I recently received an invitation to attend a “pop-up” event called Dublin Biennial POP-UP. Quite a grand title for an event that seemed to be situated on the periphery of the city, in the economic wasteland of an unoccupied super-mall, at the Point Village. The journey on the tram out to this dead end of the city is overlooked by the skeleton of the incomplete Anglo Irish Bank headquarters that stands as a reminder of the vacuous cavity left behind after the greed and avarice of the Celtic tiger tycoons ripped the heart out of this Islands economy. I arrived a bit early and found myself wandering through the majestic space of the desolate super-mall, escalators rising and falling, stairs leading down through several floors into the bowels of the earth. There was not the echo of a single sinner’s shoe other than my own. I peered down below where the stairs disappeared into the darkness. I was all alone pondering the hellish blackness that awaits the troubled soul of a nation that is on the brink of falling into the pits of darkest despair, all on account of this wasteful and over eager development.
I was glad to finally get into the exhibition and cheer myself up with a glass of the South African Swallow’s Tail Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon. A “deep ruby red with blackberry, blackcurrant, sherries and mint aromas. A very big wine, full, rich and ripe.” The exhibition was a cheery affair if a little over crowded. Many of the works that occupied the three vacant shop units were hung in very close proximity to each other and this unfortunately undermined a lot of presence that many of the works may have commanded if given the space to breathe. Some work that stood out from the clutter were paintings by Victoria Kovalenchikova and Connor Walton, and a video performance piece by Erine Zerb. Even though, in this case less could be more, it was still nice to feel the busyness of the exhibition spaces in comparison to the empty echoing hallways beyond the door. The exhibition may have been titled as a “pop-up biennale” but the millstone of over development in which it had found a home will certainly cast a more lasting shadow to which we will have to bear witness and despair.
So with this niggling at the back of my mind dear reader I am sorry to tell you that the warmth of the grape couldn’t quell these morose thoughts for long. The grave contemplative sensation from which I could not escape had been lingering within my heart due to another incident that had happened earlier that very same day. On my way from Ligvine HQ to the Point Village I happened to be passing the Guinness Store house when a young student stopped me in the street to tell me there was an art exhibition in the old Canal Basin School building in the aptly named School Street in Dublin 8. It was the graduate show of the NCAD – Masters of Fine Art & Art In The Digital World. I was dismayed to discover that I had missed the opening night and they had no wine to offer. So, putting a brave face on it, I decided to humour the eager students and have a peak. Apart from the lingering smell of stinky children, something that usually infests every primary school, I was well impressed by my journey through the peculiar warren of rooms that made up this abandoned school.
In particular the projection of the large feet that occupied the stairwell, receiving a vigorous massage by Tanya O’Keefe was very well positioned. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, bearing in mind I was totally sober (a state I never like to be in when contemplating art), I was drawn to look again at the video piece by Janine Davidson. I was also destabilised by Elaine Leaders built environment. But over all, my thoughts couldn’t help but return to the building itself. The decay and disintegration of the building lent itself to a palpable sense of fear and an awareness of rotting, malodorous time. I could imagine the location to be the setting for some grizzly horror movie. The old school house had, to my mind, a profound effect on the work. The atmosphere generated by the spaces within this dead and foul smelling monolith of decay and the installation of the art works re-emphasised something of the contrast between the fleeting vibrant liveliness of the art work and the place they found themselves for a short time to be living in.
It struck me as a strange coincidence that, while setting out upon a new adventure in search of some free wine, I found myself in this abandoned school in the inner city that had been left to fall prey to slow entropic disintegration. It was a space that in many ways was the very opposite of the brand spanking new, but empty, super-mall at the Point Village. These two opposites of architectural time and socio-economic location embodied something of the same malingering essence. One building a zombie like ghost that had come to the end of its life, and the other a zombie like ghost that had yet to begin to live. In both of these architectural opposites, art was trying to find a way of reinventing these spaces and transforming them into places for new and alternative experiences. However, in both cases, the architecture itself exuded a presence that seemed to overwhelm any attempts at transformation. The spectre of the structures themselves seemed greater and more imposing than the fleeting presences that now moved within them. Unfortunately reader, after all that, I was left in a depressing state of abject sobriety….the horror….the horror….
The Dublin Biennial POP-UP will run from June 15th – 24th at Unit 4, Point Village, Dublin. Hours: 12-8pm
The NCAD – Masters of Fine Art & Art In The Digital World runs until June 17th in the IMOCA Steambox, School Street, Dublin 8.