge, plexi-‐glass in a poster box in Berlin, or the glass of a shop window in Galway, the body becomes choreographed by the surfaces, its labour becoming more visible and it’s presence as flesh made urgent. Further play with surface occurs in the manifestation of the performance as document, in a deliberately pronounced interplay between the content of the image and the surface upon which it is realized. This might evoke for instance: mirror as screen, image as projection, screen as surface, surface as a transitional, unstable and elusive, and yet fundamental, part of the image. Such mobilisation of material qualities of surface, both of the image and of the body, can represent a struggle to become through the pane/pain. Skin as membrane – the physical, permeable, mutable boundary of the body – is a key site on which the developing relationship of the subject to technology is played out and becomes visible. Through this instability of the image, and the manifestation of the force of the image on the body, I hope to create conditions through which at times I might, albeit temporarily and unstably, step ‘into’ and ‘out-‐of’ a state or states of ‘imageness’. Thus I seek to become at once, a ‘live’ body as a body that experiences and as a body which is the surface upon which the image materializes.
Investigating the politics in participatory net art through The Core Project. Matthew Nevin Introduction The core can be described as the principal group of people forming the central part of a larger body, it is also the central part of an objects’ existence; fruit, seed, rock, planets and nuclear reactors all surround a core that houses the foundations of their structure. The Core Project, which I started in 2010, sits at the centre of my work, currently a curatorial practice influenced by anthropological research. The project asks one participant from each country in the world to film themselves responding to a question, the nature of which is only revealed to them once they have pressed record. The initial timeframe for the project was six months, however, it has been two years since it was begun and it is still ongoing. As the project unfolded difficulties arose. My initial aim of compiling an anthropological analysis of global artistic and political views, was hindered by difficulties in communications, politics and the scope of collating submissions from all countries. The results, regardless of whether all countries have a submission, will reveal more about the social and cultural factors effecting the project then the completion of the project could.
This text will interrogate the project through an analysis of the elements that frame the piece, namely; socio-political engagements, economic factors, relationships between global visual art and digital culture. I will discuss the positioning of net art, new media art and net curation, as they sit within their own niche in contemporary art, all of which are at the heart of the project, due to their immateriality and global scope. Furthermore I shall examine how the engagement by the users of the medium is contingent on technological advances and influenced by cultural differences. Understanding the possible contexts of the users, or an online audience in participative systems, can allow both curators and net artists to interpret and negotiate cultural frameworks that may influence the users’ experiences. I will discuss how The Core Project is constructed by the participation of distinct players; at the centre the curator as the driving force behind the project and the selector of its participants. Subsequently the video participants or ‘sub-artists’1 1 I use the term ‘sub artist to denote a participant that plays a vital role in producing artistic material for the project.
produce a video and thirdly the existence of the audience who will view the final piece. I will examine the role of this audience, while analysing how the participatory players produce changes through their engagement and experience as both sub-artists and spectators. I will conclude on the project’s political framework and its position in an online public sphere and space.
The Core Project The aim of the project is to explore the fundamental opinions and political thoughts of participants from every country across the globe. By devising this project I wished to begin an investigation into the views of a wide variety of people. I decided to try to contact one person from every country in the world; a big undertaking however the process has itself become a dynamic part of the artwork. Titling it a ‘project’ rather than an artwork was deliberate. The project has a particular aim and is organised through developmental phases producing a progressive outcome. This can be compared to a ‘piece’ of work that may be objectified or completed in a shorter, more precise manner. The project logistically aims to involve the participation by one person in each sovereign, constituent or disputed state across the globe, as assigned by the United Nations list of member and non-member states (United Nations. 2012). The website (www.the-core-project.com) hosts instructions for the project, promotional material and will be home to the final piece on completion. As the curator I extensively search the Internet from
country to country choosing participants through a nonpartisan criteria based on their interest in the project and the visual arts. These participants tend to be students, artists, academics and local government employees. It is these contributors that will then represent their country; they will produce a video replying to a question (the actual question is not revealed until after they have signed up) and submit it to me for inclusion. In the first instance I email the participant an initial set of instructions, that outline the rules of the project: The video must: • “Be no longer than two minutes in duration from when you hit record • At least contain one lead person, but can have more than one contributor. • Be shot outside or part there of, to show countries exterior (such as through a window). • Be one take, (No editing – except for the addition of sound if desired). • Be Creative, Innovative, Bold, Adventurous, Different and Safe! Think about how and where you are going to film without knowing what you are going to be talking about!” (The Core Project, 2012). These instructions provide the participant with an outline of the project and the procedures needed to take part as a contributor. Only once the camera is recording can the participants read the last page of the instructions that holds the secret question. If they are read this before the recording, the submission will not be accepted.
I do not accept any premeditated answers. The last page of the instructions states: “Read this (to yourself) WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT? Now close your eyes for 10 seconds & Think! Now Speak” (The Core Project, 2012). The intentionally vague nature of this question is deliberate, it aims to activate a moment which I call the ‘in-between’ phase. This ‘in-between’ phase (which lasts for ten seconds) is when the participant can be seen visualising his/her thought process,
FIG 1: The Core Project, www.the-core-project.com
thinking what he/she is going to say in response to the question. It is an important component of the project. The participant’s immediate and spontaneous response to the question is of great significance to the project, as opposed to a well thought out and concise answer. This ‘in-between’ is the instance concerning the user’s deliberation of the unknown question and the identification with the moment of its reveal. The project’s procedures aim to trigger a moment of vulnerability, which is key to the process of engagement within the project and will become crucial in the viewership of the final piece. Furthermore the immateriality of this ‘in-between’ phase, which can be understood as the virtual commodification of emotion or reaction, becomes an element akin to the Internet’s concealed databases, servers, archives, software and code. While the combination of immateriality and projects physicality (video production) act as elements within the complex discipline of net art. In his analysis of the role of the spectator in ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, Jacques Rancière described the traditional passive role of the spectator as a negative role. Rancière believed that becoming a spectator means looking as opposed to knowing or acting (Rancière, 2010). The appearance of looking while remaining motionless creates a passive spectator lacking any power of intervention. This traditional passivity of the spectator is what drove the convention of spectatorship. Through The Core Project I wish to challenge the role of passive spectatorship and provide an opportunity for the spectators to become active participants in a global intervention. This can be accomplished through
new media art’s influence to push the boundaries of change in contemporary art. However change is not always accepted, as Walter Benjamin stated the “conventional is uncritically enjoyed, and the truly new is criticized with aversion”(2010, p.37). This notion is relevant to how new media art has allowed new technologies to revolutionize contemporary art, by bartering and diversifying the transgressions within spectatorship and participation. Jean Baudrillard takes this idea further in his work ‘Simulations’, when he questions our systems of interaction and communication, which he states has moved away from a complex structure of linguistics to a system of “question/answer-of perpetual test” (1983, p.116). The context of my curatorial decision in The Core Project is to focus on the participant’s procedure rather then a specific answer. It could therefore be argued that the participants of The Core Project become active spectators in the project, while contributing to a global communicative system.
Concept & Experience The main aim of the instructions is to create conditions in which the participant speaks ‘within’ their moment in time and place, capturing a sense of the complexity and diversity of the nations that make-up our planet. The responses of early entrants from Afghanistan, Antarctica, Bahrain, Canada, El Salvador, Lesotho, Sweden and Tanzania have included participants speaking of political and social unrest, international politics, environmental change, or a reflection on their own personal lives. Locating the project online opens it to viewers from
all corners of the globe and offers a partial insight into a life in each state. The project has witnessed problems since its inception, including a strong backlash from political anarchists in disputed territories/states. For instance, during the call for submissions for Abkhazia, I received emails from Georgians claiming it is not a country but a region of Georgia occupied by the Russian army. These complexities have arisen and continue to do so, however, if no response is received from any specific disputed territory then that state will not feature in the final project. These difficulties, the decisions on structure and the individual comments received from people all form part of the intricacies of the project. What happens between the instructions and the actions of the participant (the procedures of the recording) is based within traditional engagements of video art. The participant operates and submits their part of the project, which includes an insight into their activities in their state. This is then transposed into the virtual world of online viewership. The correlation of the prescription (choosing of individual), action (recording) and reaction (online viewing) make up the processes of the project, all of which will be finalized within this virtual arena of the website. The delineation of the thought process is what prompted the creation of the piece. My aim was to try and expose and capture the user’s consciousness, transforming and representing their thoughts into a material existence in a globalized Internet art setting.
The Internet has become a public space to allow audiences to access a relative new public art form. Debra Benita examines how the Internet has enabled new politics in space, which can now be understood beyond public and private, facilitating the politics of “architechnological inconsistencies” to expose institutional control (Gunkel, 2011, p.253). Net art provides an opportunity to both artists and spectators to understand the accessibility of this digital public space, while it presents new challenges to both artists and curators within the public sphere. Net art can potentially be made available to anyone and everyone who can access the Internet. It is therefore an appealing platform for activists who are motivated by political participation through transnational exchanges. The Core Project aims to act as a force, influencing and creating new social responsibilities, contextualized by using connectivity to assert its cause. The Core Project is paradigmatic of what Joseph Beuys’ terms ‘social sculpture’, in that it outlines art’s ability to transform society, he believed art is capable of dismantling the negative paradigms in our social systems (Tisdall, 1974, p.48). The Core Project’s ultimate goal is to become a successful technological art endeavour that challenges societies’ perception of art and the power of its political agency. This will be accomplished by the project producing a transformation in showing the viewer that it is possible to connect societies through an international endeavour, an aspect that net art has become involved in. Rancière suggests that the common power, which is understood to be from sharing a common space and concerns, is a binding intellectual factor, the
mode of which enables individuals to control power through their own terms (Rancière, 2010). Over the past forty years, societies dominated by the power of capitalism have created a globalized interconnected world. The development of information technology and the sciences has facilitated an increase in communication technology enabling a shared digitized, media heavy culture. Furthermore, a new kind of information culture and a ‘society of the spectacle’ have emerged from post industrial capitalism (Debord, 1984). This has enabled tech savvy individuals to engross/retrieve and renew individual power, rather then input back into society. The Core Project aims to reassert some of the utopian aspirations of the early ideals of the Internet; a globally interconnected system transferring knowledge and power across boarders. The political and geographical issues that arise from the project such as the analysis of social conditions created by shifting sovereign boundaries, political unrest, and global networking, contribute towards a movement beyond the moment of recording.
Net art Net art sits in the sub directory of the term new media art, the terminology of which is deeply contentious. New media art has pushed artists and curators of certain disciplines to revaluate the descriptive titling of their work. Beryl Graham in ‘Rethinking Curating Art after New Media’, shows just how complex the term new media art is, by listing the numerous disciplines/technologies it refers to:
“art & technology, art/sci, computer art, electronic art, digital art, digital media, intermedia, multimedia, tactical media, emerging media, upstart media, variable media, locative media, immersive art, interactive art, and Things That You Plug In” (Graham, 2010, p.4). It could be argued that complexities, such as the importance out on labelling, are problems within a contentious artworld. Visitors to a gallery and website, or audience in a public art space will more likely be concerned with their experience of the art and not what label the curator or artist has put on his/ her own work. I shall circumvent such conflicts as I shall now focus on the politics and understanding behind net art and The Core Project’s place within new media art. The computer has become both a tool and a host for art; software is replacing the physicality of some traditional art mediums. The process of visual transmission, interaction and participation in The Core Project can be traced back to ideas established in the 1970s by artists such as Dan Graham, Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway. Graham’s 1974 work Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors on Time Delay created an installation in an experiment of visual time delay, where he confused visitors through a series of mirrors, monitors and video surveillance (Figure 2). Dan Graham was one of the earliest video artists to explore the voyeuristic relations between video and the audience’s participation between visual time, architecture and transmission. In 1977 Galloway & Rabinowitz’s fascination with exploring alternative structures
for video and television resulted in the creation of Satellite Arts Project: A Space with No Geographical Boundaries (Figure 3). This led to the world’s first interactive, composite-image satellite dance performance (Lovejoy, 2004). Live images were remixed to allow performers crossing geographical borders to dance together in a virtual exploration of space. These projects, with the creation of the Internet, in time gave rise to the formation of net art, allowing projects such as The Core Project to break geographical boundaries. In order to analyse this claim we must first understand what net art can achieve. Rachel Greene describes it as an art form that intertwines technology, production and consumption. The decentralization within The Core Project and the Internet alters boundaries, allowing art practices the capability to reach new audiences and offers ways “to remix and revitalize categories often reified in the art world and beyond” (Greene, 2004. p.31). Net art is frequently focused on audience participation, whether it involves a simple click or more complex navigation through a website. The process behind its existence includes the output/input nature of the Internet and computer technology. The Internet has been challenged and obstructed by political issues, such as developing countries struggling to get online. Furthermore, countries such as China or North Korea are creating state imposed access restrictions and diverting government propaganda streams to its users (BBC, 2012). However, in countries where there are no such restrictions, net art functions relatively independently within a virtual public space.
FIG 2: Dan Graham, Time Delay Room, 1974 â&#x20AC;&#x153;Two rooms of equal size, connected by an opening at one side, under surveillance by two video cameras positioned at the connecting point between the two rooms. The front inside wall of each features two video screens - within the scope of the surveillance cameras. The monitor which the visitor coming out of the other room spies first shows the live behavior of the people in the respective other room. In both rooms, the second screen shows an image of the behavior of the viewers in the respectively other room - but with an eight second delay.â&#x20AC;? (Stemmrich,G., 2002,p.68)
Figure 3: Satellite Arts Project: A Space with No Geographical Boundaries, 2012. Unlike other art mediums, net art does not rely on the physical space of the gallery for its presentation, and often when it is displayed within a gallery context, it is misrepresented. As it is not at risk of being commodified by the market, Joasia Krysa explains, in ‘Curating Immateriality’, net art calls for a ‘museum without walls’ while it my be open to interferences by its contributors, it is a space
for exchange that is both transparent and flexible (Krysa, 2006, p.81). Consequently, net art has the ability to transform digital space, a public space that has become more malleable and open to its users then the physical institutional restrictions within museums, galleries, or other public arenas. However, the ultimate control over these opportunities lies firmly in the curation of the medium itself.
Net Curation The role of the net curator is caught between two difficulties; its own self-establishment and its battle against net artists who are becoming self-curators. CONT3XT.NET considers that net curators are “ ‘cultural context providers’, ‘meta artists’, ‘power users’, ‘filter feeders’ or simple ‘proactive consumers’ ” (2007, p.6). They create discursive models that provide resources for net artists. The curation of The Core Project provides this through an analysis of cultural and relationship issues. The following examples of early online artist’s curatorial projects outline the development of net curation and the role it plays within both net art and new media art. In 1993, the Austrian artist Eva Grubinger developed ‘C@C’ Computer Aided Curating, which was an early example of a system of presentation and distribution of contemporary art online (Krysa, 2006, p.101). The project, which was set up in the infancy of the Internet, involved the participants creating a piece of their own work online and on completion they allocated three additional artists to the project. This created one of the first examples of a social network of artists displaying and creating work online. Additionally the artists Miltos Manetas and Peter Lunenfelt in 2002 took online curation to an activist level. Manetas, in a protest against not making the selection for the Whitney Biennial of that year, built a counter exhibition website called Whitneybiennial in order to divert traffic away from the genuine site. Manetas announced that he
planned to use twenty-three U-Haul trucks equipped with projectors to stage a visual protest outside the Whitney Museum on the Biennials opening night. It did not happen, but instead a form of ‘performance’ occurred whereby audience members of the biennial claimed to have seen the U-Haul trucks, creating as Manetas states an artistic “urban legend” (Manetas, 2012.). However, Beryl Graham appropriately questioned, “was the entire project a conceptual breaking of boundaries between the virtual and real” (2010. p.254), which addressed the debate of artists working as curators. These pioneers in net curation pushed political and technological boundaries, while using net art as a form of resistance against the established art world. The self-organisation and collaboration between online artists and curators through technological networks, online systems, databases and programming, enabled net art to grow as its own autonomous medium. However, the roles of artist and net curator intertwine differently when comparing net art to its physical visual art counterparts. Graham questions the comparison of curating an invisible system to an object by asking; “if the curator is not curating an object but a ‘participative system’, then the invisible system itself needs to be thoroughly understood, not only by the curator, but also by the audience.” (Graham, 2010, p.124) It is through an understanding of how these systems operate, that the roles of curator, artist and participant, can be designated. The complexities behind The Core Project operate as a participative system that negates physicality. The audience must
Figure 4: The Core Project Participants fully comprehend its structure on completion, as they become participants and viewers of this immaterial system.
Participation If a curator is managing a system of participants, who engage as sub-artists, what are the accurate roles of the participants within this system? In The Core Project I convert myself from artist to curator and in turn the participants become sub-artists controlled within my system of rules, while the elements further contribute to the politics within
participatory net art. This can be compared to the context of a traditional show where artists create work that the curator constructs into an exhibition for an audience to visit in a physical space. Nevertheless, the challenge remains to define the space or role each contributor provides. As a visual artist, I have fallen into a curatorial position, by producing the participants through a method of online prescription, which has in turn become one of the main barriers of the piece. The investigation and connection with suitable contributors has been quite difficult due to political and social issues causing restrictions. Such as the aforementioned Internet access, or local political agendas which affect participants inclusion. Once engaged, the participants become sub-artists
whose role it is to follow the curator’s procedures. By completing their submission they negate their role as spectator and become performers. Rancière attributes this notion in his analysis of theatre, which can be transposed on to net art; “what has to be pursued is a theatre without spectators, a theatre where spectators will no longer be spectators, where they will learn things instead of being captured by images and become active participants in a collective performance instead of being passive viewers” (Rancière, 2010). As with theatre, The Core Project becomes a place where performative action engages artists, spectators and audience. The initial viewers of the piece become participants activating themselves in this collective performance, disavowing their role as spectators and becoming active contributors, in turn causing a vacuum, which is filled by the online audience. These new spectators will be able to engage directly with all the participants work through one portal – the website. The complexities of these procedures and role allocations are elements of the complex system of politics in net art. These cultural systems within net art and other new media art often self damage by opposing reform, partly due to the instinctual behaviour of self-resilience and survival. Such resilience has led a considerable amount of net art to replace the passive consumption of the Internet with employed response. This instigates activity both online and in real life engagements, as within The Core Project activating both a global online endeavour and
individual real world response. Utilizing emerging technology and activity, net art inspired artists in the 1970s to associate themselves with Tactical Media. A term associated with artwork that focuses on intervention, engagement and critique of the dominant political and economic order of society. This allows participants to become subjects (in this case sub-artists) and move away from singular spectatorship. Through this form of activation and collaboration, art online (in all forms) has become a collective creation process. Enabled by technology and the sharing of skill sets of artists, engineers and curators, all permitting the creation of art into a virtual form. Once within this form the work often becomes interactive, whether inside a software system, within itself, or directly with the viewer.
Politics in the Internet The Core Project in essence is an online video art project prompted by political activism, a framework that has been embedded into my practice from an early stage. I shall now discuss the influence the Internet and net art has with the promotion and coordination of modern politics. The online movements such as the ‘Yes Men’; are a key example of a real/virtual activist group who have used the mainstream media and online resources to parody globalized corporations through interventions and activist performance art projects (Graham, 2010, p37). The foremost online activist and whistle-blower group ‘Wikileaks’ is undoubtedly the front-runner in online activism. Notably run by the Australian editor Julian Assange, who has been thrown into global disrepute and controversy
by obtaining and releasing numerous international government documents, such as the prominent documents by soldier Bradley Manning. Manning became disillusioned from witnessing civilian causalities and atrocities carried out by his fellow soldiers and handed over documents that would see the USA government operations exposed to billions online. It would be pretentious to associate my work directly with the above but it is vital to highlight and acknowledge the prevailing power the Internet has begun to hold in political activism. The Core Project is not direct activism, but a deputized, democratic form of activism, that seeks to highlight the personalised issues of the participants, rather then pushing views upon them. The politics of working in digital participatory net art has become evident through the project’s development. There is a heightened digital and political awareness that has emerged in our society. From the outset, I decided to be as inclusive as possible and to pass the power decisions over to the participants. The Internet has become an effective tool to produce political power, in a manner in which the ‘real world’ political activism cannot. Increasingly, online petitions are taking over from protests, emails from letters, online videos from television, pod casts from radio. A fresh system of political existence has immerged facilitated by new digital cultures. Chantal Mouffe pushes for this to replace or hinder the negative effects of globalization; “we want to prevent the consequences of globalization from being the imposition of a single homogenizing model of society and the decline of democratic institutions, it is urgent that we imagine
new forms of associations in which pluralism could flourish and where the capacities for democratic decision could be enhanced” ( Mouffe, 2002, p.65) Net art adopts Mouffe’s judgments through its new forms of associations; curator-artist, artistparticipant, participant-spectator, which can be seen in The Core Project, all of which have transformed how art is visualised and received online. For instance the project aims to open up a new dialogue amongst nations through its trans global positioning. However the idea the Internet is an open platform of individual activity is quite idealistic. The risk net art produces in participatory culture is it begins to compete on the Internet with the noise and capitalism of popular media; such as the two powerhouses Google and Facebook both floating now on the US stock exchange. The Internet as a tool manipulates and informs our actions, as such, net art has been influenced by its properties. However net art does not exist alone but is surrounded by its tools, by the service it provides and the results it produces.
Conclusion Throughout this text, I have examined the complexities within the social and political realities of net art. It is evident the procedures, existence and placement of the medium is sometimes not helped by its artists or curators, within the context of the visual arts. It is clear the Internet provides an opportunity for subcultures to mobilize their political participation and this is where I wish The Core Project to sit. The project has been placed
as a backdrop to expose the role of the artist, curator, sub-artist and spectatorship of net art and its engagement with the audience. It is evident The Core Project has become a system of engagements that have direct influence with its sub-artists who may provoke political action through their video productions. I also have underlined the significant role the instigators in net art and net curation have had on the evolution of the medium. While The Core Project’s positioning and analysis in net art has brought clarity to the medium’s ability to transform and utilize digital space. An aim of this text is to stress net art’s occasional insularity and complex positioning within social-political agendas. By highlighting the political framework that holds the medium in a virtual public sphere, I have addressed the responsibilities held by the contributors and curators of the medium. It has become clear that the concepts behind its politics, spectatorship, participation and role in new media art have been significant within contemporary art debate. The progression and completion of The Core Project may take another few years, with almost two thirds of the collection of submissions yet to receive; there is undoubtedly a difficult road ahead.
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Articles/Chapters: MOUFFE, C, 2002. Which Public Sphere for a Democratic Society?. Theoria, Vol 49, No. 99, pp.55-65. STEMMRICH, G., 2002. Dan Graham. In: Thomas Y. Levin, Ursula Frohne, Peter Weibel, CTRL[SPACE] Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, 2001, Cambridge, MA, London. The MIT Press. Web Resources: BBC. 2012. Cracks in the wall: Will China’s Great Firewall backfire?. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// www.bbc.com/news/technology-17910953. [Accessed 08 September 12]. MANETAS, 2012. Whitneybiennial.com - the story. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.manetas.com/eo/ wb/files/story.htm. [Accessed 07 February 12]. RANCIÈRE, 2010. The Emancipated Spectator. [ONLINE] Available at:http://members.efn.org/~heroux/ The-Emancipated-Spectator-.pdf. [Accessed 07 September 12]. THE CORE PROJECT, 2012. The Core Project. [ONLINE] Available at: http://the-core-project.com/ thecoreproject-instructions-do-not-read-until-day-ofrecording.pdf. [Accessed 07 September 12].
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UNITIED NATIONS, 2012. Member States of the United Nations . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.un.org/ en/members/index.shtml. [Accessed 12 September 12].
A Round Table Discussion facilitated by MatthewNevin – 25th July 2012. Adrian Duncan is an engineer, artist and writer. He is co-editor of Paper Visual Art Journal. Adam Gibney is a Dublin based artist who graduated from IADT in 2010. Adam was the recipient of the IMOCA Graduate Residency award, the Aileen MacKeogh Award and is currently the recipient of the Siamsa Tire Emerging Artist award for which he produced a solo exhibition. Adam works with a range of media, which include sculpture, projection, sound, video and electronics. In 2011 Adam created a solo-exhibition “Limbo-Excavated”. His work has been featured nationally and internationally in various group shows; including Berlin, Marseilles, London and Los Angeles. Declan Breen is a full time masters student in Environmental Policy and part time blogger with a keen interest in the arts. Declan questions the reasoning behind the creation of contemporary art and who it is created for. Eleanor Lawlor is a Dublin based artist who creates film and installation work. Her work also includes photography and has recently included performance. She began her performance art in 2011 at The Market Studios and has become a regular performer and has curated the bi-monthly LIVESTOCK event at the Market Studios. Eleanor joined MART in
2010 and has since been involved in a number of exhibitions. In August 2012 she co-directed the performance art workshop “Imrov” with fellow MART artist, Katherine Nolan. Emma Mahony is a PhD researcher in the Faculty of Visual Culture at NCAD. She is an independent curator and lecturer, currently teaching at NCAD and UCD. From 2004 until 2008 she was Exhibitions Curator for Hayward Gallery Touring where she co-curated ‘Cult Fiction’ (2007-08 and organised ‘British Art Show 6’ (2005-06). In 2004 she worked with the American artist Dan Graham on the commission of his ‘Waterloo Sunset’ pavilion for the roof of the Hayward Gallery Nora O’ Murchú is a researcher, curator and designer. Her research interests include grassroots practices, open source culture, and programming. She is the founder and creator of Tweak; Ireland’s premier digital and interactive art festival. Through the platform of Tweak she has recently received her PhD from the Interaction Design Centre in the University of Limerick. Her research examined the online practices of open source users and provides an in-depth analysis of this practice for an Interaction Design context.
Matthew: My current research examines the structures in contemporary Irish art and what audience it aims to cater for. I would like to start off by with two questions how democratic of an art society do we really have? Also how can we find a safe area between art communities and the disassociated public that I believe art should be made for? EMMA: Who exactly is this public you are aiming for? Why is it anti-elitist? What is the difference between it and the elitist public you claim that art is aimed at? MATTHEW: What I generally mean is everyone, the general public. EMMA: But surely there is no such thing as the general public MATTHEW: What I mean is target groups such as local communities. DECLAN: It should be made accessible for everybody. You mentioned art is made for other artists, which it seems to be. The exhibitions I have been to seem to cater to this idea. It’s not aimed at the general public, you need to be like minded to be able to understand what its about. EMMA: You can say the same about soccer. DECLAN: Yes but it’s a lot more accessible.
EMMA: Not necessarily, in order to enjoy soccer, I would have to learn its rules, etc. DECLAN: I think with art you shouldn’t have to learn it, you see something and you should be able to appreciate it for what it is, the majority of the time I think you can’t. EMMA: But then you are asking artists to dumb down what you are doing, which would surely result in a lot of really bad art. ELEANOR: The point I would like to make is people come to Art College with baggage; they want to be successful so they bring that baggage with them right through. They are trying to find a way to get what their message across, in a way that would get them noticed. That is what we are trained to do in art college, it is not different for the sake of being different, but thinking about their work in a different way so it will stand out from everyone else’s as unusual, contemporary and unique. The second point I have is working for other artists, if I am creating a piece of performance art I want it to stand up against my critics who will be in my audience. I want to be able to say that the piece I created should be entertaining enough for the audience with another layer or two to it, so it is thoughtful and you can go away and think about it, why did she do this and that. My final point is certain art has a form of alchemy, a sort of magic that gives the viewer space to view it but also something in them that they enjoy looking at. For instance some of Adam’s pieces are like magic, where he has the digital pieces
coming on, you are standing watching and listening to colourful blenders and all of a sudden they start moving. Its kinds of an ‘ahh’ moment. It is when you walk away from Adam’s work that you think it was great fun but also that there is more too it than just magic. EMMA: What about the role of interpretation? Is it not up to the gallery to interpret an artist’s work so that the general public can understand it? Perhaps what is missing is adequate interpretation? Having said that, I recently visited Temple Bar gallery where there was this really keen invigilator, who wanted to tell me all about the work. Perhaps more of that kind of attitude would help. DECLAN: Definitely some guidance to what you are looking at helps, a lot of times there is just art and there isn’t even a name for something. ADAM: I think when you talk about the inaccessibility to the public, it is accessible in that its there and everyone is invited, but I think the spaces themselves carry a lot of weight with them. People going in there already have these preconceived ideas that they can’t connect with some work, while the artist themselves have tried to make work to use a language that everyone uses. Sometimes in Ireland a lot of people aren’t introduced to any form of art, a lot of people don’t even know what IMMA is, that it’s the Irish Museum of Modern Art. I think if the larger institutions were more welcoming and advertised more to get more of an interest, this would then trickle down to smaller institutions and galleries. I think this is a larger problem as opposed
to the artists not trying to engage with the public. ELEANOR: You are talking about an education perspective, I know of groups that wouldn’t go near IMMA, even if it is suggested it is not a runner, they cannot connect with the idea of going and have baggage about what it would mean to visit such a place. NORA: I think everyone has a different role to play for example the artist has to think about the culture production of their work and what it constitutes in terms of their domain. For example Eleanor speaks of performance art, and how as an artist when you are creating work, you need to also think about how it fits within the rest of the domain. As an artist you are trying to communicate an idea as an individual but also you are communicating ideas to your peers. If we look at curators who work within an institutional context they play many roles and respond in different capacities to different actors. For example, they have responsibilities to board members, funding members, artists and their audience. They have a responsibility to understand them, their needs and balance them into a cohesive public programming. If going to a particular space turns people off then it could be a number of reasons, which is either a reflection on the space itself or on the individuals themselves. ELEANOR: I think that would be universal in terms of attitudes towards art, I think it would be universal in the kind of students we work with. They are excluded generally and there is so much art made about exclusion it’s interesting the work is almost
about them but they are not prepared to look at it. Maybe it’s the attitudes of educators that has a role to play as well, in breaking down those barriers. NORA: A lot of my practice is about audience engagement and informal education. One of my interests includes encouraging people to think critically about their environments. So for me it’s one of the things I always think about first. Other curators may have different motivation, maybe it’s more important to talk to the artists and exhibit their work in a specific way. Personally, I think that some of that responsibility needs to come back on to the institution themselves and in how they are engaging with their audience. If they are making work about exclusion or social excluded communities then they need to engage that. I don’t think artists should change anything about their practice, if they are making good work then they should continue to make good work and it’s then up to the role of the institution and curator to translate that work to different types of audiences. MATTHEW: But are you as an artist then just relying on the institution to do something. NORA: But if you self curate your own work you need to think about those things as well. MATTHEW: I was recently talking with staff in the science gallery; I know a lot of their shows have specialised invigilators and don’t encourage big texts on the walls. Their ethos of bringing the public directly in through promotional drives has meant they have had over 1 million visitors in their
short existence which is fantastic, but it’s because they do something different. DECLAN: Their shows can be interactive as well, which makes a big difference. ELEANOR: A lot of their shows are very interesting and they are doing a lot of advertising too. ADAM: I like the way they do things, but I think in purely an art gallery there is a fine line in education and prescribing to the viewer what to see. But maybe there are ways of introducing people into the context of the art. DECLAN: But if you can understand their thought process behind why they have created something then it’s still open to interpretation. ADAM: Yes if you put the context as to when it was made, the process or the area the artist was thinking, but if you directly went down the science gallery road, it can turn into a full description. It may be an interesting model but I think something similar can happen, I feel there is this fine line between describing and prescribing people what to see. EMMA: What if we consider that instead of reaching out to a specific type of audience, that art’s task it is to produce new publics, in line with Mouffe and Le Fort’s thinking. In this thinking, the public for art doesn’t exist, the art (or the gallery) creates its public and it does so by engaging the public as political individuals who come to the gallery to form a relationship with the work and more generally with
what the gallery is doing. By engaging with talks and workshops around the work itself, they become more then just an ‘audience’ that pops into a gallery to see something. This type of engagement asks more of the audience, because in order to become a ‘public’ they have to commit. ADRIAN: I think it can very quickly go down the route of being patronising, to potential viewers. I think the only way you can go about not doing this is to appeal to people’s curiosity, I think that’s the most democratic way of appealing to people. Because if you appeal to someone’s curiosity, you wish for them to understand you and in terms of writing that changes the type of writing you use. If you write in the mindset that you ought to be understood, means that you are appealing to their education and that may alienate a proportion of people. I think if you think about how you appeal to people’s curiosity and let their compulsion, their connection and their personal energy bring them toward the work and you will loose and keep people. I think that it is best to let that be the thing to sort as opposed to you deciding upon what sort of art will suit certain types of public. I don’t think there are publics; there are makers and then those who receive and whether you appeal to their curiosity or not are one of the fundamental differences EMMA: I think there is a distinction to be made here, as the artist isn’t necessarily thinking about the publics he produces, the publics produce themselves in response to the art.
MATTHEW: I would like to move on to discuss the roll of small organizations and independent spaces, many of which have begun acting like institutions in disguise vying to rally up the next big artist to be swallowed up by the bigger institutional machines. What role do these spaces play in the structure of Irish contemporary art and do you think nepotism plays a key role? EMMA: Often when artist’s initiatives start off their goal is to be to become ‘establishment’. They have set themselves up because there are very few ‘in between’ spaces for recent graduates to enter the art world, so they aim to fill that gap. Naturally, they want their efforts to be validated by the art establishment. This is when the tension arises, as independent initiatives have more autonomy than established institutions, they can also respond more quickly to what’s going on in the art world. There usually comes a point where these artistled initiatives recognize that their autonomy is more valuable to them then trying to become establishment. They also learn how to ‘piggy-back’ off the establishment without become established. There is admittedly another side to this coin, which I experienced when I was living in London in the early noughties. Lots of young artists were setting up galleries with the goal of getting into art fairs and ultimately making lots of money. I suppose you could therefore say that there are two different types of artist-led initiatives: the ones that value their autonomy and the ones that want to become commercial galleries.
MATTHEW: I agree with a lot of what you say but when we set up MART it wasn’t to become established or compete with bigger institutes. It was to promote our own work. I generally try not to care too much what other people think about what MART ‘is’. Obviously in the grand scheme of things I care if shows are good or what our actions are. EMMA: I think MART is an exception in that you set out to exist in a territory that isn’t a gallery space, resisting the establishment by the very fact you are a digital roving initiative, up until recently you didn’t have a space. ELEANOR: Certainly in The Market Studios where I have a studio, they don’t try to be part of an establishment, but instead try to be part of a network of creativity. Applying for funds and residencies is one thing but we would still be aware of the sense of creativity. It is the creating that’s the important element and being in that space rather then promoting ourselves as anything else or different, or more awareness or publicity, just to be appreciated for what we do. ADRIAN: I held a studio in The Joinery for two years and it is open for four years now. It was set up as studios and a photographic studio and gallery space, and it still operates pretty much as that, but two years ago they started holding live music there. They began to have two roles; one it had the visual arts and one live music at the weekend in the back and visual artists in the front. They started showing the music in the front and began to blur
that line between the two and they haven’t changed the gallery, its white walls but not perfectly lined. They began to have fundraisers where they would have the musicians play in a pub to make money, and now you have the bigger institutions like The Project Arts Centre, Monster Truck and Temple Bar mimicking this hip thing to do, and recently the Kerlin Gallery were playing music in an opening. I am sure it happens similarly in other countries. MATTHEW: Yes in New York’s PS1 they do it. NORA: Personally, I think they are very important places, one of the key things they do is the ability to respond quickly to trends. Sometimes more established galleries or institutional spaces could be a little slower to jump on board in terms of new trends and upcoming artists. I like how these start up spaces are quite experimental and that anything goes, and sometimes that goes really well or badly but it’s the fact that they have this enthusiasm to experiment and do things differently, think outside the box, it pushes institutions to respond in different ways as well, I think they are important for the development of the scene and for it not to stagnate. EMMA: I think creativity comes from having little or no budgets. ADRIAN: That is why The Joinery did more and more music, as they didn’t get Arts Council funding. So they just started having a music programme and that crept into the gallery. Instead of people standing around talking and drinking wine out of plastic cups it was everyone sitting down listening to these guys.
ADAM: I find that these actions open up the art scene, introducing new audiences to art. MATTHEW: It is like Shunt where MART exhibited in London. It was a private gallery that had music, bands, and visual art, which made its money from a nightclub audience. ADAM: Their model is on a grander scale. The nightclub funded the gallery and performances. The lay-out of their chambers meant if you were going to a gig you would walk through the installations and performances first. It introduced a new audience to the artworks and performances. EMMA: There is a difficulty there too as these artistled initiatives are often so small and can only afford to open for a limited number of hours a week, that a lot of the general public don’t know they exist. So they don’t have that opportunity to engage with these spaces. They just know about the big branded ones.
quick space of time. They are important spaces that say current things in very different ways. The point that Adam said about accessibility is a very important point, as these spaces don’t have the type of prestigious as IMMA. ADRIAN: The architectural difference is vast too, Occupy Space used to be a commercial unit that anyone can walk into, where as IMMA is a big old building on top of a hill. NORA: That is what I mean, as an institution they have a role to play in the broader scheme of things. Art production and cultural meanings are significant in a much more bigger commercial scale. Often they don’t get the activity that happens on the surface level. They are just operating on different levels. These spaces have shown alternative means to putting on exhibitions. I think it’s very important as it’s coming directly from the artists themselves.
MATTHEW: Publicity is an aspect I have learned a lot about through MART, it is so important and many artists are not good at publicising their own work or just don’t do it. I always say there is no point in having an exhibition if only five people come. I know other people have different opinions, but one hundred people is better then five, I know some artists don’t care if only one person sees their work, but I do.
MATTHEW: I would like to now concentrate on digital, net, tech, video, film, and electronic art. All are relatively new art mediums (in comparison to traditional disciplines), some of which are under represented in contemporary galleries. With new technology advancements one would presume these new art forms would become more mainstream. Do you agree? Which direction do you see these disciplines heading and how can they compete?
NORA: I lived in limerick and Occupy Space, the artist led space, developed a large following in a
NORA: First of all I disagree completely with that and for example if you look at the amounts of hits
Rizome are actually getting, the amount of coverage online people receive in comparison to the amount of people that attend physical shows. You are talking about a huge broader and bigger audience accessing online work, and then there are people going to gallery shows. ADAM: I agree, I think the question you have asked can be broken down. In general commercial galleries are going to have more commercially viable pieces. Public galleries may show electronic or digital art but that is because they are not relying on selling it to keep the gallery open. NORA: I also don’t think it’s new, it’s been going since the 60s. MATTHEW: I am talking in comparison to traditional mediums; I am talking in centuries. NORA: There are a lot of issues and things I can talk about individually I can talk about immateriality, agency, labelling and what actually is digital art. That is a very loaded phrase you have talked about and opened up. MATTHEW: Let’s start with Immateriality then. What is your opinion on it? NORA: I think that why more contemporary gallery places are not as keen to show this work is because they don’t understand it. I think if you are going to curate digital work you are going to have to understand the medium. It goes with curating painting, performance art etc. I am an engineer and
a computer programmer so I understand the medium in a very different way then a person working in IMMA or the Science Gallery may understand it. I have a different understanding of the medium itself. ADAM: Do you think that it is a problem, if the work is so specialised then only a couple of people understand it. It is okay to use a medium that is very complex but their medium should be accessible to the viewer so I just would wonder about that statement. NORA: I think if you are a curator you need to be an expert in your field, you need to at least understand the work to understand the direction the artist is coming so you need to understand the historical context of the work. ADAM: I agree that you would need to understand the general context but you wouldn’t need to understand a very specialised context because if it came down to that who is going to understand it. NORA: I have a different level of expertise in that work and for instance curators working in installation would know more about that. I think digital work can be slightly intimidating. When you look at large digital work they are done on computers and they are considered everyday objects like mobile phones and that would have an influence on how the curator looks at the work. So they would ask why would I put a piece of artwork on a phone because everyone has a phone, while the idea behind a gallery is its prestige.
EMMA: I agree with Nora, as a curator I have curated all mediums apart from digital art, probably because I didn’t understand it or the conditions necessary for its display. NORA: I wouldn’t understand anything about sculpture, the same for a painting it is not my area of expertise. ADRIAN: Is there not some layer that you can negotiate between those things. The nuts and bolts layer and what idea is being relayed, with sculpture, say with electronic art, so there is something given external to the medium. Is there not some relationship between your interpretation of these things? Could that not be something curated just as validly? NORA: I think so, there needs to be an appreciation of a medium. ADRIAN: Or a respect of your own ignorance. NORA: I have seen shows that have been run by places that have never dealt with new media art before and I have seen curators handle it. I perhaps disagreed with how they had laid it out. ADRIAN: Could there have been something in that subversion, could that have been what the curator was trying to say something about the media, I know I wasn’t there, but sometimes that play can happen. NORA: I have seen other shows being executed amazingly by people who have never done digital
media; I think it’s down to the individual and their understanding of the medium. I think with digital media a lot of it comes from an open source culture on the Internet and being very public. It is a different culture in comparison to working in sculpture, performance or installation context; there is a different language, humour, trolling, a lot of things that are exclusive to the Internet and digital ways of working. ADRIAN: It can be less serious more easily. NORA: But I think that is one of the best things about it, for me it goes back to accessibility, this work is much more accessible. MATTHEW: I would like to finish on a discussion on why much of contemporary art is loaded with theoretical background. Why have we moved away from a more instinctive way of valuing the creation of art and moved more towards the current zeitgeist of insisting we have theory behind everything? ADRIAN: There are a lot of art works with referential frameworks around them and I think that is fine, but I think you can still judge the quality and activeness of the referential framework in a similar way you can judge and artwork or its beauty, its how it effects you. I think sometimes these theories are used to obfuscate lack of activity or lack of playfulness, a sort of energy and that’s when you know it’s a bad use of theory when you get all the referential nodes. It becomes static and when it continues to be loose or unstable that’s when it’s
interesting, so I think that dichotomy that you are suggesting I don’t think it is valid. EMMA: I agree, I think that culture in general can be appreciated on multiple levels. For example, I was watching The Matrix (1999) for the second time the other night, the first time I watched it, I didn’t get the many references to Jean Baudrillard – Neo uses a hollowed out copy of Simulacra and Simulation to hide a data disc and later Morpheus describes the matrix as ‘the desert of the real’. When I picked up on these references, I thought about the film in a different way. The point is you don’t need to pick up on these references to appreciate the film, just as you don’t have to understand every nuance of an artist’s work. MATTHEW: I understand this, but where I am coming from is the point of view of an artist making work. For instance I’ll give you a little story, if two artists are entering a biennial, first there is ‘Mary’ who has studied ten books from which she developed her work and writes up a big theoretical proposal. Then we have ‘Barry’ on the other hand, who has made a sculpture when he was half drunk and writes up a short statement on the piece. In this day and age ‘Mary’ will be awarded the place; as there are now art panels whose mission is to gratify these theoretical proposals, rather then specifically looking at the work. Why are we at this stage? ADAM: I think that is very general, but many artists read and they should be up to date. I’m not saying particularly about art theory or a certain philosophy
but as an artist if you are that interested in an idea or theory it is your duty not to just illustrate what you have read. Then you are going to forward on the idea or the context that you work in. You are talking about an institution saying that they want the artist to tick the boxes; you have no control over this. MATTHEW: But I think why you are saying that is because you are in it. When I was trained in college we had lots of theory but it was instinctual training. From being in NCAD and meeting students at IADT or Trinity for instance I know these are places that are spoon-feeding students with theory. I can only imagine back in the days when there was less focus on educational accreditation artists were showing their skills rather than knowledge of theory. NORA: To demonstrate a certain way of working is just an important as having a theoretical slant on your work. When you are making work as an artist you are contributing to the production of culture that surrounds you. EMMA: Theory brings clarity; it makes things easier to articulate. I disagree with what you are saying about students being ‘stuffed with theory’. It is their job; they are supposed to be bombarded with ideas. They can chose to resist and absorb what they want of them and once they leave Art College they can decide what they want to do with all that theory they have learned. NORA: If you were making a piece on romantic comedies you would obviously go look at a lot
of romantic comedies, that is then a theory on romantic comedies. It might not be very articulate and its not peer reviewed but as an artist you don’t make something out of nothing you are responding to something and saying something about the environment you live in. Any work that someone makes when they are drunk is not going to be good work. I don’t think everyone has to have theory behind their work, but there is something always behind the work. Just because it’s not theoretical or critical text does not mean it’s not as valid. MATTHEW: Yes but I know a lot of artists who have made theory free art while drunk and have exhibited it internationally. ADRIAN: Sometimes the modes of making are so different that someone gets to make work because they read a lot. For them to disavow the things behind it might for them be a decision that lacks generosity, so the offering of the theory might be a generous act by the artist as opposed to that acts as obfuscation.
EMMA: Sometimes the artist doesn’t want to write about his or her own work, they want someone else to do that for them, acknowledging that they sometimes don’t see what the critic sees. ADRIAN: There is this weird economy that has occurred that if you get a certain writer to write about the work they intellectualise it to an over exaggerated point. MATTHEW: I think that artists do that as well. ELEANOR: It is dishonest, you look at the work and you think no it is not saying that to me at all and then I lose interest and disengage; it doesn’t have that open honesty. DECLAN: I don’t want that person to tell me what the work is, I just want to know the thinking behind it. This leaves the interpretation up to me. I want it to be something big.
MATTHEW: Do you think that other people might be intimidated by theory or do they just want to know more about the background behind the work?
NORA: You want ambiguity so you can interpret it in your own way, but you may want some sort of direction that interpretation should unlock.
DECLAN: I think I want to know the thought process behind why someone has created a piece of art, not the philosophical theory behind it. I would like to know where everything comes from.
MATTHEW: Lets leave it there, thank you all for your time.
EMMA: A lot of the time it’s not the artist that does the theorising, but the critic.
ADRIAN: Or the curator.
NEASA O’GRADY, LIFE IN SILHOUETTE, 2008.