Mar 122014

Sharon TateLimerick holds no monuments commemorating the activities of the Janesboro Hippies or the local followers of Baha’i faith and there is little mention of the Irish Revolutionary Youth Movement of 1970 outside newspaper archives and isolated memories.  The street actions of the Magic Mushroom gang, who illegally refurbished derelict buildings in the city are remembered only by themselves.  The counter-cultural impact of the Little Ellen boutique is unremarked as is the significance of the Church halls where the mid Sixties  Beat bands manifested their teenage idealism.


Making the Cut investigates the understated historical significance held in a Limerick timeframe of 1968-73. The focus of this work for EVA International 2014 will take into account the un-represented traces of non-conformist cultural protest formed in the city in this era.

Predominantly music based these activities are conventionally recognised as pop-cultural sidebars if discussed in the context of the wider process of post-war Irish Modernism. They are also historically sublimated in relation to the War in the North.   A Limerick language of non-conformity and a recognition of its understated consequences as resistance is what is proposed in this investigation

Making the Cut arena marks this time it with an activist slant in an engaged process involving a cohort of some of the original 1968 participants, invited creatives, activists and contemporary youth.

Activity, involving this collective, will focus uncovered material from the era translated through workshops for potential outcomes including the creation of music-based collaborative performance.  This event will reference and celebrate the era’s silent production through a contemporary mindset.

In seeking to recover the authentic voice of protest,  Making The Cut historically re-affirms the acts and intentions of disparate communities

Outcomes will be directed to reflect and expand on an armature of resistance. Towards the creation of an open archive.

Making the Cut . EVA International Limerick 2014

EVA logo

Jun 292013
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Opening in 1966, Limerick’s Club a Go Go was a much-loved membership only ‘ beat Club’ frequented by a dedicated clientele. The club was notable for holding DJ only nights alongside live gigs by visiting beat groups. Recognising that the look of the culture was equally as important as the sound, fashion competitions occasionally took place as well.

Club a Go Go was unofficially known in Limerick as ‘the Go Go club’ and held its reputation as a vital hub until its closure in the early 70s. For this duration its members created a social model that refused to be bound by the rituals of the traditional dancehall and its associated codes. The Go Go club promoted a collective scene of equality instead of an updated version of showband-led rituals.

The city centre two-storey premises remains in Post Office Lane and has functioned as Cummins picture framers for almost 40 years.

Each year Kevin Cummins greets former patrons of the club returning to a space they once had a stake in. The Go Go club now registers as an international outpost that was wished into place by 1960s Limerick teenagers who had begun to see themselves as Irish who could engage with an international culture in a local environment. The application of ‘beat’ style was political in the sense that it evoked youth led empowerment in social structures that were organised and run by the members themselves.

Interviewed in 1971 The Dj Danny Hughes was quoted as saying (such) a club is very important to its members because they know they can mix about with people they like to be friends with’. Hughes goes on to associate congregations found in outposts such as the Go Go club contributing to ‘ the changing face of Ireland’. (From ‘Danny Hughes on Discos’, an interview in the Evening Press 1971)

Looking further than the designated horizons of Irish dancehalls, the Go Go began to reference and apply foreign sounds and styles to cater for its unique membership. The implied modernism in this act treated patrons as active participants in a social project as the club became a space of their own design. To this day its members respect the memories of this concept and the space it was acted out in. Visitors hope the original décor is still in place to greet them in what is now Cummins workshop. Some have been known to introduce themselves always using a version of the phrase, ‘I’ve come looking for my youth’.

Today the interior functions as the framing workshop and a stained glass studio, but hints of the Go Go remain as the original toilets near the entrance. Spectacularly some of the original psychedelic markings are still to be found on upstairs walls now separated by an added floor. This is the actual Go Go graffiti. When Kevin retires, it is very possible that these original traces will disappear and with this in mind he has become a curator of the space. He now manages an ongoing oral archive of stories of the club collected and shaped by both locals and visitors from abroad.

To pay tribute to this activity using the tone of quiet memory invested in curating the concept of the space, I collaborated with Kevin Cummins and the print maker Eoin Barry to create a commemorative act of portraiture that would be framed by the Go Go club.

This act is linked to the creative opportunity afforded by the multi-locational exhibition ‘ The Act Of Portrayal’, part of the University of Limerick’ 40th anniversary celebrations. The remit for this event allowed artists to choose work from the National self-portrait collection for interpretations to be exhibited alongside the originals in venues across the city.

Members of the Limerick Printmakers were among those invited to participate in this process. With the Go Go club in mind I chose to work with an image of the artist Robert Ballagh, because he once played as a beat musician in Limerick circa 1966. His band was called the Chessmen and with Ballagh on bass guitar they played at Royal George hotel in O Connell Sttreet, a short distance from Post Office lane. Ultimately Ballagh’s vocation was a visual artist and he left The Chessmen in the late 60s to become, as he said of himself, ‘Ireland’s only pop artist’.

To create the work for the Act of Portrayal titled ‘A commemorative portrait of the Irish Artist Robert Ballagh imagined as a beat music star for the remnants of Limerick’s original beat Club. (Club a Go Go 2013)’ Eoin Barry looked at some of the remaining visual elements associated with the club and sought visually to reimagine a history that would represent the psychic hold it has on the generation who continue to visit the site.

He began by studying the original traces of the club’s psychedelic markings, and then examined mark-making in the process of stamping that Ballagh used in his printmaking. Eoin also referenced Ballagh’s use of screen-printing for his initial acts of portraiture. Ballagh has admitted that an early portrait commission drew on the conceptual practicality of Warhol’s silk-screening photographic images directly on to the canvas because, starting out as a professional artist, he was unsure about ‘doing faces’.

Referencing a combination of these factors we decided to silk-screen Eoin’s version of the Ballagh from the National Self-Portrait collection directly onto what was the original toilet door of the club. The intended effect is one of and image of an imaginary beat star left behind in the Go Go club by a fan. By coincidence the bearded face in this image now gazes at an original Ballagh print hanging across from the door. This lithograph is from Kevin Cummins private collection. It depicts a cigarette packet commissioned by an Irish Company as a gift to its salesmen in the 1980s.

For the resulting photographic series based on the construction, Kevin suggested that the workshop space should be visible. This was made possible by using the mirror behind the toilet door to reflect the wider space. An image of Kevin at work as a framer now appears as a reflection in one of the three photographic images.

With this in place, with an emphasis on the classical illusion facilitated by the mirror, our construction alludes to a type of busy pictorialism often found in the more familiar pieces by Ballagh. When undertaking portraits he has been known to encourage biographical readings of the subject suggested by the relationship of particular objects to the sitter.

For display in the Limerick Printmakers I photographed three images to be finished as silver halide prints. Kevin, who has framed many prints of Ballagh for customers over the years, framed them himself.

The intended narrative around this commemorative portrait is built on a desire evident in how the memories of Club A Go Go are managed. Urban Irish people in the 60s acted out such a desire with its roots in post-war creativity and ambition. This is what made the space of the Go Go Club important. The youth in Limerick embraced, as Ballagh did, an equal appreciation of both outsider music and the plastic arts as expressionist material they could claim as their own for their own land. As the years pass the psychedelic traces on the walls confront visitors like relics. They were designed and applied for the space by the patrons themselves. This was a generation not bound by the narrowness of the national dances of De Valera’ s self-contained vision. This was a Limerick-based mod identity, looking for inspiration towards Britain and the US.

It is to commemorate this idealism that some people continue to return, now often living in those same countries, 50 years later.

Paul Tarpey.

Sep 092012

The most memorable staged image from the 1997 Fianna Fáil election campaign remains the quasi-religious poster of Bertie Ahern aglow under the text ‘People before Politics – leadership through understanding’.  This  directed image, as well as notable for being a radical change from the usual poster layout associated with previous Fianna Fáil campaigns, is also a mark in time for many cultural and historic reasons.

Visually, the impact was particularly strong outside the Pale as the design broke with decades of poor layout and plain speak familiar to rural audiences.  Previous campaigns had favoured a design template with a blank space left to insert the local candidate’s (often rudimentary) portrait that had remained unchanged more or less for generations.  It reflected a design process  which continuously gave an appearance of inclusion.  Its simplicity united the grassroots and politicians with no more than a picture and a timely slogan.  Through repetition these codes became naturalised.  ‘Lets make it work for Ireland’ was one such one from the 80s, ‘  ‘For another Spurt Forward !, Vote Fianna Fáil is the actual copy from the 1961 campaign.

For generations the rural electorate were key and were not to be distracted by excess gloss or ambiguity at campaign time.  A simple reminder in plain language with the image of the candidate and party / tribal colours would suffice.  Hence the radical turn experienced when the slick international style of the 1997 posters appeared on Galway ESB poles.  Long gone was the party’s statement of 1978 that sought ‘ by suitable distribution of power to promote the ruralisation of industries essential to the lives of the people as opposed to their concentration in the cities’. The culture of the developer was on the rise and with it an increase in percieved sophistication that it was thought proper to disseminate via the election poster.

For this design, the saintly glow eminating from the poster was intended to depict Ahern as a Karsh-lit matinee idol, a reassuring Hollywood father figure shepherding the flock through boom times.  New imagery was required to emphasise the significance of how the boom was to be managed, so out went the flat evenly lit expressionless black and white head shot.  What seemed to be required was dimension and atmosphere.  This didn’t take much. With simple change of setup and with the use of a corporate type of side lighting the desired narrative was created.  The key light then became a light of reassurance.  It signified that the chief was up late, in Dublin, listening and looking out for us all.

In the poster, sporting make-up and a quiet determination, the chief stares towards the middle distance.   A fixed image that could be read as half listener in a pub clinic for the western audience and half Rodin’s Thinker for cosmopolitan Dublin.  As for the campaign, the visual package was intended to be, as usual, nothing more than a transient statement printed on plastic to be recycled after the campaign.   A visual that reflected power as it stood and as it stood to be managed.  As a portrait it was not produced for archival purposes and certainly not future-proofed for historical hanging.  However it remains a loaded vernacular mark when positioned both for the history of the Celtic Tiger and Ahern’s legacy. Sigificantly the 2002 Fianna Fáil campaign poster reverts back to the old template with a daylit image of Ahern in his office safely framed by the party colors.

The official portrait of Ahern currrently owned by the State was painted by the artist James Hanley in 2004.  It shows him blandly frozen, slightly askew and a little defensive.  The pose here is reminiscent of the neutral expectancy captured on the faces of defendants used by trial court artists. When it was presented to the Dáil,  a minor controversy occured when the subject of where to hang it arose. The debate that followed unavoidably coincided with more unsavoury revelations about Ahern’s finances.  Hanley’s €10,000 painting inevitably featured as part of this dialogue much more than it would have liked.

Eventually a sizeable volume of the commentary associated with Ahern had begun to merge visually with the type of events which underlined an increasing fallen status.  In the style of how a clipping editor would shuffle press cuttings to reflect a subject’s dominant news thread, Ahern’s fall became digitally shuffled in this manner.  The subject of course has no say in the programming of this search engine

For a proven example, a quick search for images of Ahern lands upon a startling image of him with Charles Haughey in the 1980s.  Haughey appears paralysed as something important on a desktop seems to have failed and so perhaps has the operator.  A shadowy-eyed Ahern is on hand to take over. The black and white image is cropped and dramatic.  Haughey’s famous comment on Ahern being ‘the most devious, the most cunning of them all’ is visually acted out here in the manner of turn of the century German Expressionism.  This is just an example.  In retrospect, many similar imagined narratives, based on what emerged from the tribunals, begin to write themselves as the combination of information and reclaimed images like this become more familiar.

In Galway, a vernacular version of the 1997 campaign poster appeared.  This startling version focused on a remake of the contemplative nature of the pose. It was home made and quickly achived popular status in the University town. Bertie, as the Taoiseach, was folksily known, looked stoned.   Encouraged by the poster’s comedic visual opening, an unknown artist had Tipp-exed a large joint into Bertie’s fingers and coloured his eyes neon green.  This stoned expression of leadership now spoke to a cohort far removed from Fianna Fáil ’s natural voter base but the incongruous text  ‘People before Politics’ remained.

The style of the act was perhaps directed by contemporary culture that consumed the irrelevant ethos promoted in the labored photoshop examples which were featured at the time in Lads’ magazines such as Loaded.  No matter what the inspiration was or how it came to pass, the ridiculous image of Bertie as Stoner in Chief  totally rejected the gravitas of Fianna Fáil’s economic stewardship, certainly for a Galway audience who had the people’s Bertie propped up on rented mantelpieces and taped to the Dunnes Stores framed pictures provided by their landlords.

It is safe to say the inital corporate look of the ‘untouched’ 1997 thinker image was imported from the presidential style favoured at the time by Tony Blair.  In fact, photographs from the first meeting of Blair and Ahern after the latter became Taoiseach in ’97 show the two men wearing nearly identical powdered grins and grey power suits.

The transient gallery in Galway for image of the understanding stoned thinker was not unsuprisingly the accommodation of the student or service worker . These were the drones of the Tiger’s early phase, night owls who carried out the nightime ‘pull downs’ that liberated lamposts from an unwanted presidential gaze.  They were gathering material for interventionist artwork and minor anti-propagandist resistance.  Fianna Fáils corporate vision was regularly rejected and remade on the nightly trip home.

This creative act took hold and proliferated.  Before both the end of the offical and unofficial campaigns it was possible to buy the reconditioned image of a green-eyed stoned Taoiseach, so popular was the remake.  Others began to follow the original artist’s template for similar versions briefly to be sold in Dublin.  Each poster had to be removed and individually Tipp-exed yet all were similar and held the original text as part of the saleable concept.   In responding to the intended depth of Fianna Fáil’s PR vision (and the audacity of its polished imagery) a successful minor countereconomy in the sale of the plastic printed image was led by Galway. The free market as anointed by Fianna Fáil was working and in a creative nod to the Blair project the remaking of the poster by non- artists celebrated the application of transferable skills demanded by the new economy.

By the time of Ahern’s fall, the dialogue surrounding personal accountability for the financial crisis of 2008 invited a variety of commentary from traditional art practitioners.  After an interview by Ahern in a 2009 issue of VIP magazine, the painter Jonathan Aiken painted a portrait of the former Taoiseach against a background of high-end consumer packaging and crushed credit cards.  Once again, as in the case of the Galway turn, it is Ahern’s gesture that inspired the artist.  On the Gormley Gallery website Aiken explains his rationale

‘’The piece was inspired by an interview Bertie Ahern gave in 2009 in the VIP magazine, responding to attacks from cynics, where he questioned the value of ‘pointing the finger’ and unproductive ethos of blaming others. I was stirred by Bertie Ahern’s response that we can either ‘dig the garden or grow blue bells’ or as he added do something useful.  The portrait seems as though Mr Ahern is set-up for us to yet again point the finger at him, but in his gesture he is also waving back at us, as such throwing it back to us.


Briefly looking further back, a 1983 photograph of Ahern by Tom Lawlor on the comeheretome site shows the creative use of signifying props that is often the mark of the Irish Times in campaign coverage.  Here Lawlor has emphasised  the ‘caught’ nature of the subject framed by bell ropes that also hint at a hangmans gallows. The text on the wall ominously wishes peace and prosperity to Ireland.  The Irish Times most notable image along the lines discussed is a front page foreshortened portrait of Ahern in a gymnasium as a basketball hoop seems to hover as a halo over his head.  Again the seriousness of the then Taoiseach’s expression, in conjunction with the objects of a public space, was accentuated to his detriment.

A damning image of Ahern is of course any video still from of his 2010 post Taoiseach appearance in an ad for the British tabloid, The News Of the World.  The thought  Ahern being paid to be squeezed in a cupboard, with a tea cup, as the citizen-funded state car waited on the shoot still provokes derisive and angry commentary

By the time of the Bertie in a Cupboard  incident, representational fatigue on the subject had set in and derisive imagery was even expected. Sourcing was available from the media’s photoshopping to any amount of rants on social media.  His sucessor Brian Cowen was now in place and was also a target for the backlash. He even attracted painted abuse in 200 when the painter Conor Casby famously, and illegally, inserted the image of Cowen as a leader stripped of his robes into the National Gallery.   As for Ahern? The commentary surrounding his tenure built towards straight digital abuse as his facade crumbled.  Ahern ceased to hint that he may run for president and reduced his media appearences as the mounting and unforgiving commentary began to mould his legacy.

The image of the green-eyed stoner is a physical mark from a pre-Youtube Galway and may only exist in the image I had the opportunity to record.  I photographed the image then as the ubiquity of Ahern’s official image truly seemed to represent an unassailable neoliberal chieftain who promoted the interests of those who filled what was then known as the ‘Galway Tent’.   In 1997 this remake struck me then as the only art-led counter-commentary being practised in traditional Agit-Prop style.  It was above all funny as was the concept of refusing to salute the chief but instead taking him home for a joint in a houseparty in Rahoon.  There was testimony in this, even then, that there was more to Ahern’s public image than met the eye.

Fianna Fáil’s infamous Galway Tent fundraisings were cancelled in 2008.  In 2010  the consequences of a late night  in the bar for Brian Cowen at a Fianna Fáil ‘think-in at the Ardliaun Hotel Galway was the beginning of the end of a certain party style.  In prioritising the entertainment of his staff and colleagues over an interview for the national broadcaster the following day, Cowen had literally put ‘People Before Politics.’



Paul Tarpey

Apr 102012

Originally published on Bock the Robber

I don’t know much about protest but I know what I like.

The Big Cheese Poverty Party launch. Bourkes Bar Catherine St Limerick 3/12/2010.




An awareness that some particular forms of public protest may have peaked led Limerick Web agitator Bock The Robber to announce the formation of his ‘Big Cheese Poverty Party’ in the centre of a ‘troubled’ Limerick city centre.

In coming to the idea of an imaginary political party Bock redirected his editorial duties away from the internet and by deciding to place himself in front of a ‘real’ audience he announced an intention to wash himself with the soapbox strategies of his usual critical targets, the mainstream political class.

While farce as a tool was employed for this event, the eventual production engaged not a parody of a political stand up, cabaret, performance art or even a version of the current mainstream satire on the subject. Bock engineered a combination of cross-genred creative communication stategies that underlined the ethos of his site as a performance.

An agenda and party speaker were dressed up but there would be no deposit paid to Leinster House and no manifesto sent to the media. This protest party would exist primarily just for its opening. The exercise could be seen as a conventional art referenced ‘happening’ crossed with a version of something like the old Irish tradition of creative stump politics where trees would be planted for votes and then dug up after election day.

Topics on the mismanagment that have created this immediate social state have been well dissected and served by commentators ranging in breadth from The Irish Times’s Fintan O Toole to the driver of the agit-prop concretemixer and it is within this critical gap The Big Cheese Poverty Party intends to operate.

The project is as concerned about the necessity of acting out and emphasizing protest reminders as it is about flagging citizens’ responsibility in being informed about relevant content and commentary. Remember the concrete truck protest had been rolled out in Galway City months before with only minor media coverage of its anti-Anglo message filtering out. For repeat emphasis its driver deemed it necessary to reconsider the size of his stage for Dublin. Bock’s decision to communicate information physically is related to this strategy.

In realising the responsibility inherent in presenting a message that also incorporates an awareness of protest fatigue, Bock and his collaborators concentrated on curating, staging and designing work that creatively confirmed a position rather than a offering any new ‘State Of The Nation’ response. For the design of the content delivery, the evolved intention was to relay a Bock reminder about the consequences of the country being in hock to the IMF via a combination of materials and theatrics for a short performance.

Bock is not a practising artist but through his site a collective has come together and, when required, these voluntary media workers and artists suggest various directions in realising ideas generated from the website’s commentary. Also, it is imporant to reiterate that all aspects of this production were self-financed in a spirit of bring what you want to the table. Once the Poverty Party idea was upgraded from an inital virtual rant, a city centre space was negotiated and the process of creative visualization began.

With this work the ‘non-artist’ Bock has unintentionally referenced a number of socially-engaged creative references.  Think here of the theatre activist Augusto Boal’s notion of the ‘spect-actor’, the philosopher Theodor Adorno’s insistence on ‘the experiential dimension of the reception of artworks’ and perhaps for future events Bock could even take from the Yippie leader Jerry Rubin’s 1968 attempt to crowd design a mass exorcism of the US Democratic party

A photographic exhibition was one direction taken with an open call put out and all entries then displayed on the bar walls. This aspect was the project’s support for Limericks ‘starving artists’. Bock then developed a downtroden peasant persona for his keynote speech and encouraged a similar dress code for the audience. Volunteers were dressed as surgeons for metaphorical organ  removal and a white-gloved mechanical hand was set up for ‘Minister flesh pressing duties’  in the absence of course of those invited Ministers.

There was a battered wooden box with the word ‘soap’ daubed on its side, which on inquiry turned out to have previously held ammunition from the Curragh camp.

On the night Bock’s character was framed against a projected slideshow of the downturned Limerick City centre donated by students from the LIT Masters course in Social Practice And The Creative Environment. In full character, Bock’s impassioned rant concentrated on the consequences of a future irish identity provisionally processed through the German economy as two surgeons listened silently either side of him.

As he spoke, his words were translated by an invited German speaker whose dramatic barked delivery echoed Bock’s spiel.  ‘Seb the German’ was also available to quip in english, ‘Have your fun but pay up before that happens’.  Meanwhile a selection of cheese neatly topped with EU flags was passed through the crowd as Dublin visitors to the event handed out an edition of ‘Ireland owned by the IMF’ stickers.

As befits an event in a public house the audience was an open and diverse mix of family, collaborators, curious customers, artists and media workers who had answered the call to support an attitude as much as to enjoy a Friday night out.

Bock co-ordinated an event that accessed and made use of various arts practices electing professional and non professional actors to create a participatory event on various levels. The result redirected the now contentious political language of local (‘parish pump’) politics to service the design of this performance piece as an contemporary exercise in social protest.

By the nature of its contract with the audience this was an open sourced event. Self-funded, open to all and descriptive of a contempoary protest strategy corresponding to Jacques Ranciere’s words on the subject. ‘Politics’ he says,’ is first of all the configuration of a space as political, the framing of a specific sphere of experience, the setting of objects posed as ‘common’ and subjects to whom the capacity is recognised to designate these objects and to argue about them’.

Apr 102012

Originally published on Bock the Robber

On view at the  Limerick Printmakers are the results of a 24 hour print marathon that was held in their studio on Market St.

Members and invited printers started the process at 12 oo  o’clock on Saturday 26th and presented a show of the work to the public at 12 the following day.  The lithographs, photo etchings, screenprints etc that now fill the gallery were dramaticaly taken from idea to ink in this intense time frame.

A 24-hour web link tracked proceedings, fuelled by bagels and coffee, and with beds available for the weary marathon artist if necessary.  Well-known Limerick printmaker Des Mac Mahon confirmed his determined status by reputedly remaining awake for the full 24 hours and was busy sweeping the area as the first visitors came through the door on Sunday.

Printmakers spend a significant amount of time prepping the studio, preparing ink and paper, plate and stone before cleaning up and the print marathon gave an insight to this process as part of the discipline.

The Gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays.

Marian Keating



Noelle Noonan


Catherine Heier

Des McMahon



Fiona Quill


Clare Gilmore

Apr 102012

Originally published on Bock the Robber

Last year for Culture Night in the Milk market, the Spirit Store offered the experience of bespoke poetry. Choose your subject and discuss it with a poet who creates a unique response for you to take away. This free event drew a healthy and happy response.

To repeat it in a similar environment for this year’s Culture Night would have been too easy for the SpiritStore’s Marilyn Lennon. She proposed instead, ‘Why not place the poets on an open top bus to tour the city and let people hop on and off with the chance of their poem not only being crafted but read out for the bus and city to hear?’

Why not?  Quickly organising the Red Viking bus and three of the Inkstorm poets, the adventure began at Merchants’ Quay at 6 o’clock. The route took in many of the art events which opened late for Culture Night with stops at the Belltable, the City Gallery and Impact Studios among others.  Above these venues creativity circled as the poets got to work as the bus chased the dusk.

Not only was each poem unique but also so was the experience for the participants. There was applause for each other’s poems and they shouted greetings to waving crowds on the route. Everybody should tour the city this way once it certainly does change one’s perspective. Undoubtedly this did find its way into rhyme tonight as some stayed on the bus for the night and left with more than one poem.

The poets delivered sincere works of varied length carefully read out by Denise who accepted the job on joining the trip. She alternated with Pat the driver who offered his own commentary as the event settled into a poetry party on wheels.

Night and rain fell in the end and a weary Dave, Mike and Lisa of Inkstorm who had been continuously writing for three hours headed for another bus to take them back to Galway. Their officially stamped work will no doubt be framed on many a Limerick wall before next year’s adventure.


Apr 102012

Originally published on Bock the Robber



An exhibition in Occupy Space Gallery Thomas St Limerick from January 12 to February 4 2012

Location is curated by Ruth Hogan who presents four artists engaging  with concepts of landscape through the relation of space to the self.  These artists are Jonathan Sammon, Lisa Flynn, Michelle Horrigan and  Elaine Reynolds and their work is delivered through a combination of drawing, photography and Video. The exhibition is balanced in the gallery’s 3 areas  and is well designed in emphasising the elements of place, wandering and discovery that accompany the varied subject matter of ‘Location’.

The statement for the exhibition refers to a collective positioning of intent by the participants through the phenomenon of ‘Psycho-geography’.

The term ‘Psycho-geography’ originated in the late 50s and by the 60s in one of its many interpretations it became a lateral tool of anti-capatilist resistance used by the group of mainly French creatives who designed its outlines.     Its popularity in art circles stems from the visual research methodogies that have been suggested in the various documents associated with the group.

In their writings these ‘Situationist’ writers such as Guy Debord encouraged wanderings and skewed storytelling to develop surreal associations between the urban landscape and a wanderer’s conception of a journey.

These exercises  came to be documented as reconfigured maps and collaged photoworks in which juxtapositions of certain areas and states of mind achieved significance as a result of ‘psycho-geographical’ investigation.   While not a studied disipline, its ethos has increasingly become a reference in many contemporary projects where the communication of an artist’s involvement with place is integral to the reception of the artwork.

Positioned as such the work in ‘Location’ can be experianced both as research documents on the above theme and as individual works referencing its ethos.  As a whole these results respect the lateral overlapping that occurs when it is the artist’s intention to focus themselves (in and out of character) when engaging with both the conventional and emotional history of a chosen place.

Elaine Reynolds’s video in the blackened Gallery 3 animates an unoccupied house in an Irish ghost estate at night.

In ‘On / Off States’, lights dramatically flash the SOS pattern in morse code.  There is the appearence here of something that subverts the conventional image of a ‘mad party’ on the estate should the developer’s dream of that estate come to pass.  Without any sound to direct us otherwise we are left to deal with the scene’s silence as it becomes a visual echo for the chosen landscape and all associated with it.

In its darkened gallery setting, a documentary impression now appears to suggest the holding of a captured warning beacon. The artwork speaks of ‘systems set to a new purpose’ refering to the artist’s personal interest in fallen economic remnants.  More so the simplicity of Reynolds’s performative intervention presents ‘On /Off’ States as an effective, accessible and direct polemical comment on the psychic legacy of the Celtic Tiger.

In a direct micro contrast some of Lisa Flynn’s close-up video work  ‘Drawing Breath’,  ‘Hello Stranger ‘ and  ‘Untitled Breath’  in Gallery 1 focuses on detailed imagery of the body.  By the nature of its filming the work invites a response akin to intimately following a drawing in progress.  Her screens on the back wall now become the curiously interactive visuals that by location can be seen to speak first to the gallery’s window and street beyond.

Johathan Sammon’s boundaries can be regarded as traditionally ‘darker’ representing the sometimes heightened sensory psycho-geographic readings   of landscape made familiar by writers like Ian Sinclair and WG Sebald .   The gothic graveyard looming in Sammon’s film  ‘A Merry Peal of Celebration’ flickers between a 50’s B movie Hollywood set and a sort of 3D european fairytale.  In his presented visual notes it appears the landscape itself has to be unpacked before a path can be traced.  His statement mentions emotional detatchment.

Gallery 2 hosts photos, graphics and a video by Michelle Horrigan who presents a poetic fusion of biographical details of the poet Dante and the landscape of Baux de Provence.  This landscape with its representational rock formations is said to have been an inspiration for the ‘Purgatorio’ section of his Divine Comedy.  Her cinematic video ‘Purgatory’ is a true almost acedemic example of the wanderer making observations, links and formulating a many stranded narrative speculation towards a work that in its final form transends the investigative process undertaken for it.

This engaging show reflects well the curator’s intention to present artists who explore self, identity and place through a prism of landscape without overly referencing the august tradition of ‘Landscape Art’ in an Irish context.   The concept of destination is also collectively questioned in the respective pieces by a variety of macro and micro strategies and this is one of the exhibition’s many strengths.  Location also succeeds as an introduction to the fluid ‘almost practice’ of Psycho-geography by contemporary visual artists.

Apr 102012

Originally published on Bock the Robber

St Patrick’s day as a brand in Ireland is often seen as re-imported such is the prominence of re-broadcast Irish news items featuring American presidents, cities with green rivers and a running joke in the Simpsons. This year RTE ran a glowing piece showing the Sydney Opera house matched with a financial building in Abu Dhabi joined together  by St Pat and strong green lighting.

Dramatic foreign picturesque events should not be looked at as an Irish performance benchmark for March 17 as we have come to terms with the fact of having no ownership of this brand abroad.  It’s common knowledge that Obama’s casual vist to an Irish bar this year in Washington spoke to the Irish vote for America rather than any meaningful gesture to our sainted isle. The meaning of the day is now whatever you want it to be.  And so it should.  Let everyone now fashion a paton saint to serve both corporate interests and the craic of a day off.

In Limerick the day manifested by the parade is a celebration of people and the city.  Previously, in various counties I usually spent this day working either as a parade participant or as a photographer (contributing to ‘The Brand’) but this year I spent it as a member of the public and watched the city pass by outside the Hunt Museum.

What was immediately evident in the excited atmosphere was the amount of collaboration between crowd and participants.   It was easy here for anyone local or otherwise to get caught up in the support and reasoning of this parade as it peopled itself through the city. Between the cheers and shouts of recognition there was plenty of detailed commentary from friends and relatives filling in on the Friends of the Elderly walk-past, bands, and various school and sports groups.

Confusingly, youngsters behind the barriers screamed for attention at random flag carriers and other facepainted adults who came over for brief chats before carrying on. I realised that those in the parade were teachers or assistants and their fans were those who were previous participants or knew them from weekend workshops. March 17 always showcases the creative community work that has been ongoing for months but the interaction through the barricades registered just how much off it there is in Limerick. The gangs of cardboard covered children in the Limerick Printmakers and also Northside Learning Hub LSAD assisted group stood out in this celebratory context.

The public spirit of Limerick remains its diversity and pride in an understated public identity and the rhythm of the parade reflected this.  A chanting group from a primary school would be bookended by a fire engine and the Limerick Filipino community, who showcased a beauty pageant on a truck with a raucous rock n roll band. This band were fully aware of their situation and rose to the occasion by gleefully belting out ‘you may be wrong,  I may be crazy’ by Billy Joel.  I realised that the presentations that conventionally did not make sense spoke the loudest in representing the city.  Most enjoyable was the speculation on possible meanings in clusters and groupings. For example, why were a troop of scouts armed with attitude and water pistols and what was with the unexpected and heartening cheer that greeted the inter-faith groups walk-by?

There is a traditional local business aspect in parading wares and trades on this day.  An Irish cliché has many a small town shivering on the sidelines waving flags as the local car dealership makes its annual drive by. However it is often in this self-designed world that the richness of the local vernacular is glimpsed often just once a year and intentions and self initiated creativity triumph over formal artistic approaches.  Illustrating this I very much enjoyed the surrealism and fun contained in a parade float from Crecora, County Limerick.

Stone Age brick and stone supplies may have simply designed their contribution as a showcase of their sculpted wares but in treating the flatbed as a theatre set they ended up presenting much more.  A Victorian nymph kneels in a job lot of sand to face a galloping stone horse and foal. Riding the horse is a live redheaded horseman in a Limerick jersey with a tricolour for a saddle. He ignores a duck at the horse’s feet and also a backwards-facing stag. The feeling is mutual.  So preoccupied is the stag that it pays no attention to the Munster rugby flag tied to its antlers. Perhaps it is because there is a small green hat covering its eyes. Quietly at the back, a smaller nymph seems to be dreaming all this at once.

Any creative situation involving a horse is currently very ’Limerick City’ and as the tableau from Stone Age Brick and Stone passed the Hunt I imagined that somewhere in its building the gilded horse from the Horse Outside community art project nodded its head in approval.  In celebrating a Limerick confident with its unique self reflection, and creativity may I suggest that It is only a matter of time before the Rubberbandits are asked to lead the parade.