Galway gets interactive
Galway is in full festival flow at the moment (and you can hear Peter Crawley’s initial impressions in today’s Irish Times Podcast), and the visual-arts programme in particular could tempt a lot of people to the City of the Tribes before July 24th.
Leading the pack is the formidable Hughie O’Donoghue, and his show The Road. There are few Irish artists of the stature of O’Donoghue, so any new work is a reason to get excited. Among the works on display will be Painting Caserta Red , Tomb of the Diver, and the new work, Road. You can read a recent interview by O’Donoghue with Aidan Dunne here.
There are two main elements about the GAF arts selection that are particularly interesting: much of the work is placing itself in a modern Irish context; and much if it is interactive. It has long been a charge in the Irish arts world that much of our artistic output relies too heavily on history and does not deal with the here and now, be it in art, theatre or music, so it’s good to see a festival putting an emphasis on contemporary approaches to current issues.
The latter element is crucial – arts festivals bring big crowds into towns, and generally create fantastic atmosphere, keeping, pubs, restuarants and hotels packed to the roofs. But there is a feeling that the general public’s exposure to arts at these events can often be limited, with the vast majority of people not going beyond free street events and gigs in bars to get to grips with the cultural opportunities on their doorstep.
Art that people can actually get involved with is perfectly suited to a festival context, and Paul Maye’s work should set turn some heads. His show, Absolut Identity, explores and challenges concepts of identity, likeness, individuality and image ownership and raises issues of gender and generational ambiguity (bear with us).
The show has two elements. The first is an exhibition of entirely manufactured portraits, which are composites of existing images. The second is a temporary studio, where the public can sit for a digital portrait that they can take away with them. The artist hangs on to a copy and then uses it to create more, fictionalised images.
It’s a simple, intriguing idea, and Maye has had more than one phonecall from people wondering why their image is up in the gallery – these images being from the manufactured pool of picture. (I know how they feel. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen an aftershave advert and thought, I didn’t give permission for my picture to be used in that.)
The Cause Collective has its own interactive installation, in The Truth Booth – a giant inflatable video booth that asks people: “What is the truth?” The answers will be collated and travel the world with the show – Keats fans will have to come up with something more original than their usual line.
Meanwhile, in the 126 Gallery, nine artists are taking turns to work on a piece each day, using, abusing or simply binning what their predecessors have come up with. Expect bitchy, arty strops of the highest degree. Well, at least that’s what we expect.
For more information of all things Galwegian and arty, click here with the pointy arrow thing.