Albano Afonso, Antistrot, Anna Boyle, Rhona Byrne, Mark Cullen, Brian Duggan, John Dummet, Brendan Earley, Andreas Gefeller, Niamh McCann, Alex McCullagh, Nina McGowan, Nathaniel Mellors, Clive Murphy, Adriette Myburgh, Cris Neumann, Paul O’Neill, Garrett Phelan, Abigail Reynolds, Mark Titchner, Rich Streitmatter-Tran
When asked by Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane to programme the main galleries for the summer, we wanted to take stock of the various artists we have worked with in the past and others that we hoped to work with in the future. We have a commitment to raising the bar of expectation for cultural activity in Dublin and we support the rise of Irish artists. This is balanced by showing international works throughout the programme.
Our exhibition programme Pallas Heights – located in a housing block in a state of disintegration, and slowly being vacated of its resident families – gives artists a chance to work outside standard gallery conventions in a space that has particular relevance to the growth of a changing city. A space that is outside and offside. It exists in a limbo between decay and renewal.
Into this context artists apply their time and creativity, making comment through their art on issues whether oblique or immediately pertinent to the site. The policy of Pallas Heights is to give artists the space and time to intervene in the site in the manner that is most suitable to their practice. In certain cases this involves extended periods of time working in situ prior to the exhibitions, in other cases artists bring their work to the site. No common thread of artistic practice is sought in choosing artists to respond to flats 29 and 30 of Sean Tracey House, as a consequence each show is a unique interpretation of possibility for the site. What emerges though, through the programme are projects that re-imagine the site as zone of contention, allowing its histories, its extended contexts, and its inevitable future demise to become relevant to the concerns of the exhibiting artists.
For Offside we were conscious of the opportunity a museum show represents, so we wanted to show many works by a sizeable group of artists. We didn’t want to confine the works to the gallery nor did we want to just show gallery art. Four projects were sited outside the gallery: Rhona Byrne’s poster attached to the gable end of a building adjacent to the facade of the gallery; John Dummet used the concourse outside the museum; Garrett Phelan worked within the confines of the Civic Offices, and Niamh McCann’s work was sited in an empty shop unit in the new financial district. We wanted to extend the possibilities of the museum to consider its role as a prime space in the city where cultural activity can take place, while challenging the traditional timeframe of museum opening times that offer limited potential to that expression. In this regard two Offside LIVE events were co-programmed with performance artist Fergus Byrne, where wider artistic fields of music and performance could mingle and be expressed in the confines of the museum. These events made use of the space as a venue late into the night.
“I Could’ve Been a Contender”, Temporary Exhibitions at the Hugh Lane Gallery
Dave Beech, The Internationaler, Pilot Issue, Oct 2005, pp.11-12
Another artist-curator duo, Mark Cullen and Brian Duggan, who set up Pallas Studios and run the gallery-in-a-housing-estate Pallas Heights, curated Offside in Hugh Lane immediately after Clarke and McDevitt Present. This is a far more extensive exhibition, incorporating several off-site projects, an evening of sound-based events, Offside Live, curated by Fergus Byrne, and the works of over twenty artists. Taken as a whole Offside is an anarchic festival of unofficial hopes. If this give the exhibition an unwieldy but heady openness, individually the works are as good as any you are likely to see. Paul O’Neill’s list of commercial names for ecstasy, in alphabetical order in vinyl text on black walls, is riveting. The strict classical interior, with its sublimation – rather than abolition – of sensuousness and the body, is somehow apt both to the pseudo-scientific act of recording and organizing these names and to the unfettered bliss that they promise. There is a different kind of promise in Mark Cullen’s temporary reservoirs. He has filled dozens of clear plastic bags with water and distributed them around the gallery. They are futile attempts to overcome a global crisis: they speak eloquently of the well-intentioned but powerless individual. Making more of a splash, however, is Nina McGowan’s massive metal and cardboard reconstructions of Star Wars fighter craft. Movie-lovers couldn’t fail to be impressed. Art-lovers too.
The highlight of Offside wasn’t officially in Offside at all and wasn’t at Hugh Lane but timed to coincide with it. Over at Pallas Heights, in a rundown residential section of the city, Jesse Jones projected a video of an event that she had set up on the courtyard at the foot of the flats. Three young musicians casually but perfectly play the moody, urban soundtrack to On the Waterfront. The estate, like the Marlon Brandon character in the movie, is semi-derelict and about to be bulldozed. And the energetic, melancholy music is a kind of funeral march for this particular piece of failed town planning. Jones politicizes the locale, invoking frustrated aspiration and stolen potential, with a gesture that is as emotionally charged as it is conceptually, culturally astute. By overlaying the instrumental element of a film about the Docker’s Trade Union struggle in America, Jones potentially raises the possibility of the struggle continuing here and now. Terry Eagleton has said that our intellectual interest in pleasure needs to be redirected so that it addresses the problem of how to make more lives more pleasant. Similarly, if art still has anything to do with beauty, then Jones’ work, Pallas Studios generally, as well as the whole temporary exhibition programme at Hugh Lane, is beautiful insofar as it gives us a glimpse of the most beautiful thing in the world: people acting collectively to improve unpromising conditions.