I’ve never really written a year summary post. I think this is why: every year I need to spend some time adjusting to the fact that there’s a new year (as if it matters) and trying to reach a point where I can tell myself I’ve progressed from the previous one. Typically it takes around a month. This year was going to be different, I was going to summarise a very exciting year and do it in December! Instead I got a series of nasty colds and never got around to it. Thing is 2017 really deserved a summary because something I started two years earlier ended, and I felt I needed to give it a mention, and that’s my activity as a voluntary gallery director at Platform Arts in Belfast.
I was selected to act on the board of directors of Platform in 2015, during the two years I took on a couple of roles, primarily treasurer and strengthening relationships with other galleries in Ireland. As a director based in Dublin I was able to travel a little more to visit places in Dublin and Cork (I missed out on the opportunity to work with a fantastic Galway artists organisation). I tried to use my curatorial experience to offer opportunities that involved curatorial projects knowing I would be able to take them on myself for starters. Another project I worked on with other directors is PARS, the Platform Arts Resource Space, built with the hope to provide a resource for the Belfast artist community with material and publications of fine art that would not be available in photography or design focused collections.
So, it was a busy couple of years, particularly being based in Dublin, but the others were forgiving and I did a lot of telecommuting and only travelled every month or so on average. Within this limited setup I discovered one of Ireland’s treasures: Belfast’s arts community, an exceptional bunch. I can’t pretend to know a lot about the everyday of artistic life in Belfast, during most of my time there (before the Brexit vote) the budgeting was fantastical for someone who knows a little about finances for art in Dublin and other ROI cities. The money was hardly flowing, but there were opportunities and so much activities to get them, and then the outcomes were just great. Through these activities, Late Night Art events, which I mostly got to witness planning for, as they happen mid-week, and Visual Artists Ireland activities I got to know the community a bit better. Perhaps being a small community in a major city acted as a binding agent, Belfast’s artist community is composed from incredibly kind and supportive individuals and organisation. Almost any issue that came up in Platform had some community-supported resolution. Lending equipment, invigilation, getting installation advice or hands on assistance all happen easily and happily. I know it’s a strange thing to write about, because obviously I could write about the artistic and curatorial work that happens in Belfast since there’s so much going on, but I hope to do that in separate posts when I travel up to see work. I wanted to thank all the kind people who made me feel at home when we worked together, I truly appreciate the spirit of your community.
My last hurrah as a director was actually a great curatorial opportunity that stemmed from the work during the year. I curated Paul Moore’s solo show, a Belfast-based artist I met in a Visual Artists Ireland NI event a few months before a scheduled exhibition was cancelled and a slot opened. Knowing it’s my last project with Platform for the time being I wanted to touch on a Belfast everyday issue, and Moore’s work dealt with the very current and apparent issue of gentrification. For me it was the perfect project to take on, as what I’ve seen of Moore’s work managed to tell the story of these changes in the city using performance, photography, and was developing towards new media, I jumped on the opportunity. Further to that, Queen Street, where Platform Art gallery is located, was basically under construction since a few months before we started working on the exhibition, and throughout the project. It felt like the topic was right for the neighbourhood, for the timing, and for my curatorial interest to find the potential of spaces as a tool of expression and commentary. A bit more about the actual project and exhibition, including documentation of the exhibition and the opening event (like the featured image of this post, photo taken by Simon Mills), can be found on nonarnia.com. The fantastic text by Dorothy Hunter, which accompanied the exhibition is available on the PARS website. On the opening night we had incredible support from the many people to came to see the exhibition and the performance and I was delighted at the opportunity to have that as a creative temporary departure from the Belfast scene. I hope to get the chance to work in Belfast again soon, one of my tasks for the next few weeks is to gather the courage and approach some people I haven’t met yet and see if that can happen. Are you from Belfast and want to work with me? Get in touch!
What about everything else that happened in 2017? I feel like I’ve updated more “real time” on the News section in my website and don’t feel the need to repeat it all now. It’s been interesting. I also opened an Instagram account that’s mostly for gallery visits and art-related content (ok, there’s food, but only when it’s interesting). Other good places to watch are the Landing Project website and Landing Collective FB page. Aliina & I are working hard to make this year a busy one, and we’ll be in residence at the Draíocht studio in March and April, if you want to visit just let us know.
Have a creative and productive years everyone, and remember to vote to Repeal The 8th!