A Different Republic
Co-curated by Arts & Disability Ireland and Fire Station Artists’ Studios in partnership with the LAB Gallery.
November 17 - February 05 2017
A Different Republic explores universal human rights in a year of commemorations, being both the centenary of 1916 and the 20 year anniversary of the Irish government’s landmark report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities ‘A Strategy for Equality’. Fire Station Artists’ Studios and Arts & Disability Ireland in partnership with The LAB Gallery are delighted to present this new work that reflects on the current state of the nation from different perspectives.
This exhibition marks the final exhibition in the LAB Gallery’s programme for 2016 which saw a series of new commissions responding to ideas of commemoration developed for the gallery by artists Bridget O’Gorman, John Beattie, Sabina MacMahon, John Byrne, Chad Keveny and Jane Locke in collaboration with research partners including the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art, the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland and MA Art Research Collaboartion iadt.
Audio description, speech to text and Irish Sign Language will be available at the preview. Audio description and additional audio information will be available throughout the exhibition using Discovery Pens this service is useful for audiences with visual impairments.
Dublin Gallery Weekend, 26th November, performances by Suzanne Walsh, Amanda Coogan and Dublin Theatre for the Deaf at the LAB Gallery.
A Different Republic artist talk, 1st February at the LAB Gallery.
Aideen Barry is a visual artist with a national and international profile, whose means of expression are interchangeable, incorporating performance, sculpture, film and lens based media. In A Different Republic she addresses the regulation and control of women’s bodies through drawings and looped animations set within museum cabinets. Referencing Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ a parable about women’s lives in a patriarchal society, Aideen gives us an insight into this story as it relates to contemporary life for women in Ireland.
Both the 1996 Strategy for Equality which Amanda Coogan worked on as a young interpreter, (which has had a destructive and potentially devastating consequence for the Deaf community) and the 1916 proclamation have both influenced the creation of Amanda Coogan’s installation for A Different Republic.
The glistening mountain cutting through the gallery and made, on one side, of emergency blankets-seductively glittering and shiny, and the other exposing the construction and practicalities of the build and structure, speaks to the multiple consequences and perspectives one may have on both documents. One installation requirs that the audience inside the gallery must first be faced with the back end of the mountain. The audience viewing the installation from the street, and outside the gallery, see the flashy side.
Since her initial thoughts on her work for this exhibition Coogan has always wanted an Irish flag in the installation - she has made this from a green pram with white wheels and filled with oranges. These prams, while associated with the domestic and the female, are also used daily down the road from the gallery, by women street traders.
Corban Walker is internationally recognised for his installations, sculptures, and drawings that relate to perceptions of scale and architectural constructs. The work that Corban Walker is making for A Different Republic stems from thoughts about a floor plan excavated from the floor in the room of the floor plan. The triangulated work is site specific in the sense it maps three sites in one space; The Lab, the GPO and the house his mother grew up in on Mountjoy Square. The work is presented in photographic studies, installed in the gallery to heighten an awareness of history, built structure and diversity.
Portico Selfie, 2016. Digital print on vinyl - 45.7 x 30.5 cm
Suzanne Walsh’s work is a set of concrete poetry made from fragments of lines from the poems of both Thomas McDonagh and Francis Ledwidge as well as comments collected from online Irish Facebook groups that discuss – housing, environmental issues and wildlife identification. Linking these is the sound of the bittern, extinct presently in Ireland, due to its connection to McDonagh and Ledwidge. McDonagh translated the poem 'The Yellow Bittern' (Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Ghunna) from Irish to English. After his execution his friend Francis Ledwidge wrote a poem 'Lament for Thomas McDonagh' that begins 'He shall not hear the bittern cry'. The poems question exclusion, identity and existence in today's Ireland. Suzanne is an audio/visual artist and writer from Wexford currently based in Dublin.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Aideen Barry is visual artist with a national and international profile, whose means of expression are interchangeable, incorporating performance, sculpture, film and lens based media. Barry recently showed a survey solo show at Royal Hibernian Academy entitled Brittlefield and will show at Project Spaces at the Irish Museum of Modern Art later this month. She is currently Artist in Residence at IMMA until the end of the year. She will present solo in 2017 in Block 336 in London and in 2018 at MARFA Contemporary Texas. She recently won the prestigious 2017 Lexicon Commission Award and Modern Ireland in 100 artworks by the Royal Irish Academy. The artist's works are in permanent collections at the Arts Council of Ireland, Art Omi Collection (New York), NUIG Collection, Galway, Mayo & Dublin Council collections, the OPW and at the Centre de Art Contemporary, Malaga ESP. Barry lectures at Limerick School of Art and Design, and lives in the west of Ireland.
More information can be found at www.aideenbarry.com
Amanda Coogan is one of the most exciting contemporary visual artists practicing in the arena of Performance Art. She is at the forefront of some of the most exciting and prolific durational performances to date. Her extraordinary work is challenging, provocative and always visually stimulating. Her recent exhibition in the Dublin's Royal Hibernian Academy was described by Artforum as 'performance art at its best'.
Her extraordinary work is challenging, provocative and always visually stimulating. Using gesture and context she makes allegorical and poetic works that are multi-faceted, and challenge expected contexts. Her works encompass a multitude of media; Objects, Text, Moving and Still Image but all circulate around her live performances. Her expertise lies in her ability to condense an idea to its very essence and communicate it through her body. Time is a key material in Coogan's live performances. The long durational aspect of her live presentations invites elements of chaos with the unknown and unpredicted erupting dynamically through her live artworks. Her work often begins with her own body presenting both solo works and group performances.
More information can be found at www.amandacoogan.com
Corban Walker (b. 1967, Dublin, Ireland) gained recognition for his installations, sculptures, and drawings that relate to perceptions of scale and architectural constructs. His local, cultural, and specific philosophies of scale are fundamental to how he defines and develops his work, creating new means for viewers to interact and navigate their surroundings.
Walker graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, with a degree in Fine Art Sculpture in 1992. His first solo show was held at the City Arts Centre in Dublin, Ireland in 1994. Since then, he has mounted solo exhibitions internationally and has realized eight important public commissions worldwide. Walker’s work is part of numerous public and private collections around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Irish Museum of Art, Dublin. Since 2008, he was attended several international residency programs including Casa Wabi in Oaxaca, Mexico and Atelier Calder in Saché, France in 2015.
More information can be found at www.corbanwalker.com
Suzanne Walsh is an audio/visual artist and writer from Wexford currently based in Dublin. She uses performative lectures, audio performances, and text to explore various themes, often around the relationships between animal/humans, ecology and evolution as well as querying the borders of the self. She also collaborates with filmmakers, musicians and other artists frequently, drawing on previous acting and musical experience. Recent performances in Eight Gallery, IMMA and DLR Lexicon (with Hissen sound group), New Lacanian School Congress, The International Literature Festival, and Art and Ethics Symposium at the Burren College of Art. She also recently completed a writing commission for Resort Revelations residency for Fingal County Council. She will begin a residency in Fire Station Studios in 2017.
More information can be found at www.suzannewalsh.ie
Arts & Disability Ireland is the national development and resource organisation for arts and disability.
We champion the creativity of artists with disabilities, promote inclusive experiences for audiences with disabilities and work to enhance the disability-related capacity of arts organisations. We work in partnership with the arts sector, and encourage the disability sector to do the same.
Located in north east inner city Dublin, the Fire Station Artists’ Studios was established in 1993 to provide support for professional visual artists.
Fire Station provides subsidised combined living and working studios for Irish and international artists, large scale sculpture workshop facilities and training opportunities for artists. The Fire Station training programme has expanded to include digital and film training and we continue to host technical training and master classes which incorporate critical reflection.
The LAB was established by Dublin City Council in 2005 as a municipal arts hub, housing gallery, rehearsal and incubation spaces for a range of art forms. The LAB Gallery supports emerging artists and more established artists taking risks in their practice. We actively encourage collaboration across other disciplines outside of fine art to deliver a year round programme of free events for all ages. We commission new writing with every exhibition and together with Visual Artists Ireland present an annual Art Writing Award. In addition to Dublin City Council, the LAB is supported by the Arts Council.
For further information, images or interview opportunities
please contact: Leah Johnston, Arts & Disability Ireland
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Tel: 01 8509003 Mob: 0876445754
A Different Republic
Commissioned essay by Nathan O'Donnell
In 1996, the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities published its report. A Strategy for Equality was a landmark in the development of a culture of rights for people with disabilities in Ireland. The report noted a level of frustration in the responses received from the public. ‘[This] frustration did not centre, as some might expect, on personal experiences of physical pain, discomfort or impaired function. Nor did it centre on the incurable nature of many disabling conditions.’ Instead, respondents expressed anger about the ‘oppressive social barriers’ that exacerbate challenges already faced by those with disabilities in Irish society.
One respondent quoted in the 1996 Report put it particularly bluntly, arguing simply – and starkly – that ‘being disabled means you are no longer part of the public.’
In 1916, before the Rising, Thomas McDonagh published ‘The Yellow Bittern,’ his translation of an eighteenth-century Irish poem. After his death, Francis Ledwidge wrote a tribute, ‘The Lament for Thomas McDonagh,’ that opened with the famous lines:
"He shall not hear the bittern cry,
In the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds,
Above the wailing of the rain."
In this poem, Ledwidge fuses the lyricism of the Celtic Revival with a new civic spirit. Here we have the familiar elements: the wild bird, the cow in the field, the martyr’s death. But the bittern’s cry undercuts all this. It is guttural, not like a bird’s song at all, more like a slow and regal belch.
For her contribution to this exhibition, Suzanne Walsh has assembled a patchwork of quotations from MacDonagh and Ledwidge’s poetry, spliced with rambling comments from Facebook groups. The result is a new, unexpectedly poetic language, to be projected onto the walls of the LAB Gallery. It reminds me of the language of the great manifestos of the early twentieth century – not the Proclamation so much as the jarring declarations of the avant-garde. Walsh makes common cause with the disenfranchised and the powerless. She talks about the precarious lives of so many in contemporary Ireland, those with disabilities amongst them. She wonders what insights they might have, given their perspectives, into the toxic imperatives of the state.
The 1916 Proclamation spoke of ‘cherishing all the children of the nation equally.’ The writers of this extraordinary manifesto set themselves in opposition to exclusionary British rule. But the Free State, and the Republic, took little time replacing British exclusions with others of their own devising.
In 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman published her short story, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ a parable about women’s lives in a patriarchal society. In it, a physician diagnoses his wife with a ‘temporary nervous depression.’ He prescribes a rest cure. Denied a life outside the home – outside of the sickroom, even – she becomes fixated with the ‘smouldering unclean yellow’ wallpaper, peeling from the wall. She notices strange patterns, crawling faces; a full-grown woman stoops and lurks behind the paper, trying to escape. Eventually, the patient locks the door and tears the paper away from the wall. She realises the creeping woman is herself, seeking a way out. She has either lost her mind, or escaped her husband’s tyranny, or both. In any case, by the end of the story, she has achieved a kind of freedom.
Aideen Barry’s work is full of domestic anxiety, combining video, stop-motion animation, drawing, and performance. Last year she worked with a group of artists with intellectual disabilities in Ballina to produce a short film about unrequited love, Silent Moves, a subtly political response to the disgraceful legal treatment of intimacy between people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland. At the LAB Gallery, she takes Gilman’s short story as a point of departure. Pen and ink drawings, arranged frieze-style, on accordion notebooks, illustrate the workings of a feverish imagination. Flock patterns and creeping creatures animate the pages. Displayed in museum cabinets, these works represent an alternative history of the Irish state, one in which women’s bodies have not been regulated and controlled, but have managed instead to escape through the wallpaper.
One of the outcomes of the 1996 Report was the passing of the Disability Act of 2005, a positive step in enabling equal rights for people with disabilities in Ireland. Much remains to be done, however. Arts & Disability Ireland undertake crucial work in this respect. Their long partnership with Fire Station Artists’ Studios is the basis of this exhibition. In the three decades since it was established, ADI has done much to serve artists and audiences with disabilities. They work with practitioners in all art forms, providing access or support or both. Requirements differ from case to case, which is how ADI believe it should be. Experiences of disability are not uniform. Artists with disabilities should not have to speak with a single voice.
Amanda Coogan was brought up in a deaf household. She learnt early to use sign language, and continues to make use of this skill in her work, communicating often through movement and gesture. She herself worked as a young interpreter on the 1995 Strategy for Equality, and has her own misgivings about its effect upon deaf communities, particularly as it has played out in schools.
For her contribution to this exhibition, a vast sculptural structure, hung with glistening silver emergency blankets, cuts through the gallery. From the inside the audience sees the construction laid bare. Outside, passers-by see the glimmering façade. Neither side sees the full story. On a screen, mounted on the inside of the structure, a deaf woman pushes an Irish ‘flag’ – a green pram with white wheels, full of oranges – back and forth across a peace line in Belfast. Coogan is interested in how such prams are used, not just by mothers, but also by street traders: one of the few occupations traditionally open to women. For Coogan, Irish history is a tapestry of such exclusions.
I have thought a lot, in preparing this text, about what different kinds of exclusion might feel like, and how I might convey this through this piece of writing. There are certain kinds of exclusion we can all imagine – a shut door, a closed shop. But there are more indirect exclusions: unnoticed obstacles, unspoken discriminations, simple failures to consider. Such exclusions might feel less like a rupture than a mute uneasiness, a sense of being out of step, of being out of sequence.
I have chosen to present these fragments out of cue. The numbers are off.
The reader is out of place.
Corban Walker’s sculptures, drawings, and installations play with ideas of scale and the nature of the built environment. His remodellings of architectural forms – reduced, distorted, departing from received standards – highlight the extent to which we design our surroundings with particular bodies in mind. Walker, who is 129 cm tall, asks what bodies – what perspectives – are excluded.
3 Mountjoy Square was the birthplace of Walker’s mother, and the home of his grandfather, Walter Cole, at one point a Sinn Fein Alderman. The house was a regular Sinn Fein meeting place at the time of the Rising. Walker’s research into the history of this building has been both personal and political. It has led him to consider more broadly the architectural legacy of the north inner city, and what its neglect might tell us about the changing identity of the Irish Republic. His photographic works for A Different Republic map three buildings (No 3 Mountjoy Square, the GPO and the LAB Gallery itself), drawing together disparate sites of commemoration, communication, and memory.
All four contributing artists have been commissioned to produce new work which responds, in whatever way, to the contexts of the two commemorations: the 1916 Rising and the 1996 Report on the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities. The result is a quartet of distinct voices: a manifesto (or a set of manifestos, a set of disparate appeals) for difference.