I’ve been scoping out the art scene in Ireland, and I’ve stumbled upon some GREAT work. I thought I’d share a few artists that I recognized as kindred spirits.

DUBLIN

One of my favorite galleries in Dublin is The Science Gallery at Trinity College. You may be wondering what artists are doing in a ‘science’ gallery, but one of the things that drew me to this venue in the first place is that they are interested in exploring contemporary scientific issues and discoveries in a B-R-O-A-D context, one that includes demonstrations, museum guest participation/interaction, and contemporary art. It obliterates the superficial boundaries that have traditionally separated ‘The Arts’ and ‘The Sciences.’

The current exhibition is called ‘Trauma.’ Below are the two works in the exhibition that just floored me. The first was an interactive display of the Finnish website ‘Lucify.’ It’s an interactive info-graphic of ‘The Flow Towards Europe’ from 2012-2015. You can watch the tiny dots (each representing 25 people) move between countries through time. You can also hover your cursor over different countries to get more specific information. Seeing it on a large screen was overwhelming.

screen shot from http://www.lucify.com/the-flow-towards-europe/
screen shot from http://www.lucify.com/the-flow-towards-europe/

I was practically giddy when I saw ‘Bad Hand’ by UK artist Jane Prophet.

'Bad Hand' on display at the Science Gallery in Dublin.
‘Bad Hand’ on display at the Science Gallery in Dublin.

A video is projected from a desk lamp onto a piece of paper so that it appears that ‘leave me alone’ is being scribed over and over by an invisible hand.

GALWAY

I was in Galway for Thanksgiving and was lucky enough to make it to the last two days of the TULCA Arts Festival. Forget those big biennales; You can find amazing work at small festivals! The theme for the festival this year was ‘Seachange’ and the artwork reflected our fragile human-environment relationship. Below are some of my favorites from the festival:

Mark Clare’s “Anthropocene Marker” – he used an electric pencil sharpener to mark sticks that had been cleared out of the woods. You can read his full description on his website (just click on the image below). I adore this work, and I went back a second time to look at it again.

"Anthropocene Marker" detail from Mark Clare's website: http://www.markclare.com/page7.htm
“Anthropocene Marker” detail from Mark Clare’s website: http://www.markclare.com/page7.htm

I also enjoyed Maggie Madden‘s small, unassuming sculptures made of sticks, wire, and sting:

Maggie Madden, "UnderSea," found washed up twine, optical wire, glue - image from the artist's website: http://www.maggiemadden.com/site/undersea/
Maggie Madden, “UnderSea,” found washed up twine, optical wire, glue – image from the artist’s website: http://www.maggiemadden.com/site/undersea/

Maggie Madden seems to source her raw materials from her surroundings, which is a practice I can certainly relate to! Check out her website to see more of her work. (I particularly like the sculptures made from willow rods and blue telephone wire.)

Another kindred artist: Owen Quinlan. Here are some photos I took of his installation “Time and Place:”

The artist spent months gathering bits of natural and man-made materials that wished up on shore – stones and bones, vegetation and sticks, plastic toys and rubbish, old bricks… He carefully arranged them – natural vs. man-made – and then organized them by size. The final installation was beautiful and I enjoyed spending time identifying and admiring all the ‘bits.’

Water,Gold,Soil
Image from Morris’ and Sayler’s report for ARID: Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology: http://aridjournal.com/american-river-archive-edward-morris-susannah-sayler/

There were many interesting videos at the festival, but I was deeply moved by one in particular: “Water Gold Soil (American River Archive, Doc. 2)” by Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris, co-founders of the Canary Project. Two video projections play simultaneously to tell “The story of a single flow of water in present-day California from origin to end-use.”* You can find out more about their work in this essay from ARID: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology (or just click on the image to the left.)

So many great artists here in Ireland, some Irish, some from elsewhere. It’s always encouraging to find kindred artists when you travel. Their work is inspiring, and it motivates me to step up my game ;)

It also just makes me feel better about humans, the world, and our future. I’ve been struggling to determine ‘the role of the artist’ in communities, and my experiences during this research period are giving me more clarity. The ‘artist-as-activist’ role is problematic for me. I think artists themselves are complicated and flawed and motivated by many different things. Yes, artists do play a role in change-making, but I think it is mostly through subtle and indirect pathways. The artist, like an anthropologist, is a participant and an observer, and I think the best work reflects the tension between those two roles. I am most moved by work that is ambiguous, neither pedagogical nor straight-up naïve, neither overtly political nor sickeningly decorative. I am moved by work that has layers of possible meanings that could stem from little slivers of innocence and intellect, vulnerability and bullheadedness…all ‘human’ things.

*description of “Water Gold Soil” from the TULCA Festival program.

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