30 October 2012

The Physical Impossibility of Bounce in the Mind of Someone Living

This Saturday The Very Understanding Girlfriend and I popped along to the RHA to catch the very end of this year's Futures exhibition. Each year this annual exhibition aims to showcase the work of a small group of up and coming contemporary artists, and to be honest it is normally a very mixed bag indeed.

It could just be that we are experiencing art-fatigue after a few years of intensive gallery visits abroad, not to mention last year's overload at the Biennale in Venice, or it could just be that since watching Exit Through the Gift Shop I can't escape the feeling that the contemporary art world is the biggest practical joke anybody has played since the formation of the last dozen or so world religions, but in either case the trip to the RHA left me with an overwhelming feeling of Meh.

Things might have been different had the showcase piece (or at least that piece which The Very Understanding Girlfriend and I specifically came to see) been there, but sadly it was not. Poulnabrone Bouncey Dolmen is a full-sized inflatable replica of a 6,000 year-old neolithic dolmen, created by artist Jim Ricks. It has toured around the country, and for a short period of time was even co-located in Belfast with a similar (though newer) inflatable replica of Stonehenge by Jeremy Deller, in what was termed "the first ever Megalithic Bounce-Off", and it was the inherent bounciness of the piece that led to its unfortunate absence from the RHA on Saturday.

Ricks built his dolmen to be bounced on, that is an integral and essential part of the artistic intent behind the work, and it's also pretty damn fun. Sadly the RHA was unable to arrange the necessary insurance to allow vistors to enjoy the piece in the way the artist intended, and after a protracted conversation he withdrew the piece from the exhibition, none of which we knew as we wandered down to have a bounce. In its place, the RHA have a single podium upon which sits a letter from Ricks explaining his decision to withdraw the dolmen, and ironically for me this letter turned out to be the most engaging piece in the exhibition so I am including a photo of this letter with this post (please click on it to suitably embiggen for reading).

Although Futures was a disappointment, I did stay to watch a separate video installation, Something New Under the Sun, by Gavin Murphy. Normally video pieces make me run to the hills, but I sat down and watched Murphy's film through to the end, and I was glad that I did. Juxtaposing the history of the long-demolished IMCO Building in Booterstown with serene footage of the now-NAMAed Elm Park development that sits opposite it on Merrion Road, the film works on a number of different levels. While I recovered from my operation last year I could see the vacant offices of Elm Park from my window, empty tombstones to the Celtic Tiger being a recurring theme of my illness. While Murphy may not have set out to show that corruption and planning have long been comfortable bedfellows in Ireland, when viewed in our current national context his film's title is somewhat ironic.

Sadly for you both exhibitions have now ended. Don't feel short-changed though, the two centrepieces weren't actually there.

Update Good news everyone! According to Jim Ricks' Facebook page: "The Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen will be exhibited, and open to members of the public to bounce on, this coming Thursday in the southeast corner of Merrion Square, Dublin", that's Thursday the 8th November, from 11am to 5pm. Just what the doctor ordered to celebrate/commiserate the previous day's US election results!

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