DC11: 50% Beauty  – 50% Chaos {2011}

Dublin Contemporary 2011, Terrible Beauty: Art, Crisis, Change and the Office of Non-Compliance.

The façades of Dublin Contemporary can be witnessed through  Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s work ‘Horror Vaui’: we get a clear picture; a gold framed painting that is half smothered in concrete. The bulk of D.C.11 was quite similar; some nicely arranged works overridden by a loaded building where if the walls could talk they would have deafened the visitors with the whispers shrouded around the chaos that was the five years proceeding to D.C opening its doors in September.

The exhibition that has held its own crisis and change is really made up of 50% beauty – 50% chaos:

The Chaos:

The main location Earlsfort Terrace, chosen by the curational team Christian Viveros-Fauné and Jota Castro,  overpowered much of the work which could have been resolved by incorporating the art with the building or creating a more atmospheric feeling. Works were often found ‘thrown’ into the centre of a room, while others hidden in dislocated rooms. Lack of time and imaginative organisational skills is evident here and yet I wonder what the ‘average Joe’ would think; perhaps they were in awe of the historic building, (often going hours before they come across any invigilator), witnessing what they believe is new work (which much of it is not), making sure they are getting bang for their buck, (an action Irish people may just need to get used to if we wish to see such an event take place again) and leaving with a contemporary art discourse. Earlsfort Terrace is clearly the beast to its own ‘Terrible Beauty’, with a strong smell of what seems to be ‘formaldehyde?’, a lack of a clear route, leaving some works clearly lost within this maze. The instant feeling of breath you got from the branched galleries is something that was clearly missing in Earlsfort.

Dublin Contemporary has seen various financial problems, with issues of unsuccessful pre launches, claims of overpriced tickets (which may have led to recent drop in price with the offer for two for one) and of course its overall sum of 2.5 million. If you relate this to Culture Ireland’s ‘Imagine Ireland’ campaign with a budget of €4 million, which sees 400 events representing over 1000 Irish Artists and involving dozens of US partners in 2011. The results will speak for themselves with an obvious international influx of international tourism, cultural and political relations, we can only hope Dublin Contemporary can pull in a slight percentage of the same.Unfortunately for the originators, Dublin Contemporary seems to be constantly fighting its own demons and regrettably the new team did not seem to be fighting their war cohesively; with an obvious lack of press coverage, an oversight of putting location before work, an out-dated and rarely updated website, the obvious use dated and in-vogue war related works and receiving criticisms such as Chris Clarke in Octobers Art Monthly ‘endless variations of work that lightly critiques consumerism’, it cannot be helped to feel DC with its own repetition of forms of work may lose in its final battle against the ‘machine’.

The Beauty:

DC however did slightly win over the Irish education system; with its various programmes, talks and workshops it had up and running and while walking around Earlsfort you cannot walk in the doors without being trampled upon a group of uniformed school art lovers.Works like Richard Moose’s ‘General Fevrier- Infra Series’ and Brian Duggan’s ‘This Short Term Evacuation’ propel DC into a brighter light, which are clear standout pieces that instantly resonate talent, thought and theory from the artists. Moose’s work with a filtered lens directs the viewer straight into the Congo’s harsh military life, while Duggan’s representation of a Ferris wheel in Pripryat is a stark reminder to the power a nuclear crisis can hold on a nation.

Interactive Art was noticeably missing from the exhibition, with a few exceptions including Clear & Connolly’s ‘Studio 1 Plus / Minus’ and Ciara Scanlan’s ‘Hungry Again’, there is a distinct gap in the whole event by the curators lack of representation of these ambitious relational and interactive works.The Bruce High Quality Foundation’s – ‘The Stage Galres Back (The Art History With… Series)’ is the only piece I found to both satisfy and compliment Earlsfort Terrace’s unique aesthetic. Their bold use of oraganised chaos, resembling what once was a seminar room, challenges the audience directly with the likes of the downfall of Irish consumerism and the construction industry.

Any negativity should and hopefully be quenched when the final attendance numbers are released. As the art in Dublin Contemporary was for the public and not the artists, nor the curators or critics, it is about creating an interest and accessibility event for everyone and I think the way the human brain works (our forgetful minds), we will look back on DC and be grateful to a team that managed to pull it off in one shape or another and highlight the need for this recurring event in the Ireland of today and tomorrow.

Carola Mücke- ‘Physical Cosmology’, a fantastic piece with its expressive hick up sound symbolizes the air around Dublin contemporary…. but soon, the dust will have settled, curators will have moved on, artists will be creating, all the mayhem, challenges and downfalls that Dublin Contemporary has seen will be forgotten, and hopefully there will be a new team in place, an Irish team, realizing a new future and niftier quinquennial international exhibition that will be Dublin Contemporary 2016.

Published by Matthew Nevin October 2011

Matthew Nevin is a full time student of ACW at NCAD. He is an active artist, and curator of the Irish Visual Arts Organization MART.