Artists go back to school

 

Art as a play is based on questions which might be echoed time and again during this Capital of Culture year, with exhibitions, installations and performance art veering from the provocative to the familiar, from the exciting to the baffling. Viewers of Superbia 2, which takes over St Columba's Boys' National School in Douglas until August 20th, will be both irritated and enchanted by the items presented by 14 Irish and international artists, engaged with the theme of remembered schooldays.

With a few exceptions, that theme is abandoned, although it might be read as a base for the enclosed Monkey Palace, in which Kevin Kelly indulges his passion for primates - schoolboys will love this. St Columba's is a bright and cheerful school which lends itself to many of the optimistic presentations: Isabel Nolan's anarchic arrangement of senior-infant size chairs is one of these. David Kavanagh's construction of a pattern of minuscule matchstick palisades along the classroom floor (ending in a Tower of Babel which pierces the ceiling) is both fascinating and troubling.

Curators Stephen Brandes and Darragh Hogan have gathered as eclectic a bunch of practitioners as anyone could wish, especially as they are described as having "consciously regressed".

But there are dangers in this kind of site-specific placement. Few could rival the loveliness of Linda Quinlan's minutely detailed glass and plastic narratives, but when Antonio Scarponi invites the pupils to draw their own versions of GoodBad School (bad equals the toilets and the principal's office) he suffers by comparison with the children's resplendent collages.

For the spectator, the risks are part of the fun. Who can penetrate the mystery of the empty parrot-swing and the plastic rubbish bins filled with concrete? Or the needle-thin drawings on the bananas laid out on rows of desks? Or the brick, log and stuffed badger here and there throughout the halls, on suspended leashes? It's all about perceptions: art, like life, is what you make it.