Bodies of Water review: Sly meditation on life, art and what’s left behind

Dublin Fringe Festival: The former assistant and lover of a video artist tries to make sense of a life and career

Bodies of Water: the life of artist Ira Dean is explored through the flotsam and jetsam of a career. Photograph: Alex Gill

Bodies of Water: the life of artist Ira Dean is explored through the flotsam and jetsam of a career. Photograph: Alex Gill

 

BODIES OF WATER

The Chocolate Factory, Dublin
★★★☆☆
The artist is not present in this thorough retrospective of the work of Ira Dean, who disappeared at sea 10 years ago, leaving behind a modest body of work and no body.

What remains, in this elaborate presentation from Eoghan Carrick, Maeve Stone, Jonah King and Úna Kavanagh, are the flotsam and jetsam of a career: a short series of multi-screen video pieces, some glass sculptures, sketchbooks, and Jan Kavanagh (Kavanagh). This nervous curator is the artist’s one-time assistant and lover, or as she evocatively puts it, “her shadow”.

Dean’s work makes a greater impression (the exhibition is real, though the artist is not), where a fixation with death, water and plastic, and her body as a site of practice, is at the intersection of feminism, climate change and visual-arts jargon.

But her relationship with Jan is more fascinating, revealed in incautious ad-libs, non-curated glimpses and Jan as a site of infatuation, betrayal and abandonment. Like the North Atlantic garbage patch, Dean’s last known whereabouts, her enduring plastic bottles, or the guilty evidence of art, it’s a sly meditation on all we leave behind.

Runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival until Thursday, September 12th