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Curators Voice:: Mobile Encounters: Documenting the Early Years of Performance Art in Ireland

Mon Dec 8th, 2014

Alastair MacLennan, Lie To Lay (1986) Performance at Roseberry Crescent, Newcastle upon Tyne. Alastair MacLennan Archive, Locus + archive, Newcastle. © Alastair MacLennan
Alastair MacLennan, Lie To Lay (1986) Performance at Roseberry Crescent, Newcastle upon Tyne. Alastair MacLennan Archive, Locus + archive, Newcastle. © Alastair MacLennan

Mobile Encounters opened on Friday 12th December at 6.00pm with a live performance by artist Dominic Thorpe, somebody else’s mouth (2014). The exhbition marks the beginnings of a fruitful collaboration between IMMA and the National Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL).  Séamus McCormack, Project Co-ordinator: Exhibitions, IMMA, tells us a little more about the project.

IMMA’s new Project Spaces present a variety of exhibitions, interventions, events and discussions that reflect contemporary art practice and consider how a museum engages with its Collection, artists, curators and visitors. One of the aims of the Project Spaces curatorial panel was to reflect what was happening in IMMA’s overall programme. This project entitled Mobile Encounters occurs at a time when IMMA is working with numerous artists who engage with the medium of Performance or Live Art through its temporary exhibitions, collection, residency and education programmes. Since its formation, IMMA has a rich history of presenting and engaging with the medium and in recent years includes projects with artists Naomi Sex; Bedwyr Williams; Kevin Atherton; Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster; Tino Seghal and Amanda Coogan amongst others.
The comparative, contradictive and elusive nature of the term ‘Performance Art’ grapples with varied contexts. For a brief overview of this medium, IMMA’s Education & Community Department have developed a resource which can be viewed here. The ephemeral nature of Performance Art presents challenges to institutions and artists alike regarding its conservation, archiving and re-presentation. For this project IMMA have collaborated with the NIVAL to present material from their expansive collection. NIVAL is a public research resource that holds the world’s largest collection of documentary information on Irish 20th and 21st century art. The project has been curated by Jennifer Fitzgibbon of NIVAL, who has brought a unique and rich understanding of the early history of the medium in Ireland.
Nigel Rolfe, Invitation to The Rope That Binds Us Makes Them Free/Dance Slap for Africa at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin. Collection National Irish Visual Arts Library, Nigel Rolfe Artist File.
Nigel Rolfe, Invitation to The Rope That Binds Us Makes Them Free/Dance Slap for Africa at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin. Collection National Irish Visual Arts Library, Nigel Rolfe Artist File.

Mobile Encounters aims to pose questions around authorship, ephemerality and the ‘live’ and experiential context of the medium. Also, to create a dialogue regarding the conception, creation, representation, reception, recording and archival of the resulting artworks. The proliferation of Irish based Performance Art in the 1970s resulted in the emergence of new forms and categories of the art-form, one which is always comparative, contradictive and elusive.
Work Made Live festival invitation (1981) Collection National Irish Visual Arts Library, Performance Art Subject File.
Work Made Live festival invitation (1981) Collection National Irish Visual Arts Library, Performance Art Subject File.

The exhibition also features material from the IMMA archive along with artifacts from the Museum’s collection. This project is anchored by the presence of an iconic piece of Irish performance art ephemera from Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland’s Name Change performance. The resultant documentation and the tri-colour painted coat that he adorned during the 1972 performance is now part of the national collection at IMMA.  Interestingly enough in May 2008, IMMA was chosen as the final resting place of Patrick Ireland, whose effigy was buried on the grounds of the Museum, thus bookending this important action. As part of the project we were interested in connecting with contemporary Irish performance artists, so we invited Dominic Thorpe to create a new work somebody else’s mouth (2014), which will be performed on the opening evening.  A material trace of this performance will remain in the exhibition for its duration.  Thorpe often works with materials that can resonate with the viewer, perhaps triggering memories or connections and is open to the possibilities the materials or movements suggest.
Dominic Thorpe, Galway Arts Centre 2012, as part of the show 'Subject to Ongoing Change' Image taken by Joseph Carr.
Artist Dominic Thorpe performing as part of Subject to Ongoing Change Galway Arts Centre 2012. Photograph by Joseph Carr. Courtesy the artist.

We hope that the project will become part of the ongoing research around the medium, and invite you to join us on Friday 12th December at 6.00pm to celebrate the beginnings of a fruitful collaboration between IMMA and NIVAL.

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