The Narrow Gate of the Here-and-Now traces urgent themes across a 30-year period as they impact the personal, the political and the planetary, and prompts thinking about the effects of globalisation today in the Irish context as we respond to global crises from COVID-19 to Climate Change and the Black Lives Matter movement. The exhibition explores ideas of bodily autonomy, conflict and protest, the Anthropocene era, and digital technologies, through the rich holdings of the IMMA Collection and Archive which represent a diverse history of artistic responses to these themes.
The second chapter, The Anthropocene, considers the present geological era in which human activity has become visible as a dominant and destructive influence on the Earth’s systems. Expanding on the media’s focus on rising sea levels, heat waves and species extinction, it points to the multiple temporalities of the Anthropocene. While on the one hand focused on the rapid acceleration of our lives in the last three decades, chapter two also explores deep histories and speculative futures at a moment of reckoning with climate change.
The exhibition begins by looking at the colonial origins of the Museum and how its legacies continue to shape understandings of the world around us – from the classification of mineral, plant and animal life to the upholding of differences between humans. Facsimile prints of Albrecht Dürer’s meticulous botanical paintings from the 16th century hang next to more recent works by Breda Lynch and Nevan Lahart, exposing different lifetimes within the Museum collection.
The works in this chapter all deal with time in different ways. Some, including by Karrabing Collective, Frank Sweeney and Edy Fung, point to specific moments in history – from World War II to the Y2K Millennium Bug and the 2003 SARS outbreak. Others explore deep time, with Dennis McNulty’s sonic installation, which references a 1930 sci-fi novel, plotting a timeline spanning billions of years from ‘Earth Formed’ to ‘Second Solar Catastrophe’. While prints by Katie Paterson and, Leanne McDonagh propel fictions tied to the natural world into futures as yet unknown.
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Thomas Bewick, Karl Blossfeldt, Christo, Jack Coughlin, Dorothy Cross, Oein DeBhairduin, Giorgio de Chirico, John Doherty, Michelle Doyle, Albrecht Dürer, Jimmie Durham, Harold Edgerton, Hamish Fulton, Edy Fung, David Godbold, Colin Harrison, Camille Henrot, Damien Hirst, William Hogarth, Nevill Johnson, Mark Joyce, Karrabing Collective, John Kindness, Brian King, Stefan Kürten, Nevan Lahart, Les Levine, Breda Lynch, Alice Maher, Tim Mara, Leanne McDonagh, Dennis McNulty, Gary Merrin, Rivane Neuenschwander, Cóilín O’Connell, Anthony O’Connor, Aoife O’Toole, The Otolith Group, Katie Paterson, Collette Portal, Paulus Potter, Elizabeth Povinelli, Adrian Pujol, Pablo Runyan, Noel Sheridan, Frank Sweeney, United Press International, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Elinor Wiltshire.
Ongoing debates over the start date of the Anthropocene reveal the politics of time that underpin it. Proposed origins include the 15th-16th centuries – marking the period of European colonisation of the Americas, the establishment of the transatlantic slave trade, genocides of indigenous peoples and mass transfer of plants, animals, peoples, diseases and ideas across continents. Other dates include the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century and the mid-20th century nuclear bomb detonations, in particular the Trinity atomic device detonated in New Mexico on 16 July, 1945. These varied timelines, and the power structures they make visible, trouble the generic ‘Anthropo’ (human) of the Anthropocene – which suggests that all humans are equally responsible for climate change.
The Narrow Gate of the Here-and-Now is presented in four chapters, each one explores the past three decades through different thematic approaches – Chapter One: Queer Embodiment; Chapter Two: The Anthropocene; Chapter Three: Social Fabric, and Chapter Four: Protest and Conflict. This is the first time that the Museum has been given over entirely to showing the IMMA Collection and showcases a selection of recently acquired artworks to the Collection through a fund from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. Alongside this, several key loans augment the artworks in the Collection and Archive. The exhibition is designed by the collaborative architecture and design practice led by Jo Anne Butler and Tara Kennedy.
The exhibition positions IMMA’s inception in 1991 as part of a crucial moment in the history of globalisation, within the European context. Around this time, several museums of contemporary art in countries such as Poland and Lithuania were redefining their cultural identities in the context of a post-Communist Europe. These and wider shifts towards globalisation, with the dawn of the internet and rise of neoliberal politics in the West, provide the context for thinking about IMMA’s role in relation to the global contemporary.
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