EVA a real feast for fans of contemporary art at its best

Art reviews and news from Chris Hayes, champion of Limerick’s bid to be European Capital of Culture

Chris Hayes


Chris Hayes

EVA a real feast for fans of contemporary art at its best

Isabel Del Valle admires Alfredo Jaar's The Cloud. Below, Michael Joo Pictures: Fusionshooters

THROUGHOUT the recent opening launch of EVA International in Limerick there was an air of excitement.

Each across the city venue was launched at different times, beginning early in the morning with a talk by the curator Koyo Kouoh at the Belltable and continuing until late at night with DJing by Pádraic E. Moore in the Milk Market.

The exhibition is so vast that the time and energy required to traverse its many manifestations throughout the city is intense. It’s a stretch, to say the least, to attempt it in one day.

I’ve been a long-time advocate that biennial guides should come with health warnings – watch out for art legs; exposure to culture may result in exhaustion, eye strain, and back ache. Hopefully, a good time too.

Typically, the response to such a large scale exhibition by the critics is to select a few key highlights. Already a few artworks have come up in almost every conversation I’ve had, such as Michael Joo in Sailor’s Home (pictured below), or Alfredo Jaar's eerie cloud installation at Cleeves the former condensed milk factory (pictured above).

Highlights provide a necessary slimming down of the healthy menu on offer. Yet, as someone who’s living in the city I’m looking forward to taking my time, to repeated viewings and really getting stuck in. The biennial continues until 17 July. Plenty of time to digest.

Perhaps if I’m pushed for a highlight from the launch I’ll begin at the end. As the night came to a close, it was in the conversations about people’s experiences so far – what they had seen and what they hoped to see – that it really felt alive to me. EVA has an unusual history as a biennial, the effects of which can be felt today. 

Beginning in January of 1977, it was established by artists as an annual exhibition to help raise exposure for the arts to the general public.

Today, it provides a major international profile for art and artists, and happens once every two years.

While the scale and ambitions of EVA have certainly developed over time, when I spoke to the artists involved they spoke about how genuine the experience had been, how open and earnest the people are, how clear the integrity at the heart of it was and how remarkable this contrasts with other biennials worldwide.

EVA launched on Friday 15 April, and at Ormston House we launched our project, Murder Machine, the day afterwards.

I have to admit it was a tiring week, with late nights to install the artworks and precious few moments not spent answering emails and worrying about the next steps to take till the opening day.

Organising an exhibition is a lot like planning a birthday party, there’s nothing more terrifying than the thought that no one will arrive.

The finale of for the launch at Ormston House was a performance by Ceara Conway, which was produced by DJ Deviant. The performance was a dramatic reinterpretation of Roisín Dubh, the symbolic poem marking the end of Gaelic Ireland.

The audience was blindfolded, making Conway’s traditional Irish singing and Deviant’s at times eerie electronic music come together in a strange way. Other performers were covertly situated within the crowd.

As they joined in one by one, they all walked slowly around and around. Without sight, the music was not just heard but felt. Then, without warning they exited. The crowd was still and silent, anticipating something to come.

Nothing did – until an overwhelming applause.

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