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.