Various Venues, Limerick

I  agree  with  Jas  Elsner:  art  history  and  criticism  translate objects into words, a rhetorical effort called ekphrasis, which assumes that the spirit of an artwork can  be  translated  between  media,  a  tendentious  undertaking, always. But, then, this EV+A is ‘very eclectic’,  as  curator  and  architect  Elizabeth  Hatz  admitted  at Species of Space at LSAD on 12 May, (so pick and choose). Well, what would it be like if your local library shelved  books  by  colour,  say,  in  gradations  of  green  (Wang Ruobing, Eat Me)? Or if we removed all the logos  from  sight  in  a  Legoland  of  cardboard  packaging (Leo Fitzmaurice, You’ve changed and grown in so many  ways)?  What  if  the  anonymous  Viewer’s  Gaze  into the frame were returned by the contemplative stare  of  an  owl  (Oonagh  O’Brien,  Owl)?  What  if  you  were a naked male, performing repetitive gestures in a  gloomy  video  of  a  post-­apocalyptic  space  (Kaspar  Aus, Lost Space)?
The  title  of  this  year’s  EV+A  is  Matters.  Hatz’s  ‘red  thread’ turns out to be ethical concern: ‘how can we cope  with  this  situation?  We  have  to  do  something  about it.’ Liu Wei’s documentary Hopeless Land, witnesses. It is both exotic and disturbing: impoverished farmers  close  up,  making  a  living  as  gleaners  in  the  landscape of rubbish-tips on the outskirts of Beijing. You stand and watch the waste and the working day of pre-­industrial China whose state capitalism we love to hate. It reminds me of Agnès Varda’s The Gleaners and I  (2000),  with  the  difference  that  Varda  engaged  with  all her strangers and interviewed them two years later.  A  closer  comparison  would  be  Wang  Jianwei’s  Living Elsewhere, seen in the Glucksman, recording the everyday of Chinese squatters. Both turn the real (and its  people)  into  an  iconic  moving  image  for  silent  reflection. 

 Angela Fulcher: Hurry on Sundown (2010). Installation shot courtesy of the artist.

Angela Fulcher: Hurry on Sundown (2010). Installation shot courtesy of the artist.

Also  in  the  same  concrete,  unfinished  offices  (a  Creative Limerick space at the centre of this EV+A) with  their  Banham-­style  Brutalism,  Loretto  Cooney’s  delicate oil paintings (Did you mean fir tree), their imagery  sifted  from  the  Web,  echoed  the  desaturated  hues of Simon English’s Klee-­sized Untitled Scenes from a Journey.

Actually,  the  entire  Catherine  Street  and  Faber  Studios (another new Limerick art space run by graduates) were at the centre of many events organized by Spiritstore’s  Culture  Dig  Weekend  which  transformed  an anonymous street into relationships between people,  with  flamenco,  astronomy  talks,  ghost  walks,  poetry readings, street theatre, film shorts, and an Art in The Making  do,  where  Limerick  and  Crawford  art  students met for Kevin Flanagan’s talk ‘Copyleft and Creative Commons’ and to plan ahead.
Finally,  the  LSAD  Church  Gallery  exhibited  Shin Egashira’s Beauty of Our Pain, a set of wooden sculptures  whose  ancient  craft  shuns  screws  or  nails.  Monumental objects that would look more in a place at  a  siege  than  at  a  work-­out,  these  full-­size  fitness  machines were complemented by a video showing them in use in a real fitness centre next to modern day contraptions.  The  accompanying  isometric  drawings  take the medieval association further, suggesting that what  people  accept  in  trying  to  conform  to  contemporary norms of alienated beauty is tantamount to torture.
Surplus Value
Occupy Space, Limerick
David Brancaleone

Curated  by  Michelle  Horrigan,  Surplus  Value  was  hosted by Occupy Space, one of the many new art spaces  in  empty  shops  and  offices,  made  available  thanks to Creative Limerick. Technically, surplus value is what is left over after the worker has been paid her wage in the capitalist mode of production, in which labour power becomes a commodity with an exchange value. To me, the phrase ‘surplus value’ brings to mind the  consequences  today  of  the  logic  of  profit:  for  instance, the madness of tough-love capitalism and a thirty-­year headlong plunge into financialization (speculation  on  derivatives,  hedge  funds,  and  profiteering  from interest on debt). In today’s context (economic meltdown),  only  the  risk  of  impending  bankruptcy  makes imaginable that privately owned banks can be purchased by public funds (and somehow, it is All Our Fault).
Playful irony issues from Sean Lynch’s The Bandits Live Comfortably  in  the  Ruin  (2006),  which  appropriates  vintage footage of the failed demolition of a Limerick mill  in  the  1980s  –  and  puts  it  on  a  loop.  So  it  keeps  failing. The value of Hayek’s and then Friedman’s Chicago  School  neoliberal  economics  are  also  on  a  loop and keep failing; meantime, speculation replaces production  (here)  and  exploitation  of  manual  labour  has mostly shifted to where we cannot see it (the Majority  World).  In  the  West,  following  the  downsizing, restructuring and collapse of manufacturing, white collar surplus value is extracted increasingly  (but  not  exclusively)  from  social  communication or ‘immaterial labour’. Its exploitation is much harder to measure, because it always exceeds the working day.
As for exploitation, Mike Fitzpatrick’s  Dealer  Ties  (1996-­97), a rack of sixty white ties, each sporting the photograph  of  a  New  York  art  dealer,  brings  to  mind  greedy gallery takings and Anglo Saxon ‘club ties’, thus conjuring  up  the  intimate  atmosphere  of  the  art  market – with an exception, a homeless woman slightly set apart. Perhaps what the clique excludes is her  value.  That  concept  of  ‘exclusion’  was  a  (moral)  fallback position in the 1990s, after any notion of (social  and  political)  emancipation  had  been  abandoned. For The New Spirit of Capitalism (2005), the  ‘artistic  critique’  of  capitalism  has  always  hinged  on consumption and alienation, but Surplus Value draws  my  attention  to  the  ‘social  critique’  also  discussed by Boltanski and Chiapello, aimed at production, labour and exploitation.
Angela  Fulcher’s  Hurry  On  Sundown  is  an  afterthought on such matters. It hangs from above, making a second ceiling out of what looked like a large multi coloured kite, stretching from white wall to white wall, stitched together from after‐the‐event tents, leftovers from  a  music  festival.  Some  circa  ’68  music  festivals  reclaimed public space, but then business got in on the act and something bigger than just the show was suppressed. An afterthought. In many ways, theory is also  just  that:  an  afterthought,  a  fidelity;  what  still  needs to be said (and done) after the event. It thinks again,  suggesting  the  possibility  of  intervention,  not  nostalgia.
Surplus Value was on view 7 May–7 June 2010.