Tuesday, October 28, 2014

These Immovable Walls: Performing Power

These Immovable Walls: Performing Power
Pauline Cummins, Maurice O'Connell, Sandra Johnston, Philip Napier, Katerina Seda, Dominic Thorpe, and Carey Young. Curated by Michelle Browne
Dublin Castle
1 – 12 July 2014

Review by Darren Caffrey
Black is all you see. It remains hanging in the mind long after. The work offered by Dominic Thorpe is set in darkness. Overall, the set-up for his performance Proximity Mouth can be said to operate as a system. It begins outside. When the door opens, the previous viewer is released. Only then are you welcome to enter.

Inside, there is a waiting room with five red velvet chairs side by side, each facing a closed door. For a long time, this building housed the nation's Children's Court. Presumed to serve the needs of citizens, from this spot children under state care were institutionalised 'for their own good'. The building today is the place to experience a performance work by an Irish artist.

This performance artist is not working alone. His actions are assisted by a number of appointed guides. These individuals serve the operations of the performance in two ways. Primarily they operate the gateways from beginning to end, ushering in and out each viewer from room to room and to exit. In addition, their presence appears as echo to the ghosts of Ireland's past, specifically those individuals forgotten in their own time, by time.

4353 asylum seekers are currently housed in 35 semi-permanent sites dotted around the country, the majority of them are from Africa. This performance work is assisted by some of those individuals. This is never actually made explicit, instead the greeting is friendly and welcoming. Even so, the exit is about informing of the due process which takes place in the name of Irish citizenship.

With no sign yet of the performer himself, a lady enters the waiting room and takes you upstairs to another room. Before entering this darkened room you are requested to observe the tone of the performance which takes place on the other side of the door. 


When the door opens, the performer is standing beside a large window. Hunched over, his standing body turns slowly to reveal a shining glimpse of light from outside. The light is reflecting in a large pane of mirrored glass turning with his each turn. Soon it encompasses a direct mirror of the room behind you and you are framed by the space which you are in.

The performer continues to turn and you disappear out of view. This slow shuffling continues in a process of illumination and darkness, a transition aided by the heavy curtains which appear as fixture of this grand space. Only one other viewer is present with you in the room. They too appear to be holding the hand of their guide. Acting equal part guide and guard, when they move, you are to follow. Soon a girl of maybe eight or ten wearing a brightly coloured dress asks if you would like an aeroplane or a boat. Examples of each sit on a table alongside a printer and stacks of paper. The phrase Get the boat leaps in the mind and out of the mouth comes the direction for this girl to take up a page bearing the addresses of all the places where men, women and children seeking asylum are sent to await a verdict.

With the careless liberty of a young girl she does as she must. Soon you are again standing in front of the man with the mirror gripped in his teeth. Still fogging the mirror, his breaths mark the struggle to turn with this thing balanced on his feet. You see yourself holding a paper boat in one hand and the hand of an African lady in the other and the darkness once again comes as the curtains close. In no time your guide leads you out into the corridor, where the stairs lead you and your guide down, and you are again outside on your own with only the memory of such darkness.

Questions of sovereignty, independence and contested history produce a backdrop for These Immovable Walls: Performing Power, presented this summer in Dublin Castle. The performers themselves have for the most part taken to engage in activities which lay siege to commonly held human feelings, such as isolation or ambition. The car parked in the courtyard is one of three works which makes reference to a specific aspect of the history of the site. While a suitably dressed assistant paints, with a brush, the regal Jaguar beige from an open can of house-paint, on the edge of the courtyard whispers of a subsequent Union Jack decal dictate that poor taste is exceedingly close to excess in the minds of the public. 


The performances of Philip Napier, Maurice O'Connell and Katerina Seda all took place as a two-day installment, meaning that the intimacy of performer and space could never fully translate to the viewer. To experience the work was to accept also that before and after diminish when weighed with what happens in front of you. What is the role of absence in our understanding of power and its performance? Napier's Soon asserts itself as a consistent presence. Parked up, the car appears to play with the idea of spectacle. The shiny chrome features which detail the cars perceived excellence are deliberately masked off, leaving only tones of beige and a man doing a job on a car.

Immanence, presence or absence may all be a matter of individual perspective but what if viewer participation is defined by a transaction? First Class by Katerina Seda claims to offer a range of once-in-a-lifetime services, leading you into the State Apartments where a taste of the red carpet treatment will cost you at least a fiver. The priciest item on the list is offered at €500. For this you will be permitted to make a call from a mobile phone while touring the once stately home-from-home. For an additional €5 you may wear a pair of complimentary slippers. Indeed, if money was no object you could really gorge like a head of state. Seda offers us the chance to ridicule the performance of state symbols, not withstanding the element of commerce. 


Still Life by Carey Young also taps into the operations of power by association. In particular, she employs memory as a belonging, according to the accumulative properties of both. This performance is carried out in full by an actor. As the actor delivers a will pertaining to the issue of inheritance, we are challenged to evaluate what's on offer. As the executive for this staged event, the actor stands alone. Meanwhile, the audience represent a host of subscribed witnesses. What was on offer was not all that much, only just ideas and fragments of forms not actually present as forms, but rather as details described in tones of measured English. The idea: by recalling the various items described, including a grey vase with wax drips in its centre, the audience may claim to possess them or share them in part with those others in attendance.
On the walls of this State Room, the portraits of men in ceremonial garb look on as equal amounts legacy, and fiction. On the floor, the carpet shows stains created by the spills of previous functions. Maybe it's soup. It is this idea of supplementing fact with new readings and new fictions which makes Young's performance stand out. The fact that she remains removed from the performance only enhances her effective description of absence. In light of such absence, it is the public witness whose participation completes the exchange. Still Life lasted only long enough to take away with you the impression of some sort of power, certainly nothing real.

Sandra Johnston occupied the State Corridor of the drawing room with her performance, Entitlement. Viewed from the hallway or the rooms adjacent, tourists looked on with curiosity as the ongoing performance limited their tour. In a darkened corridor the performer holds a miner's lamp which traces a cable up and down the length of the hallway. Her action is quiet and all that is apparent is that she is looking also. Her focus is forensic, taking each detail of the tour-quality setting and examining its disappearing secrets. Johnston in her accompanying statement takes the visit of Maggie Thatcher and the public statement she made at the time about starving out terrorists as the point of departure for her own investigations. 


While the cordoning off of the darkened hall with velvet ropes presents the performer as spectacle, like the items on display in the rooms surrounding, and offers the performer a sanctioned space, the performance of Maurice O'Connell was free to roam. Bearing various forms of authorised access, including paramedic and security guard badges and qualifications, the viewer may not even be aware who they are speaking to when they ask for... say directions to the gift shop. This sort of invisible performance, while difficult to locate, is surely the best approximation of power and its structural use within society. The point that the performer in this case behaves as an individual within an existing fabric of contexts is not lost on O'Connell. His work titled Audi Vide Tace (Hear, See, Be Silent) takes the Latin motto of the Freemasons and repositions it as the key which literally opens doors to the working life of a place such as Dublin Castle. Appearing also on a panel discussion, O'Connell plays part-interloper, part-interlocutor well. Next to the students of feminism and local history his act stands as that of a jester, but with a secret to tell. 


The Spy at the Gate proved difficult to find as this performance was scheduled during the discussion mentioned above. And so the work of Pauline Cummins cannot be discussed here but what also cannot be ignored is the overall fluidity of the event, bringing together a variety of contexts and allowing them to remain without disturbance. Tourists who would normally represent a body and frequency of ritual were matched and met and party to the unusual goings on at the castle in Dublin's city centre.

In the accompanying fold-out pamphlet, small nuggets of information have been snuck in about the castle and its history. From settlement to protected enclave and finally as the showpiece it is now, the site also marks where the River Poddle once ran. A mix of folklore and official heritage, as well as foreign invasion and administrative procedure, it is apt to play host to this performance of power. In the fluid exchange of visitor and viewer, everybody wins. I have no doubt that similar events are likely in the future.

Performance art may well be able to speak the same language as politics and the extended performance of state power. After all, both maintain power over a subject. This power can be the means to promote policies as much as it might showcase the material of an art performance. In each case, the performer is themselves subject to a vulnerability to the audience or the public. All of which means that it is not so much the performer's activities which concern as their ability to sustain the illusion of distinction.

Ultimately in These Immovable Walls: Performing Power, it is this very distinction which permits the viewer to experience the material conceptually rather than through a raw alienating exposure to potentially disturbing content.

Symbols of power, such as the raising of flags, showing of artefacts and guarding of ground might represent Irish performance art as much as Irish politics. In this light, it may be that These Immovable Walls: Performing Power is an attempt to resolve the emotional weight of Irish politics and citizenship. From political histories and up to present day feelings, this presentation of performances draws its references on the basis that emotional struggle is something which takes its own time to settle, no matter the individual or collective will. What is clear is that the fabric of Irish politics must change if it is ever to represent the voices of those without access to the tools of its own resolutely outdated performance.
All photos by Joseph Carr, images courtesy of the artists.

Darren Caffrey is supported by an Artlinks Bursary.


Sunday, October 26, 2014



Shower of Kunst always welcomes submissions.

Shower of Kunst seeks to support artists and writers in developing new discourses around visual art in Ireland. Those which find some shared ground or agreement with our ethos are particularly encouraged.


Shower of Kunst is a critical online journal founded in 2009. We believe in developing a strong and healthy discourse and community in the Visual Arts. 

Recognising the vacuum that exists in Irish visual arts writing, our goal is to challenge the prevalent mode of art criticism. We place a strong emphasis on the political and embrace an approach to reviewing that is more akin to the academic critique. We are not interested in the default position of arts writing as essentially advertising copy for the artist and gallery, i.e. the conventional positive read of the artists intentions dressed loosely in philosophy. But instead offer a candid gaze that asks questions and makes suggestions.

What we publish:

Primarily reviews of art exhibitions in Ireland, but also international ones. We are open to opinion pieces, rebuttals to other writing, and responses to events that affect artists or our community. In fact we'd like to encourage it. We are looking for new content, so usually don't publish pieces that are already published, or are about to be. Look over the variety of previous articles on this site, www.showerofkunst.com.

House style:

We appreciate an honest opinion. We think your insight and candor is going to be more important to the development of Irish Visual Art than just another well written piece. Of course getting both right is best.

We prefer pieces around 1500 words, although understand that this can vary in either direction if appropriate. Concision is hugely appreciated, so please try to be straight forward and to the point. Walk us through the show; assume we know nothing and literally re-view the exhibition. Feel free to make comparisons to other disciplines outside of art (movies, architecture, music, books, blogs, etc.).

We are open to new approaches, styles, and formats, especially those which utilise online tools, technologies, and potentials.

Technical guidelines:

• Use .doc or .odt format.

• Spellcheck before sending us anything.

• Italicise all titles of works.

• Use a serifed font like Times New Roman.

• Begin your article using the following template:

Show Title: subtitle
Artist, or Artists Names. Curated by a Curator
Venue or Location, City
1 – 15 Month 2016

Review by [Your Name]

Start of your article....

• If suitable, we will send you an edited version with a new file name (e.g. yourfile-edit1.doc). The feedback on your piece will be in comment form (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-a-comment-HP005256528.aspx). Corrections will be made to the text as needed for clarity. Please respond to the comments within the document and make changes directly to the text, before returning it back to us. Again with a correspondingly updated file name (e.g. yourfile-edit2.doc).

Application process:

Email your article or review to showerofkunst@gmail.com and we'll get back to you.

Unfortunately, at present we cannot pay writers. Shower of Kunst has been an a non-funded and voluntary organisation since its founding 5 years ago.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Agitationism - EVA International – Ireland’s Biennial

EVA International – Ireland’s Biennial
Curated by
Bassam El Baroni
Various locations in Limerick
12 April – 6 July 2014

Review by Darren Caffrey

The city of Limerick shares EVA 2014 between two main venues. The main gallery is Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA). The second space is a disused milk plant on the other side of the river. This latter site reflects the changing economics of the city, from an agricultural hub to one of culture. Indeed the plant once owned by Golden Vale shows the signs of disrepair.

While LCGA's white walls interiorise and vacate the space for the art work to be shown, the rough and ready, barely prepped walls of each shed, workshop and loading dock offer a countenance to the viewer of videos and professionally produced artworks. A number of locations around the city saw events take place, from performances to locally based workshops and artist talks. The Hunt Museum housed the work of Bisan Abu-Eisheh and Ann-Sofi Siden. While the Bourne Vincent Gallery held works by Uriel Orlow.
In the City Gallery, Raqs Media Collective + Iswanto Hartono provide our first glimpse of Agitationism. This work takes the form of a protest. Phrases like make no promises and take no prisoners can be read on the wall. It is the word NO which stands out. The O of NO is a black abyss, roughly four to six foot in diameter. This giant 'O' is also mirrored and we can see that its circular frame reflects back our gaze.
The added depth is produced by a clever trick of light and suddenly we appear trapped in a space of singularity. We are alone. This work is placed close to the main entrance of the main gallery. Soon your image of isolation is intruded upon and the next viewer appears to share in the same beliefs. The sign reads the same for each who pass. This means that no matter the individual viewer, it is the beliefs of an artist collective that we must address and not our own. Perhaps our own beliefs are too readily replaced by those of the next man. So perhaps we are the ones who should be agitated by this particular work.
Agitationism stands as the title which unites the curators selection. With this word El Baroni refers to a 'working through' of social, political or even artistic systems of activity. This working through implies a conflict of sorts. The work of EVA 2014 has all been presented on this basis.
This being the 36th edition of EVA International, the artworks have been drawn together from across the globe. A number of Irish artists have also responded to the call for submissions. In turn, they have been given pivotal roles in defining the tone and reception of Agitationism.
Providing the anchor to ground is Garrett Phelan's drawings/advertisements for EVA International publications and James Merrigan's +billion- online critical companion. Alongside this local coverage, video works by Patrick Jolley and two Galway artists Tom Flannagan and Megs Morley, a collaborative performance event with local young people hosted by Limerick artist Paul Tarpey, and A Public Discussion About Contemporary Art and Philosophical Ideas (with children) hosted by Limerick City Gallery of Art, all reach into the heart of the issue of representation.
Agitationism refers to a process of agitating systems. One of the single most important attributes for such an operation is criticality. The artist Humberto Velez, who locates his place of living and working as both Mexico and Manchester, also presents a gap in his work THE UNDERDOG or EVA International Cup 2014. For this work Velez employed the local dog track. The names of the greyhounds running in his ceremonial race were all temporarily changed to highlight issues of “politics, culture, identity and economics”. This means that punters could cheer their support for each dog and enjoy the comfortable surroundings of the local nightlife. It also brought together two different social demographics and allowed artists to mix freely with locals. Perhaps this is the sort of agitationism which El Baroni means. 

The work of Luis Camnitzer, a man born before the second world war, addresses the viewer on the stairwell of Limerick City Gallery of Art with the phrase All those who can't read English are stupid. His work, Insults, seeks to poke fun at us. Although we may read the English version and feel excluded from its discriminatory message, we might not understand the version in Russian or one of the other languages which he presents with his black vinyl lettering.
Camnitzers words read the same whether you are going up or coming down the stairs. You do not have to be able to read all the languages provided in order to appreciate his message of understanding. Although you might not understand the Irish word dúr to mean ‘stupid’, it does. Both stupidity and ignorance are presented here to be a universal concern, other people don’t know what you know, they know what you don’t. If language, a tool for communication, is employed as a tool for discrimination, then paranoia comes of its variety. Thankfully, Camnitzer has stressed the short-sightedness of this historically tragic perspective.

LCGA also houses something called
Final Machine. The work is presented as a three channel video installation. In a single room, three circles of coloured light are matched by the repetition of circles cut into the carpet on the floor. Using the circle as a visual formula, Amanda Beech defines, focuses, and disguises what is in the frame. As the channels change, her subjects range from philosophy and spontaneity, to natural science, and even covert operations of the CIA. 

Beech uses sound and images to bridge the various content of this work. Just as it appears that the image is about to collapse, she withdraws the camera and a new landscape rises. Through her vision, the world before us explodes with a bang and a glimmer. The action disappears into a remodeling of the desert floor, composing a universe of rocks and the creatures which surface. As she shows it, the final machine is earth and its ecology, including all human activity. This suggests that although we have the tools to observe and to extract, we have some way to go to utilise this knowledge for evolution. Advancement beyond these essentially primitive means remains concealed behind the means and tools of our understanding.
In this, and in the video work by Jenny Brady, we might witness that nature does all the work for us. Although Brady's parrot in Wow and Flutter does little more than be a parrot, our own natural curiosity about a bird which can appear to mimic our speech is more than enough to promote ideas of escape. In imitation, we are flattered. And yet Brady's subtitles for Rocco suggest that the parrot knows more than he's saying. On screen, the otherwise closed speculation around what parrots have to say about being is covered up by the colours and feathers of a creature born to fly.
Final Machine was located in LCGA, while Wow and Flutter could be seen in a small room of a disused milk plant. In the case of each video, we are shown how nature is a significant constant, one which we can use to support any number of very man-made arguments. In the ways we relate to nature which is not our own, we may in fact be born to agitate. Perhaps this natural relationship is what classifies Agititionism as natural also. 

Brady’s stooge is given the words we assume a parrot might speak. This somewhat mirrors the work of Galway based Tom Flanagan and Megs Morley, directly across from it. Taking a speech written by Karl Marx for the occasion of the 1867 meeting of the International Working Men’s Association, Morley and Flannagan use the medium of video to relay its sentiment. Although never delivered by Marx, its existence appears to locate the island of Ireland as a political stage worthy of the example and recognition. 

Presented here as a three channel video, The Question of Ireland is interpreted on stage by actors. The questions themselves were written to an anonymous public by a sociologist, a playwright and 1970’s political activist, Bernadette Devlin. It is not made explicit whose words each actor is speaking, but if the message is veiled it is also enhanced in ways both cinematic and theatrical. The centre-stage of Galway’s newly rebuilt National Theatre of Irish Language is employed for its empty seats and impact lighting. This staging is furthered by the additional angles and close-ups of each speaker, as provided by the multi-channel set up.
The feelings on show unsettle in more than just their delivery. However, it is perhaps the camera’s clinical examination of facial expressions which affords us the possibility to be morbid about subjects so alive with recognisably local consequence. In spite of, or maybe because of this rhetorical enhancement, we are stirred by our very inaction. We remain merely viewers, while the words spoken on screen are those of actors in our place.

Systems theory is what defines The Tent provided by Elizabeth Price. Along with Punk. Both came out of England in the 70s. In a high-roofed shed, this one video installation dominates the open space. As Price initiates tensions of audio visual experience, she draws out yet others with her use of a tent. In the form of a book called Systems she defines the practicality of systems theory to underpin the book's very standing. Its standing on screen forms a triangle shape, the base supporting a single extended peak. This motif, along with many other architecturally inspired designs, is visible in Price's video construct.
A radio hanging off the wall receives the tinned chatter from local airwaves. Observing the strengths and weaknesses of varying counter arguments of systems theory, Price takes us through a wall of noise to arrive at her impressions of petulance and acceptance. The lights of her studio form a halo on screen. If nature is what defines our relationship to be that of agitator, Price reminds us that it is important not to be too clear about our definitions of nature itself. Perhaps the plainness of such comprehension would only make chaos all that more attractive a proposition to those who understood the simpler forms of such action.

Still on the grounds of the old milk plant, This Monkey, is provided by The Patrick Jolley Estate. It is a short video starring the rhesus monkeys of Delhi's backstreets. Their protest occurs on screen in the absence of humanity. They leap and sprint past the camera. Their behaviour is not for the screen but for the chances which they define as real. They lurk in the abandoned areas as intruders of the city. The video ends with an allusion to violence, monkeys standing over the discovered bones of sacrifice. We may determine that the monkeys know little of our horror. The music for the duration is a haunting and inexplicable score, instrumentalising and identifying locality as the partition which produces culture. 

Limerick City's claim to a product so consistent that it may be called a Biennial in more than name shows EVA to be reaching for a greater visible impact. In a work by Ingo Giezendanner or GRRRR, large scale drawings reveal the black and white outline of the word 'JAM'. This is just one element of the graphic murals inspired by his time in Limerick. Back on the other side of Ireland's largest river, a range of architectures appear as protest, or at the least, inconsiderate. In their very real life setting, the word 'JAM' appears high above a busy street. It is as though the action of the artist's recognition has produced a fabric of the place. By showing the graffiti artist to act locally in the same manner as the EVA itself, the curator reflects how in fact both respond to the conditions and express through them as a part of the city.
When the philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote of agitation in 1790, he was referring to the mind, specifically the impact incurred when we experience the sublime. Egyptian born Bassam El Baroni has shaped his choices for EVA 2014 around works which reflect systems of power through challenge. As we know, this challenge might be born of nature or nurture. The sublime is not simply an aesthetic principle, mathematical in its exactitude. It is defined also as a principle of self-preservation. If we understand our relationship to nature to be good for our survival, we will regard it in terms of the sublime. If we place ourselves above nature, this relationship may only take on the power of aesthetic appeal. Certainly the belief in an awesome force is necessary to agitate the mind.
It is such agitations which compel our future actions. In this light, EVA 2014, Agitationism makes a statement which can be understood as intended to spark future activity. For El Baroni, the viewer is part of a wider community. Agitation is the trigger. It clicks to agitate. 

The last century, if you like, is finished, really, in the political field, so we need to do something really new, but we dont know precisely what.
Alain Badiou
 After the Incident at Antioch, A Tragedy in Three Acts, (provided in the work of Eva Richardson McRea, 2013, Film/Act/Event 21mins)

Darren Caffrey is supported by an Artlinks Bursary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Images from Ultra

Images from Ultra
Barbara Knezevic

The Lab, Dublin
10 April – 7 June 2014

All photos by Darren Caffrey. 
Darren is supported by an Artlinks Bursary.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Images from (some) Dublin Degree Shows 2014

Images from (some) Dublin Degree Shows 2014
BA graduates from DIT and NCAD
Various locations in Dublin



Deberoh Hewson

Eimear Walshe 

Eimear Walshe from the other side with one of Aoife Irwin Moore's go-carts in use.

Nicola Whelan

Niall Cullen

Chloe Phipps


Diarmuid Corkery

Fiachra Ó' Súilleabháin

Fala Buggy

Mary-Kate Hardy

Kieran Bollard

Conor Horgan-Gaul

Robert Carroll

Stills from Avril Corroon, images courtesy the artist

Avril Corroon and Kerry Guinan, image courtesy the artists

Avril Corroon

Kerry Guinan

Saoirse Wall, images courtesy the artist



Aisling Reddin

Sandra Davoren

Still from Luke Fogarty's installation

Sophie Robson

Adrian Langtry

Photos by Jim Ricks unless otherwise noted.