I took a break from the studio to travel to Galway and check out the final week of the TULCA Festival of Visual Arts 2011. TULCA is an annual visual art festival that involves institutional and non-traditional art sites across the whole city of Galway. This is definitely one of the best models I’ve seen for presenting an ambitious international curatorial project with institutional collaborations across a large region.
Curated by Megs Morley, and themed “After The Fall,” there is a real emphasis on video and photography in works that directly address social issues and community. Most of the works address some aspect of the financial crisis of the last few years or a sub-text of that crisis, often with post-apocalyptic themes. There is not much in the way of more traditional disciplines like painting and sculpture represented. I wonder if the accessibility and portability of video, sound, and photography (less expensive than shipping large paintings or sculpture for example) makes an international festival like this more feasible.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was not able to see the whole festival. Some of the sound artist events, for example, had come and gone and the open studios event on Saturday was over-whelming to cover comprehensively. Many of the artists presented lectures or interview events and there were several impressive lectures (including Frances Whitehead) that happened in the weeks prior to my visit.
A couple of the standouts of the work that I did see were both exhibited at the Galway Arts Centre. Jesse Jones, a Dublin-based artist, presented a film titled Against the Realm of the Absolute. If you know me, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I would be excited by a piece that includes a Scottish Megaphone Choir (more on them here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Megaphone-Choir/251852458158339?v=info). Artist video and film works often struggle to compete with rich visual expectations (and budgets) set by feature films. This is not true in Jones’ piece. It is visually stunning with dynamic compositions and wonderfully lit imagery. If there is one quibble, it would be the voice-over. It might have been intended for the voice-over to integrate with the music score. This was the case some of the time, but over the whole piece it ultimately became monotonous. This is the best link I could find for Jesse Jones: http://ica.org.uk/16980.twl
The other artist whose work I found really interesting is Oswaldo Ruiz, an artist from Monterrey, Mexico. Ruiz photographs the remains of domiciles where occupants were forced to leave for a variety of political and climate-related reasons. The politics of the works are sublimely embedded in very theatrical images where the lighting effectively isolates the homes and emphasizes the skeletal emptiness of the spaces. More about Ruiz: http://www.oswaldoruiz.com/
One of the features of TULCA is the celebration of artist studio communities. Galway has a number of art studio buildings and the festival included an open studios day on the final Saturday. I will provide links below that will most closely reflect the open-studio process and you can see for yourself.http://www.engageartstudios.com/artists.htm and/orhttp://www.artspacegalway.com/artists.asp
I was able to attend the closing party headlined by Kilkenny group Rarely Seen Above Ground. RSAG is essentially Jeremy Hickey performing live percussion accompanied by projected video and pre-recorded sound layers of Jeremy Hickey playing a myriad of instruments. He pulled it off pretty well – influenced, perhaps by the propulsive bass lines of LCD Soundsystem.
TULCA is an inspiring example of how curatorial and entrepreneurial skills collide to create really cohesive – and fun – idea-based festivals. I recommend for you to check out the whole TULCA Festival online: http://www.tulca.ie/