Stage is set for airing of the green
Perhaps the toughest commission is the work for the atrium. It is absolutely massive, and a whole catalogue of restrictions applies to mounting an exhibition there. An open call for ideas resulted in Andrew Kearney’s Skylum being commissioned. A 15-metre inflated zeppelin-lookalike, Skylum pulsates with light picked up from motion sensors at ground level, and comes with a changing soundscape. It’s a cheap, but irresistible, shot to point out that the metaphor of a ball of hot air in a committee-designed building dealing with European Union administration feels a little too apt.
Mediating a programme that meets audience expectations of what Irish culture is, while also developing a sense of contemporary developments, is a balancing act. It gets off to a strong start with a concert by the Gloaming on Tuesday in Brussels. The Gloaming rescue trad from the latter day excesses of Riverdance, and are hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raisingly brilliant. Similarly, Rian from Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, with music arranged by Liam Ó Maonlaí, together with dancers from around the world, travels to venues in France and Austria (January-April), proving that when trad fuses with contemporary, something very exciting emerges.
Those working with Irish artists abroad know you can only go so far by insisting on “Irishness” as a draw. Despite the diaspora, there’s a limited audience for that agenda – the rest come because they want to see good art. From March until the close of the EU presidency, supported by Culture Ireland, Josephine Kelleher is opening a branch of her Rubicon Gallery in Brussels.
The contemporary art market is pretty flat in this country at the moment, but Brussels is still the home of many active collectors, so bringing Irish artists to her new site in the Ixelles gallery area of the city makes sense. As Kelleher points out, “London, Paris, Cologne and Amsterdam are all less than two hours’ travelling distance from Brussels, with high speed train connections, so it can be a more meaningful way of engaging with an international audience than periodic pop ups at art fairs”.
Online, the Poetry Project (which I am involved in, along with Gerard Smyth, poetry editor of The Irish Times) pairs the work of contemporary Irish poets with videos by Irish artists, and is free to subscribe to at thepoetryproject.ie.
A new poem and video combination is emailed to your inbox every Monday for the duration of the presidency. The idea came from a chance meeting in France, in which a Frenchman, a Dutchman, a German and I (it sounds like the start of one of those jokes) were discussing how to make more people realise how brilliant art and poetry can be; the EU presidency became the ideal time to make it happen.