mink At Anam

Treasa O Brien, Julie Lovett, Jennifer Redmond, Mieke Vanmechelen, Eavan Aiken, and Michael Holly at Anam in Killarney. September 19 2020.

What can you do when you are  a minor category? You live in a rural area, personal circumstances dictate that you  must reside in that place. You cannot travel to the metropolis to network and to mingle amongst the cognoscenti. And anyway the land, the place, the locus and its geopolitics informs your work. But you are invisible. You are not cute or cool.

There is only one thing to do – you must shout very loudly,  you must scream so loudly that  in fact,  you  become a Tour de Force. 

                          Even then will anybody hear?

You must gather around you those that share your concerns. Those who need to talk about their locale, and about the antagonistic pull between making and showing experimental moving images or any artistic endeavour that concerns the environment and feelings of rootedness.

The messages made manifest in the work on display at Anam is that; all of our home places are in jeopardy.There is no sanctuary.We welcome you, to the unhomely home. The gorgeous and the grim. Look at it, think about it. What can you do?

Gareth Kennedy. (invited guest)Post Colony. Super 8 film, 24mins. 2014. (still from the film Post Colony at Killarney Lakes)

Post Colony explores the microcosm of natural, industrial and colonial histories through a specific project in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, focusing on the invasive species Rhododendron x superponticum. First introduced to Ireland in the 1700’s as an ornamental landscape feature, this plant has become deeply problematic within the national park and across many celebrated landscapes of Ireland and the British Isles, threatening native species. Ironically the invasive plant, a hybrid creation of the eighteenth century botanical nursery, has also become an iconic touristic image in the park, with its prolific purple blooms. Kennedy presents a speculative history of the park landscape from the Plantation of Munster in the late 16th Century to the park’s current status as a tourist destination and special area of conservation.

Look at the results of generations of neoliberalism of colonialism and neo-colonialism? Look at ideas of territory? of local space? What do we consider as an invasive species? Why do we consider it to be invasive and how may it be incorporated into our communities, what blocks this process?

Michael Holly. 8 Days Godless,2020.HD 12.20mins. (Still from the film)

In 2014 a metal crucifix on the top of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil was cut down by activists protesting the influence of the Catholic Church. Eight days later, a group of local volunteers reinstated the cross in a secret dawn-mission. 8 Days Godless is an account of the affair that explores the contested spaces of images and mountaintops.

Look at the strictures that we have allowed ourselves to have become bound within. The icons,the false Gods and sacred knowledge that benefits the few at the expense of the many. That cramps flexible thinking and allows us to evolve and to expand as a species. Think on the relevance of such traditions in a modern context, what do you want to hold onto and what should you jettison?

Mieke Vanmechelen. Die Vriijheid.(That Freedom)2020.  4K video, 6.57mins( image still from the film)

This short film is a private reflection on childhood, the complexities of human relationships and the magic of the natural world. Presented from a submerged perspective, the artist’s simple narra-tive is related in her mother tongue. The work attempts to operate on a register analogous to mu-sic and offers a glimpse into an embodied contradictory sense of displacement and belonging

Lorraine Neeson, Current,  Video Installation. Full HD video(excerpt 1 min) with TV monitor and stereo sound. 2017.(still  from the film).

Current presents a moving still of a Yew Forest, filmed from a fixed perspective. The Yew tree, commonly found in Irish graveyards operates as a signifier to other worlds. On inspection, sub-tle and almost imperceptible movements can be detected but following a period of time, the still-ness within both the framed image and the physical viewing context, becomes momentarily dis-turbed.
In Lorraine Neeson’s work, dislocating devices and strategies including time loops, repetition and interruptions in transmission, all contribute to an environment of instability and shifting aware-ness, pointing to spaces and realms outside the immediately visible or understood.

Reflect too on the iterative nature of the generations of people who populate your locality. Their histories, their DNA, their lack and their abundance. What riches and beauty surround us and how profligate we are with those gifts.

Sean Rea, The Interview,  HD video, 7mins. 2020.(still from the film)

A spoof version of an original interview conducted in 1973, the objective of the work as a whole is to highlight how context can be perverted to suit a need. With the decline of print media over the past ten years, some outlets will put out any sensationalist headline they can get away with, in order to achieve the ultimate goal: A click. Because of the speed in which we digest information these days, a headline has now become the story and now has the capacity to be influential and corrupt in equal measure.

Julie Lovett, Take me to the countryside, solve all my problems and make my life easier, 2019; HD video, 8.11mins. (Still image from the film)

The work acknowledges that while certain circumstances subjugate artists’ careers, they can al-so generate material that allows them to reject, respond to and interrogate these conditions.
The role of language, narrative and identity become paramount. The video engages with the act of identifying oneself as a ‘professional’ and with real and fictional narratives about frustration, la-bour, craft and performativity that are quotidian in rural and urban environments.
Reoccurring relationships, patterns and themes that predominate in Julie’s practice are the func-tionality of objects and images in different spaces. How and where the work can function inside and outside of the studio space, and the position of the individual both as a participant and a viewer in the development of the narrative .

Which brings us to darker thoughts, to the voicing of speculative anxieties for the future. What lies in store for humanity, as we become nomadic, as the earth that is our substrate is used up and sullied beyond repair. As the authenticity of the human body becomes  questionable, and clear geographic boundaries are blurred by online presence, and as the geopolitical real is obfuscated, by information economics and neo-liberalist power grabs.

Eavan Aiken + Jennifer redmond. 2020. Lumbar Energumen. Interactive multi-media(sound, moving image and text)
Devil in the spine – Aiken and Redmond look at the hapless physicality of the human body and its mal-adaptation to our habitats.They speculate upon another reality, Using theory fiction, and a sound-scape they explore the most pertinent challenges for humanity as we face our own extinction.The spine becomes a guiding thread to the rediscovery of forgotten pathways in modern thought, reconciling the human experience with natural history, and it probes questions around the shared human practices that can never be made fully explicit.

mink at Anam street view. September19,  (Culture Night)2020.

Twice the exhibition at Anam in Killarney was shut down. Denied to the public. We are sheltering from a virus that knows no boundaries, and pathetically we confine ourselves physically, emotionally and intellectually .

In the midst of this seeming calamity, a hand outstretched from a compatible party; aemi.ie helped to propel us onward. With this extended reach our collective voices could grow louder. An echo from the future.


Lisa Fingleton, Between Storms, 2018; HD, colour, sound. 3.35mins..(film still image)

Between the Storms’ is a three minute film which comments on the increasing ferocity of storms and the shortening time between them as climate change becomes more apparent in our weather patterns. It was filmed on the acre around the artist’s studio over the Winter 2017-18.

Even so, the best that we can do is make the works available online. There are no atmospherics in an online context. The work is delivered and consumed in bedrooms, and kitchens, on buses while watching TV, and in the street.

Treasa O’Brien, Measures Extended (Flattening the C-Word) 2020; Spoken Text and HD Video, 3.34mins.

Based on text written and video filmed in March 2020 during lockdown in Limerick.
The artist considers the language that is being invented through the media's mediation of the pandemic. She regurgitates it, gobsmacked, while her toddler simultaneously acquires language.

Short snatches  are consumed on mobile phones, on tablets and laptops. The superficiality of this hurts an artist. These devices are obsidian mirrors that soak up the energy and desires of human subjects and blot out the need to think. The need to consider, to be in the presence of others who are considering at the same time; the sounds, the relation to the media, to other viewers and messages. To the cacophony of viewpoints gathered together in a common space.

Laura Fitzgeral Field Research Ctd. 2018.HD video. 10.04mins.
This collection of short videos is an ongoing series of works, where the artist constructs narratives on daily walks within her local area. An intensely slow version of Google maps, the artist follows different walking paths in order to spontaneously engage with triggered narratives, which may erupt via events such as: cows breaking out onto the road, sheep crossing her path and passing by graveyards
Looking at writers such as Lydia Davis, David Barthelme and Italo Calvino, the artist is deploying the small nothingness that exists between events and actions, to look at the notion of an art practice and the contemporary art world coexisting within the everyday.

The exhibition in its physical manifestation was installed for a week. A crowd of screens, facing the street, petitioning to be watched to be considered, to be consumed. A reversal of the norm. But like an unopened present, these works, from some of the most renowned artists in the country, must flicker silently. Beckoning, inert. Their real potential stymied. Has the  Civid19 virus had its way? Is this to be our lot now? Must we look into the obsidian mirror for stimulation ? To scrye our futures.

Decimus Junius Juvenalis a Roman satirist and poet coined the expression  panem et circenses, in 140BC to describe the sustenance and entertainment provided by government to appease public discontent. The exhibition at Anam was hardly a circus, it contained some serious critical theorizing which conjures a populace that is also politically engaged and not easily or peripherally  appeased. One of the effects of our sheltering from Covid 19 is that we have become increasingly bland, normcore and uncritical.

While the digital experience can democratise the viewing experience it can also licence far-right sentiments and establish values that will impoverish the lot of contemporary artists and theorists, devaluing their contribution in favour of those making objects of commercial worth.

We are at an important juncture here. We need to acknowledge the importance of the digitally mediated artworks in their own right. Acknowledge the rise in the digital aesthetic,  the geopolitical impacts of disseminating artworks online. At the same time we must also understand the impact that these factors are having on our social norms and values.

We need to be fluid in our approach here, to develop a hybridised system that countenances the dissemination of artwork in the physical and digital dimensions. One that absorbs and processes the values to be derived from both.

Our experience in developing mink at Anam  would suggest that the art world is in a state of flux. The values of beauty, of historical import and of the ‘new’ are  important  registers but somewhat outdated. We are living in an information economy, dry fact, and data are our tools now. But our values? These will be the last vestiges of our humanity, our unconscious minds, our imaginations and our ability to empathise with one another. This is what we need from art today, and it doesn’t matter if it comes to us via a physical exhibition, a  mobile phone or laptop, once it comes.

 © Jennifer Redmond 2020.