I’m just back from Leipzig in Germany where I was caught up in the middle of a TERROR ALERT. – Actually it turned out to be some teenagers in Austria making prank phonecalls to hotels in Germany but the Polizei were on the case immediately. They closed down the no.12 tram (our one); they closed off the streets; more than one hundred officers from the Saxon state police special forces were deployed together with sniffer dogs, they erected security barriers around a small group of devout Protestants who were calling for Religionsfreiheit und Toleranz and… we were forced to walk into town for our supper. But other than that, it was wunderbar.
And back in Ireland, next Friday night is Culture Night. (16th of September from 5pm until 11pm). Arts and cultural organisations open their doors until late with hundreds of free events, tours, talks and performances to be enjoyed around the country. Plenty going on at the Olivier Cornet Gallery, of course.
Claire Halpin’s solo exhibition ‘The Glomar Response’ will be open by then; Pearse McGloughlin and Nocturnes will be performing songs from their new album ‘The Soft Animal’ and Jean Ryan will be conducting a storytelling event in the gallery. This year, I’ll be able to enjoy the night as part of the audience. I remember another year, I spent the night under a blanket!
That was in 2011 – I was in the National Gallery of Ireland as part of a Tondo group exhibition, sitting on a sheet of cardboard, covered by a blanket. There was a concert going on in the restaurant next door, I could hear people laughing and chatting. I felt ignored, unwanted, irrelevant… As I think of that now, I find that interesting because I imagine that it’s perhaps something of what the people who are homeless might feel. I was there for just a few short hours, of course, and it was my decision to be there. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for someone to be forced to sit and beg for help.
I must say that it was really nice when a few people sat down beside me and talked to me through the blanket. I realise now that it was an awkward situation. People didn’t know how to react to me. I heard some people hesitantly call my name. There was a lot of noise in the Gallery and sometimes I could hardly recognise the voice. But I appreciated people’s support. Normally at an exhibition it’s a lovely ‘party’ atmosphere, I love meeting all the guests and thanking them for coming etc. but this time, it was different. I was the artwork!
It was a new experience for me. Actually, I didn’t mean it to be simply about homelessness and the inequalities of contemporary society. It was a metaphor, I suppose… Something about the struggles of life, struggles that everyone encounters. Don’t we sometimes just want to curl up and hide? As me mother would’ve said: “The world has gone mad”. Sometimes, we need to step back and have a think about it…
PS: Religionsfreiheit und Toleranz translates as: Religious freedom and tolerance