Curating in Ireland


I went back to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin to see Future Perfect again before it finishes.  This exhibition is part of the Sleepwalkers project, an experiment in exhibition production where 6 invited artists have come together with the gallery curators to explore the possibilities of curating.  This is the collective experimental phase of the project, grounded in Institutional Critique*.  The artist Jim Ricks conducted an open submission process (and one of my artworks was selected in this process).  Elaborating on the open submission model, Ricks writes:  It works in the spirit of generosity by providing a democratised agency for artists in an esteemed institution.

The exhibition opened in December (see my previous post: )  but it has gone through various changes since then – yesterday if you happened to venture in, you might’ve wondered if it was already over.  Some of the artworks were bubblewrapped and left leaning against the wall.  I sat there for a while, a pianist was rehearsing for a recital in the adjoining hall, I could hear a group of school girls doing a tour of the other galleries, examining the Monets, the Roderic O’Conors and the Mainie Jelletts… it was peaceful in Gallery 8.  I sat there wondering about the nature of art and the possibilities and challenges of curating in a small country like Ireland.

The previous night I had been at a panel discussion chaired by Katherine Waugh in Pallas Projects/Studios.  This was organised in response to the current exhibition:  Periodical Review #2  According to the catalogue, this exhibition isa unique, yearly survey of Irish contemporary art practices, that looks at commercial gallery shows, museum exhibitions, artist-led and independent projects and curatorial practices”.  Perhaps playing the role of Devil’s Advocate, Waugh questioned the curators on their selection of work, on the layout of the overall show and she challenged them on their claims around discursivity and it being “exhibition as resource.”

One audience member suggested that had there been more ‘agro’ on the panel, if the selections had been more contested, say, it might’ve resulted in a more radical exhibition.  I didn’t speak on this occasion.  What might you have said?

* Institutional Critique is an art term that describes the systematic inquiry into the workings of art institutions.

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