Before I delve into the art of eva International 2012 I will briefly describe recent events and developments in the Irish art world that coincide with this long awaited Biennale of Visual Art.


On May 17th – the day before eva International opened in Limerick city – the Visual Artists Workers Forum (VAWF) had the second event of its year long existence at the Glucksman Gallery Cork. Second hand reports confirm that the discussion was combative, but to what end? Like Seanad Éireann, VAWF at this point in time can only be defended for its potential rather than its achievements; and the question has to be asked can there be tangible outcomes from what has been so far a long wick of ideological discussion? The forum was sold out and even ‘trended’ on Twitter. But while art centre auditoriums fill up with discussion forums and art exhibitions are something you view at the intermission, those who work voluntarily at grass-roots level in artist-run spaces and as interns for art institutions are mere recyclables in the current austerity, and no amount of talking is going to change that fact.


May 2012 sadly saw the closure of two artist-run spaces; SOMA Waterford and Occupy Space Limerick. With less opportunities for emerging artists to show their work and unpaid creative endeavors being uprooted from commercial properties with no more than a few days’ notice, it is no surprise that eva International received over 2,000 submissions from both established and emerging artists from 76 countries. The hunger to show has never been so great. So, it was with these subtexts that I engaged eva International; being drawn to artworks that fed the eyes, not the ears.


Annie Fletcher’s “point of departure” for her After the Future curatorial is theoretical, but thankfully it is one that pushes against false notions of progress and protest. The media theorist Franco Berardi (Bifo) is the visionary quoted more than once in the literature for the event. One quote in particular on the printed map for the Biennale subscribes to what is the psychological dictate of mindfulness:


Ideology and advertising have exalted the permanent mobilisa- tion of the productive and the nervous energies of humankind towards profit and war. We want to exalt tenderness, sleep and ecstasy, the frugality of needs and the pleasure of the senses.[1]


The largest venue on O’Connell Street was my first port of call. Working from the 4th floor down, Sarah Pierce’s serial brown paper posters repeatedly affirm in silkscreen print and white collage “It’s time, man, it feels imminent”. The repeated phrase from the mouths of bystanders at demonstrations in the US between 1968-2008 manifest into cliché. The posters lead up to two audio speakers that resound with other voices; from Mary Kelly to Liam Gillick. The posters would have been enough, succinctly describing Fletcher via Berardi’s ‘want’ for blissful purgatory in a capitalist environment that perpetually desires change no matter how bad or good things are thought to be at any given moment in time. On the floor, eyes and feet are continually interrupted by Sanja Iveković’s littered text on red paper, which detail an Irish Report document “on marginalised women, poverty and violence against women in Ireland provided by the National Women’s Council Of Ireland (NWCI).”[2] Also on the penthouse floor of the unfinished commercial building block Barbara Knezevic’s coy materiality struggles to make itself heard amongst Pierce’s audio and Iveković’s scrunched red papers which read as decorative or floral patterns rather than the red dawn reportage on violence against women.


One floor down Aoibheann Greenan’s mixed-media installation presents the artist as high-priestess of the mediated image. Precursors to this type of approach are Irish artists Eilis MacDonald and Alan Butler who have both become itinerant web journalists for their art; manifesting into new media extensions that are not far from the philosophies of William S. Burroughs and Marshall McLuhan. Through this contemporary mode of experiencing the world via the internet highway we get what can only be called shrines to their laptop tourism. Greenan’s titles for works such as Karma Coma and Iron Lion Zion – combined with dear skull and snakeskin ingredients – speak of ritual and the colourfully exotic in the ‘chromophobic’ space of art. The artist’s installation is the most idiosyncratic presentation at eva International, traversing the thematic of the event itself to become another entity.


On the same floor (and placed throughout the eva International venues) Fergus Daly and Katherine Waugh’s A Laboratory of Perpetual Flux offers unedited interview footage from their excellent 2010 film The Art of Time (See essay I wrote on the film here: [http://unbuildingproject.wordpress. com/]). In these ‘Max Headroom’ editions artists David Claerbout, Chantal Akerman, Doug Aitken, Vito Acconci, French philosopher Sylvere Lotringer (amongst others) become what Waugh herself described as “thinking heads rather than talking heads”[3]. Their in depth thoughts on spatio-temporality are somewhat out of sync with a society that is rocketing toward film director Mike Judge’s vision of a dumbed-down future in his film Idiocracy[4]. But if you practice patience the intellectual reward from exposure to these brilliant minds is priceless. While Lotringer is the star of The Art of Time, Acconci steals the show at eva International. If you trail back to Greenan’s ritualistic mixed- media installation, Acconci comes across as a voodoo priest of all he surveys: especially when bursts of thought visibly contort and twist his physiognomy.

On the second floor of the O’Connell Street venue I immensely enjoyed Polish artists Przemysław Kwiek and Zofia Kulik’s (Kwiekulik) digitised projected slide sequence Activities with Dobromierz (1972-74). After being mentally bombarded by Daly and Waugh’s thinking heads, Kwiekulik’s silent photo montage of hundreds of slides of the artists’ infant son being absurdly positioned in the everyday domestic settings of their home was a welcome rest bite: the only audio pollutant was background noise emanating from Ailbhe Ní Bhriain’s patiently digitised dioramas on the same floor, which added something to the visually reliant work of Kwiekulik. Each pose of their son has that self-conscious desire to become an artwork, especially when arbitrary geometrical arrangements of vegetables frame Dobromierz. However, this was the ’70s when control was the essence of Poland's Communist regime and argues the point that politicised art has strong formal currency when it happens as a result of, rather than a premeditated reaction to the societal conditions of the day.


JUNE_2012_


AFTER THE FUTURE

eva International: Biennial of Visual Art

Limerick City, Ireland, 19 May – 12 August 2012




KwieKulik: Activities with Dobromierz, 1972 - 1974 (digitised 2008), HD video, three-screen slide installation, 31'00"; courtesy the artists / Raster Gallery


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