Alice Maher's Cassandra's Necklace (2): Picture: Miriam O'Connor
I’VE been writing about EVA in stages, taking each venue as its own distinct chunk. What’s becoming apparent to me – slowly – is that perhaps each building has its own distinct personality.
Cleeve’s, the former condensed milk factory, is a strongly industrial building – it’s a full on cement, rusted metal, and creaking monument to an industrial economy mostly forgotten. Situating artworks within a dis-used building is nothing new, as some of the biggest art galleries in the world are former factories, power stations and military bases. Here, there has been little attempt (thankfully) to mask the imperfections of Cleeve’s. From the crumbling walls, hole ridden floor and remnants still present from its past life, this building has buckets of character.
How does each artwork respond to their surroundings? I came expecting to enjoy the relationship between the artworks and the building, to see how the artists responded to, with, and in and around Cleeve’s industrial aesthetic. Well, when looking back over my favourites it becomes clear – that at least for me – the strongest artworks were those that brought their own concerns to the table, with enough attitude to be heard despite the surroundings. Some of the strongest examples were Alice Maher, and the artists group Public Studio – with other notable standouts, such as Dorothy Hunter, Eric Baudelaire, and Larry Achiampong and David Blandy.
If having a certain a biting attitude is what you’re looking for, then Alice Maher’s double screen video projection, titled Cassandra’s Necklace (2), out does and redefines any expectations – the video is intoxicating, at times terrifying and always impressive. There’s little let-up during this incredibly dense 10 minutes; the horror-esque lonely whistling, loud whispering and half singing; the intensity of small sounds, like the prolonged dragging of a hand across the wall; and most of all, the strange, sci-fi styled cave which the characters seem trapped in. This claustrophobia here is more than a dramatic device – at points, we can see the characters body on one screen, and see her point of view, looking down at her feet on the other. We can both see her body at a distance, and see her perspective as if we were her; as viewers, we can both see what is taking place before us and – alongside the dramatic visuals and enveloping audio – are drawn in, immersed within this strange world.
Immersing the audience within the video through the clever use of screens, turning the 2D nature of a video into a sculpture of sorts is done also by Public Studio – this artist group, Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky. Their video installation consists of three large walls in the centre of an otherwise empty warehouse, the video is projected on either side of each three walls creating six screens in total. Projecting on either side of the walls has created a situation in which the viewer must cross from one side to the other; quite a poignant arrangement when one considers the subject of the work, the division between Israeli and Palestinian communities.
Cleeve’s is, in many ways, the epicentre of EVA 2016 – it’s the largest venue, with the most artists and arguably, the highest stakes because of all this. I hope to revisit it through this column to comb through specific conversations between the artworks, within the biennial’s broader themes, and in the context of Ireland today – yet Cleeve’s as a whole is full on, demanding, and worth all the time you can give.
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