For one day only, the world of music festivals dips in importance, and the art festival enjoys its spot in the sunlight. Or rain, as luck will probably have it. Either way, that day is the day of Gracelands: an annual event curated by Vaari Claffey, and showcasing an enigmatic roster of performance, video and installation art. Up until now, it has been housed in the grounds of Grace Weir’s gaff (and you thought the name was just a Paul Simon reference), but for 2012 it will be teaming up with Eva International to relocate to Limerick’s architecturally impressive Milk Market on Thursday 2nd August.
The idea of Gracelands is not just to showcase some of the goods of the Irish and international art world – and there are some goods, with the likes of Sam Keogh and Ms Weir herself contributing to the line-up – but to challenge the way we consume art. To show that contemporary art does not just exist in the domain of the white cube, and can be enjoyed in a similar fashion to how music-fans would beat down to the Body & Soul. “You don’t stand outside a cinema thinking ‘I don’t know enough about film to go in here’, do you?”, asks curator Vaari. She’s quite right.
This year, Vaari has given Gracelands a theme of ‘Circling the Square’. The square she references is not just a geometrically perfect shape, but the city square, and its importance as a site of protest. She explores how the ascendant and potent energy of revolution can sizzle within the confines of a square space – sparking off allusions (for me) to the circles cast by pagan priestess. And in the circled square of the Milk Market, similar levels of spine-tingling tension are set to be raised. Here’s the ten things we’re looking forward to the most!
1. Grace Weir taking on Galileo
When the father of modern science published in Italian a dialogue proving that the earth revolves around the sun, and not vice versa, it wasn’t met to a warm reception. Instead, it landed him in house arrest for the eight years that remained of his life. But Galileo’s long-forbidden ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’ is not only a landmark in the history of science – it still has a dramatic panache of its own. Grace Weir, armed with a few actors, will be bringing to life passages of the text, and responding to it in a novel way in this performative artwork.
2. Jumping from a burning building with Barbara Knezevic
Well, not actually jumping, but perhaps figuratively. ‘catching instrument’ is a circular device that conjures up memories of those 1960s fireman’s nets designed to catch evacuees from the windows of buildings set ablaze. Knezevic will be utilising it in a performance work that will hopefully induce the gut-wrenching reaction of a downwards-flying flame-fleer.
3. Walker and Walker’s Situationist bunting
Graffiti is transient, but when it says something thats message surpasses the medium, it lives on forever. Such is the case with Guy Debord’s scrawling of ‘NE TRAVAILLEZ JAMAIS’ (that is ‘NEVER WORK’) on the walls of the Rue de Seine. Walker and Walker seize upon these timeless words and apply them to bunting that will hang festively in the Milk Market – transforming their meaning with this altered new context, and casting a new light on the Situationist genius’s message.
4. Having a coke with Vaari Claffey and Oisin Byrne
A makeshift auditorium will be taped onto the ground of Gracelands by Oisin Byrne – this area then becoming a special space for performance to unravel, not least Byrne’s collaborative work with Vaari Claffey, ‘Having a Coke With You’. A mash up of Frank O’Hara poetry, Azealia Banks lyrics and the battle-cries of Chinese dissidents, ‘Having a Coke…’ is a loaded flurry of cultural references that we reckon will have a dizzying effect.
5. Sitting before Isabel Nolan’s rug
Inspired by the rug-making practices of German outsider artist Marie Lieb, Isabel Nolan will be kitting out a part of the Milk Market’s floor with a custom-made carpet and platform on which she’ll be holding a reading. Conjuring up ideas of domesticity and homeliness, as well as tradition and custom, once again the magical site of the Milk Market will transformed into parallel micro-universe through her installation work.
6. Litter-picking with Sam Keogh
You know the way at festivals sometimes you get a few cents for every paper cup you return to the bar? Well Gracelands has an even better solution to its debris. Without wanting to give too much away, Sam Keogh (whose mighty mountain you might have seen at Project Arts Centre) will be taking quite a different approach to housekeeping. It might not give you the opportunity to litter-pick your way to one more pint, but it might blow your mind.
7. Getting a hello and goodbye from Rhona Byrne
Blurring the lines between sculpture and performance, Rhona Byrne’s ‘Threshold’ will envelope incoming and outgoing visitors to Gracelands as they pass in and out of The Milk Market. The practice somewhat strengthens the idea of the Gracelands site as a self-contained ritual ground, or a transformative experience – like Peter by the gates of heaven, Rhona’s performers act as guardians leading the way into the realm of the unknown (and back out again).
8. Gerard Byrne, and the Circling the Square Museum
Directly above the site will be a ‘Circling the Square Museum’, packed with real things, replicas and reproductions on display for your perusal. The highlight of these is Gerard Byrne’s ’68 Mica and Glass (A Demonstration on Camera by Workers from the State Museum). A motion-sensor triggered film work with no beginning or end point, ’68 Mica and Glass depicts a Robert Smithson sculpture undergoing conservation work in a Copenhagen museum – raising questions about the role of the museum and the way we consume art in a head-meltingly meta way.
9. Aoibheann Greenan and David Fagan’s emergency supplies
You’ve watched friendly little planes skyrocket up and drop bundles of emergency aid off into forbidden territories in numerous war films, no doubt. Now you can watch a parodying of this act by Aoibheann Greenan and David Fagan, who’ll be launching a three-part sculpture skywards (with a little help from their good friend helium). Each part of the sculpture represents an aspect of the Japanese Kamikaze air squadron’s crest.
10. Paper Visual Art paper
No art event is complete without a publication, so we’re excited to get our hands on online magazine Paper Visual Art’s specially-produced paper-edition. Better than those €20 festival programmes, I bet.