Galway Arts Centre
FERGUS BYRNE DESCRIBES ‘ONGOING CHANGE’, A SERIES OF PERFORMANCES, BY THE PERFORMANCE COLLECTIVE, WHICH TOOK PLACE AT THE GALWAY ARTS CENTRE FROM 16 – 29 JULY 2012.
‘Subject to Ongoing Change’ was an immense project held at Galway Arts Centre by The Performance Collective. Programmed as part of the Galway Arts Festival, Maeve Mulrennan made the bold step of dedicating two weeks of the gallery’s programme to performance art. The group: Dominic Thorpe, Pauline Cummins, Frances Mezzetti, Michelle Brown and Alex Conway, improvised ensembles for four hours without pause every day.(1)
The Collective formed four years ago to give mutual support to each other’s performance art practice. Having performed collectively only three times prior to Galway, a full two weeks was a challenging prospect.
Each time I visited, I wrote with the intention of capturing the live nature of the work. This engagement became very particular, giving me a clear role and way of experiencing the work. Ultimately, helpless, I would lay aside the pen and join in.
Things begin quietly each day and built over time. Through engaging with objects, activity develops in the space. A consistent feature is that of objects held in the mouth. It seems almost a replacement for the act of speech, which is not strictly banned but does not feature as part of these performers’ material. A sign on the door requests silence. Their interest is in the use of objects and the communication that emerges and dissolves over time through the manipulation of these objects. The objects are mundane and vary each day – kitchen ware, shirts, a manual sewing machine, a stepladder, pillows and surgical gloves are only some examples. By not speaking the inquiry intensifies as no activity is ever explained or reduced by words that can nullify surreal qualities. (more…)
MAEVE MULRENNAN DESCRIBES THE CURATORIAL STRATEGIES INVOLVED IN DEVELOPING THE EXHIBITION ‘SYNC’, WHICH OPENS AT THE GALWAY ARTS CENTRE IN OCTOBER 2012, AND IS AIMED AT CREATING A BENEFICIAL GALLERY EXPERIENCE FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER.
In October 2012, The Galway Arts Centre (GAC) will host an exhibition entitled ‘Sync’ as part of the Baboró International Festival for Children. My co-curator, John J Twomey, and I are currently researching methods and mediation techniques for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a visual art context that will inform this exhibition. GAC has been mentored by Ábalta ABA School for Children with Autism and I have also interviewed Carolyn Chin in the V&A Museum Childhood in London, who runs a mediation programme designed specifically for children and young people with ASD.2 ‘Sync’ aims to link together different sources and research, providing a support network to the invited artists. Our research has raised several questions: How can contemporary visual art contribute to the life of a child with autism? What happens to an artist’s practice when they are asked to make work for an audience that may have difficulty with perception?
The ways in which ASD manifests itself are extremely individual. However, the common link is perception. Film director Henry Corra, who made a film with his autistic son George, describes autism thus:
“[Autustic children] have very splintered intelligence, so that they can deal with facts really well, and they can process concrete information really well, but when it comes to the idea of making connections, or empathy, it’s a severe social impairment.”3
The Olivier Cornet Gallery has announced that Kate Howard is the winner of its inaugural Visiting Curator Award for 2012. Despite having only recently graduated with a Masters in Arts Policy and Practice from NUI Galway, Kate has been busy gaining experience in the arts practice and curating field. She co-curated the ‘3×2 Contemporary Clay Exhibition’ in The Shed Galway presenting work by three international and three emerging Irish artists and has been involved with the National Campaign for the Arts. Kate, who is an artist herself, is an advisor to the Galway City Council Arts Officer on the use of vacant spaces in Galway and has also worked with the Galway Arts Centre, the Galway County Council and the Craft Council of Ireland. Kate will be selecting works from the Graduate Shows 2012 in Dublin for an exciting exhibition at the Olivier Cornet Gallery opening end of June and showing until August 2012. Students who think their graduate piece has what it takes to be part of such a show should contact Kate (firstname.lastname@example.org | 086 845 6773) as soon as possible. www.oliviercornetgallery.com
Galway’s oldest and most established artists collective, Artspace, marked its 25th birthday at the Galway Arts Centre, with ‘Collective Consciousness’ a month-long exhibition of selected members work, running alongside a programme of workshops, talks and discussions. Sixteen artists exhibited works over two floors of GAC with one room designated as a satellite space for the studios – transposed from Artspace’s home in the industrial suburbs of Galway into the heart of the city. This adjunct studio space functioned as a publicly visible and accessible art- laboratory; occupied by Artspace members in relays. These mini-residencies provided visitors with intimate encounters with various art making processes – as well as producing the context for a series of workshops and talks. These pedagogic and discursive events included sessions on collaborative drawing and a Sumi Ink Club workshop with Anne O’Byrne – intriguingly entitled Drawing to fortify social interaction. These events also aimed to entice debate and interaction with sister art collectives in Galway, such as 126 and Lorg Printmakers.
The characterisation of the show as a ‘collaborative event’ mirrors the trajectory of Artspace over 25 years. As a collective, its mission has been to evolve an artistic community with shared values of creative support and cultural exposure. Its arc of experience spans the studios founding in a city centre location (neighbouring the GAC); to moving to the utilitarian Liosban commercial estate. The studio has 21 current members, who each enjoy international careers and established practices. The current show revisits the original ideological intentions of the collective, as senior founder Catherine Ó Leanacháin asserted in her opening speech, to represent and confirm the collectivism and collaboration of Artspace.
The works in ‘Collective Consciousness’, curated by Maeve Mulrennan, displayed some ingenious interpretations of the title, which was derived from the terminology of the French sociologist Émile Durkhiem(1858–1917). Dukheim used the term to refer to shared beliefs and moral attitudes that “form a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or common consciousness.”(1) It is an idea that brings to mind notions of the ‘hive mind’. An illustration of this latter concept was wittily expressed in Lisa Sweeney‘s Hive, a small shack or hut sized construction in salvaged wood encasing the recorded sound of buzzing bees. The ‘entrapment’ alluded to in this sealed scrap-cabinet, problematised the acceptance of a hive mind in society or politics.
Political systems were satirized more furiously in Ben Geoghegan’s Notice to the Public, a framed copy of a local government public notice hung ominously in the stairwell of GAC confronting the visitor with this mandate: “You cannot participate in any debate…” This piece proved an effective antithetical manifesto for the exhibition, evincing the obvious benefits of enlightened and accessible approaches to public engagement. Geoghegan’s exposure of the methodologies of power, relating to suppressing discourse and exchange, directly contradicted and complimented those of Artspace’s expressed mission.
Simon Fleming’s assemblage Lo que hago para my vecino el lo hara para mi, a miniature favela of cardboard lean-to’s, floated high above a debilitated ladder, alluded to dysfunctional collectives in the wider world. The implied inhabitants of Fleming’s favela are poorly served in this imagined zone, its ground an industrial pallet loosely strewn with a mat of Astroturf. Fleming’s work offered a dystopian metaphor, which pricked the conscience – as we all know our world is one where most must live in very unsympathetic conditions.
Social or collective turbulence was lyrically regarded in Louise Manifold’s Flock of Falling – an animated film portraying cascades of falling birds, a phenomena she encountered in the US where reported showers of birds plunged from the skies. This work could be read as an analogy for reversals of the natural order and other environmental upheavals. Intense relationships with nature were explored by Laura Brennan in her mysterious landscapes – three paintings on canvas were redolent of contemporary tropes of abstraction. But the works were also sometimes accidentally figurative – via the play of paint on surface. In Brennan’s Wild Wood a perfect forest of intricate trees emerged from the physical, material suction of oil paint off the surface of the canvas.
The most gratifying works in this show were those that responded to the theme – and overall the diversity of interpretations prompted humorous and unexpected connections. Some of the more provocative translations of the notion of ‘Collective Consciousness’ included Kathleen Furey’s Once in a Lifetime – a ‘wonderkammer’ of compiled objects and imagery. The deceptively child-like simplicity of Furey’s motifs revealed a complex psychological depiction of states of awareness and belief. Mariann Hughes Browne’s paintings of swimmers appeared suspended in pools of consciousness. Dave Finn’s All my Shite Ideas, was a collection of his worst artistic ideas on scrunched up paper, thrown high up into a suitable corner of the gallery. This was the perfect resolution for some bad art by a good artist – executed in a spirit of consciousness about what being in a collective means.
Dr Áine Phillips
1. Emile Durkheim quoted in Kenneth D. Allan (2 November 2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World Pine Forge Press. p. 108.