27 October 2011

Illuminations and Observations - Dublin Contemporary Edition

David Zink Yi and Monica Bonvicini at Dublin Contemporary 2011
And so on to the (I Can't Believe its Not The) Biennale...

Taking a break from Democracy both Real and Imagined I wandered down this afternoon to Dublin Contemporary 2011, to spend a few hours walking through its ramshackle corridors before it closes forever in four days time. I had been down to a few events there and visited exhibitions at other locations beyond Earlsfort Terrace, but hadn't made it down to the main exhibition for a proper walk around. I had intended to go a few days after getting back from the Biennale, but I was all Art-ed out and needed to refresh my critical batteries - I have a low tolerance for Cool-tcha at the best of times and my heckles had been significantly raised by some of the self-indulgences on display in Venice, to give this all a fair viewing I thought some distance would be best.

I did not, however, expect to get sidetracked for nearly three weeks by a popular people's protest movement and end up spending most of my days and nights shuffling around the gates of the Central Bank like a moody teenager with a sullen skateboard and a demanding haircut who has just dropped their bags of chips in a non-ironic way.

So Dublin Contemporary patiently waited for me and in return I feel like I have given it the fair viewing it deserves. As an International Art Exhibition its scale is adventurous and impressive. Housed in the former home of UCD in the East Wing of the National Concert Hall building in Earlsfort Terrace the setting itself sets a tone that some pieces find impossible to escape. The central stairwell rising up through three floors has been painted an almost electric Easy-Jet orange that shocks you into attentiveness the moment you enter, and yet the corridors beyond remain as they were when the University moved out, fixtures and fittings stripped from bare rooms and the ghost marks of lost shelves and desks tracing forgotten history along the walls. The institutional whites and greens call to mind a B-movie asylum with hidden horrors behind each door, the effect multiplied by the dazed shuffling of patrons down soporific walkways, Romero shadows cast by the clinical glare of old florescence.

Most artists have been given their own room, while some have harnessed the haunted absence of the space other works are overwhelmed by it, lost and alone in the centre of bleakness, an infant crying for their separated parent. While the Arsenale of the Biennale magnifies even the smallest piece by the sheer scale of the building, the claustrophobic roughness of some rooms here focuses the eyes down like a disapproving microscope on what little they contain.

Some of the larger pieces really work, Maser's parallel Emancipate Yourself pieces with a "Why Go Bald?" flashing Daniel O'Connell successfully dominate a swathe of corridor on the ground floor, Richard Mosse's oversize false-colour photos of Congolese soldiers brings a welcome burst of pigments to an otherwise stark room, and I couldn't help but smile at David Zink Yi's giant ceramic desiccated squid lying in its own faux-ink like slowly-deflating sports equipment in an abandoned gym. Nevan Lahart's cardboard landscape took advantage of its cramped confines to play with perspective and dwarf the viewer with rising hills and onrushing rockets, all topped off by arial acrobatics with discarded beer cans.

Other pieces left me flat though, including curator Jota Castro's massive mirrored sculpture that ran over two floors in the former University Library, though this may have been less to do with the piece itself than for my decreasing tolerance for what I have come to call 'Lazy Art Mechanically Reproduced', of which there are five basic types - 1) giant versions of everyday objects, 2) miniature versions of everyday objects, 3) replicas of everyday objects made from odd materials, 4) multiple identical copies of objects and 5) giant abstract stuff built just to show that you can make Very Large Things. 'Lazy Art Mechanically Reproduced' seems vulgar to me, it takes a lot of money to produce and appears to be more an exercise in broadcasting the cleverness of the artist than an attempt to say anything meaningful with the art itself.

Overall I found Dublin Contemporary to be a very mixed bag indeed. Some pieces were genuinely amazing, most were OK, and a few made me wonder if I couldn't do better by throwing random crap from my desk into a pot of marmalade and blowing it all onto a wall with a hairdryer and calling it silent blue 32 on my sunken grave in spring. a circle, writing a description that talked about a dialectic with post-Lacanian neo-brutalism, and see if there was Arts Council funding to be had for this (probably not, unless I did it all as gaeilge).

But the fact that it happened at all is the most wonderful thing about it - art isn't supposed to appeal to everyone, for every piece you like two more should challenge you, provoke a reaction even if negative and force you to think, to confront your own understandings and misconceptions, and even if most pieces did nothing for me that fact that there were so many is something to celebrate in and of itself. It was also good to see so many foreign artists being chosen to exhibit here in Dublin, while we neither have the money nor the cultural clout to mount such an international exhibition on a regular basis, the ambition of Dublin Contemporary in the midst of such an economically and socially stagnant period brought to mind Oscar Wilde's quote, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars".

Contemporary Irish Art is alive and well (though living in New York and London judging by the artist bios), and if you haven't been yet there are still four days left to get yourself down to Earlsfort Terrace.

Stefana McClure at Dublin Contemporary 2011
Teresa Margolles at Dublin Contemporary 2011
Kathryn Maguire and Alberto Borea at Dublin Contemporary 2011
Maarten Vanden Eynde at Dublin Contemporary 2011
Beware the work of David Godbold at Dublin Contemporary 2011
Maser at Dublin Contemporary 2011
Portrait Images - Top: Jean Susplugas, Middle: Liam O'Callaghan, Bottom: Kendell Geers

Dublin Contemporary 2011 website
Dublin Contemporary 2011 - yes, there's an app for that

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At 7:09 pm, Blogger ompm said...



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