Saturday, May 7, 2011

First Thursday: A Short Gallery Crawl

While my colleagues were off at the Abbey getting blown away by Pygmalion, I decided to take the opportunity to investigate this month's First Thursday, as mentioned by Dave earlier on in the week. (One of the perks of writing for this blog is that you get to hear about all the cool stuff in the city that you wouldn't otherwise hear about.) In the early evening, I ventured into Temple Bar, which is already beginning to swell with this season's tourists. Consequently I was rather glad to escape the masses to the three outposts of art I visited.

My first destination was Offline exhibition at Temple Bar Gallery & Studios right on Temple Bar Square. The information on the website about the exhibition's themes concerning documentation and experience of reality via online platforms had made me very interested. Unfortunately I came out feeling somewhat unsatisfied. The exhibition certainly wanted to make a point about the ubiquitousness of the internet and about its role in the consumeristic society, but I felt that there was a danger of the installations themselves veering towards the same superficiality that they perhaps desired to highlight. The constraints of the layout and space also meant that two installations, one by Eilis McDonald and the other by her and Parker Ito, in my opinion were too close to each other to the point where it was difficult to appreciate them individually. Of course, also on the internet, memes and trends flow from one forum or webpage to another so that it can be difficult to see where one begins and another one begins. Having said all that, I was quite impressed by Alexandra Domanovic's sculptural work made of printed paper to mark the recent abolition of the .yu domain.

The Gallery of Photography on Meeting House Square was my second port of call. Their current exhibition is called Prime Years and it's presented as part of the annual Bealtaine festival, which celebrates creativity in older age. I find that as I myself get older, I am becoming much more interested in the portrayal and experiences of older people. In my early twenties, you probably couldn't have dragged me to see 'pictures of old people' by force. This exhibition touched and delighted me in equal measure. My favourites were selections from Mark Story's series 'Living in Three Centuries: The Face of Age 1987-2005' and ones from Edmund Clarke's series 'The Centenarians 2005'. The first example presented stunning portraits of people over 110 years of age, known as 'supercentenarians'. The marks of incredible age in the faces of these people made me think of ancient trees. Next to them, Clarke's portraits of 'ordinary' centenarians were those of youngsters! In these, I got impressions of a great deal of amusement and wisdom that comes from age, and from observing the unnecessary worries of those who are much younger.

Finally, I visited this blog's old favourite, Project Arts Centre, which has plenty of going on at the moment, including International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival and a showcase of Europe's New Jazz. However, the purpose of my visit was the opening of Sarah Browne's new film installation Second Burial at Le Blanc. The film, which depicts a funeral procession pass from the new part of the French town of Le Blanc to the older part, bearing, instead of a coffin, a 'ticker-tape countdown clock', provides commentary to the current economic situation in Europe. Le Blanc has continued to accept francs and will do until February 2012. The short film (10 minutes) is accompanied by free copies of a contextualising visual essay in form of a newspaper, also put together by Browne, and called On Hoarding, Accumulating and Gifting. The ticker-tape countdown clock featured in the film is present in the exhibition space. It counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the last francs to be exchanged, while receiving live currency feed via wireless internet and displaying the Euro/franc exchange rate alongside its countdown. I found the exhibition very thought-provoking and clever in its combination of old and new technology. It forces the viewer to consider the repercussions of transitional periods both in terms of time and in economic respects - something that is a very present issue in today's Ireland.

Temple Bar alone hosts a number of small artistic places that most people likely don't even notice on the way by. First Thursdays are excellent times to slow down, take a look around, and pop in to somewhere you might never otherwise visit to see something that may stay in your mind for a good while.

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