C&M – grained (a one-night gallery event)

The Pieces

Performance by:
Brigit McCone

Photographic pieces:
Daniele Idini

Paintings by:
Paul Gallagher

Video artwork:
Amanda Dunsmore
Roberta Lima
Ian Clothworthy

Installations:
Padraig Parle
Niamh Ferris

Special screening of B239 by North-55; Borderland – public art project

This art exhibit was a one-night expansion of the festival launch, presented at The Back Loft in Dublin. It was also intentionally near in the dates to the academic event as I was hoping that whatever interest the panel would spark, would perhaps bring creative individuals to contact us and have the relatively immediate action of presenting in the exhibit-event. This worked with one individual, the artist Paul Gallagher, then a recent graduate and now the head of C&M Dublin.

I wanted this event to allow some of the artists I showed at the festival to showcase in a location where more people could see, and as an extension of the panel. This ended up being the last (so far) activity for me with C&M as an organiser, as I didn’t succeed to use it to found a group of interested artists who wanted to follow up and work with me or with the project, and also, the (very small) crowd that  came to see this exhibit was made up of mostly people who were curious enough to have a look, but didn’t really show further interest in the content.

Once again I decided to allow for little texts of the artists choice to appear next to each piece, as this still functioned as an introductory showcase. It had the scent of prematurity in the overall look, I think I felt the texts and branding helped bring together an otherwise not super cohesive and still rather “festival”ish gallery event. The title and theme was “grained”, taken from the expression ” (with) a grain of salt”, the approach I was hoping the audience to take on when visiting this event. A sobered view of the pieces, of their subject matter, as many of them dealt with mass media representations of the everyday.

The two pieces that were already shown in the festival and discussed above are Ian’s video, which was projected this time, presented on a stage behind a curtain giving it (I think) the full impact it deserves, and Brigit’s performance, which was the same character and intent, but changed the actual performance to better suit a gallery setting. The new performance, entitled “Homer: the nucleus of modernity” included Frida’s performed portrait painting an updated version of Kahlo’s piece Moses (1945). Brigit prepared a large-scale sketch to include a currently-relevant set of characters, in the centre, replacing the baby Moses, is Homer Simpson, who was then at the top of the “Greatest American” poll. In a sense, I think this piece would have been more effective as a painting, finished and presented in the gallery, rather than as a live evidence of Kahlo’s intentions re-performed through Brigit’s own cultural critique. I don’t know if she ever finished that painting, but it was a very interesting piece that I think was done an injustice by my editing it into a performance.

Another returning artist is Amanda Dunsmore, in this case I chose to show another piece from her Keeper project, Consuming Politics. This is a 2-channel audio/moving image piece, with one channel showing visuals from televised News reports of incidents regarding The Troubles, and another an edited selection of television advertisement videos. The audio of the channels have been crossed with each other. The piece was presented in an installation format at the request of the artist who wanted it to be impossible for the viewer to connect the correct visuals with their sounds. This is one of my favourite pieces in the Keeper project, simply because it is so direct and clear, but somehow avoiding from being a cliché. This is a great example of a returning element in how I critique art, it is one of those pieces which makes you think “how did I not think of that myself?” It isn’t stating the obvious, just extracting it and reorganising it into a new context, creating a new thing in the world that is a present instance of an element in the past. Another good example is Lenka Clayton’s piece I’ve mentioned in a previous post.

Looking back at this installation I am not entirely sure the choice made by the artist to disable the “correct” viewing of these channels was the right one. As this piece was at the time already over a decade old, there was no real news in the videos or in the mix, I think allowing the viewer to cheat and watch the two videos with either of the sounds would have made this particular installation a stronger piece. It may have even been an interesting experiment to use speakers and allow a distance between the two channels so that if you stand in the middle it isn’t completely clear which one you are listening to. At the time, rather than ask the artist what was the importance of the choice, so that I can make an educated decision, I was very eager to complete the show and include this piece in it, so I agreed with no further discussion.

In the same separated (and darkened) space showing Ian Clotworthy’s piece, another piece was included, which was supposed to show in the festival, but the yurt-instead-of-truck change of conditions made it impossible. Niamh Ferris’ piece Neoliberal Art was a piece that similarly to Ian’s piece, stood out during the NCAD graduate show earlier that year. The piece was again very simple and straight forward – a hologram (actually, it was two holograms, one of the front and one of the back) of a dollar bill, accompanied by a documentary of the making of the holograms using nightvision sight and lasers, instruments which belong to a different field in society. In a sense, I think this piece was an odd one out of the other work in this exhibit, but the strength of its simplicity and the fact that when you look at it, a second look will change its meaning made it “grained” material.

Two pieces by photographer Daniele Idini were included in the show. In some sense, these pieces did not truly belong in this show, as their subject matter was significantly different from all other work included. One, Firemen. Burn Negative, was a framed burned photographic negative, showing two firemen entering the (burned) frame, the other, Just Around the Corner, was a triptych which similarly to Ian’s piece was depicting the Thomas Street neighbourhood, near where the gallery was located, where NCAD is found, and where I was living at the time. The three images were not completely discernible, but communicated a level of urban distress that captured, for me anyway, the feeling one had walking around that neighbourhood at the time, when the failing economy started making a very real impact on people’s lives, and no hope for a normal solution was anywhere in sight. Padraig Parle’s Toxic Debt (2009) was a moving image installation  showing a documentation video of an intervention act, the installation of a billboard reading “Caution. Enter at Own Risk” outside a Bank of Ireland branch in Dublin, and a performance which included seven haz-mat suit-wearing actors queuing for the bank machine and wheeling the bank’s bins away from the site itself. This piece was places beside Daniele’s triptych, making that corner a somewhat eerily sober depiction of the Irish economic frailty.

Paul Gallagher, a new participants in the C&M project I mentioned  a couple of times before, showed his piece, Get Over It! as his first artistic act as part of C&M. In this piece the Israeli(/Palestinian) separation wall is depicted, surrounded by characters resembling celebrities, when in the background the acts of violence continue. In the text accompanying the work it is stated that “celebrity culture” is taking over “more important issues of public concern.” I saw the choice of the wall as a comment on the popular discourse “allowed” in mass media, where there is a limited list of “celebrity” political issues, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is most certainly one of them. The layering of cultural critique in this piece, paired with the colourful cartoonish quality of the paintings, which did not for a moment made it into a comedic piece, created an interesting addition to the exhibit. I find that occasionally the choices made by artists in terms of their preferred medium has a direct influence on their choice of content, and in Paul’s case it was really great to see a piece made of oil paintings that used a language that is often evident in newer media, but not mimicking a style, but remaining interesting as “just” a painting.

Roberta Lima’s piece, Please Help Yourself (2008), is a montage of scenes from Hollywood films inspired by John Waters’ depiction of women characters and is another somewhat different piece from the others. The piece puts an emphasis on the duality between violence and glamour in the portrayal of womanhood. In this exhibit, which brought such specific comments on specific cultural conditions, this piece brings out the universal power of mainstream cinema, and encourages to question the acceptable, and seemingly obvious, popular cultural depiction of women. For me, including this piece in a show that is so avidly “about” politics, meant the recognition of less “sexy” politics, that is by nature ongoing. True, feminist agenda cannot claim to have been ignored, but the topic tends to be raised at the convenience of a scandal/tasty specificity that allows a discussion to be sparked up again, when discrimination, much like much worse crimes, is really an ongoing issue that is easily put aside for the coverage and discussion of more popular debates.

Sharing wall space and projector with Roberta’s piece was the a one-time screening of a 2009 film entitled B-239 by North-55; Borderland – public art project. B-239 takes its name from an unapproved road that traverse the Northern Ireland border, and includes images of the scenery in the region and footage of the border itself. (from the website) The soundtrack features narration regarding the region’s role through the eyes of the participants who are residents of the area, ranging from WW2, through The Troubles, and up until 2009. (from the project description) This project acted as a break of a sort from the mass-media related commentary and allowed for a public-dependent depiction of a conflict be presented within the context of an art exhibit. It was scheduled to be the closing event of the one-night exhibit and was very interesting, though sadly no followup collaborations every emerged from the inclusion of this film in the exhibit.

Some pictures from ‘grained’:

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