the continuation of...
Abridged 0 – 4: An(other) Irishman in New York
Curator Greg McCartney, selecting for a 2007 Context project, continues his reports from an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Residency in New York.
Well I’m coming towards the end of my time here. I’ve enjoyed myself immensely it has to be said. And the last couple of weeks hopefully will be as good as the rest. I’ve met a lot of nice people who have very kindly showed me their work. It’s been interesting to see how life is for artists here. It’s difficult I think. Of course there is opportunity but it really depends upon how much you wish to compromise your artistic ideals in order to make a living. The Context is a great platform for them to experiment, and there is no pressure to sell, though of course it’s nice if it happens. Given Arts Council acquiescence this should be a great project. I’ll explain the remit I gave myself, in consultation with Declan Sheehan at the Context. I figured I wanted work that was specifically ‘American’ in the widest possible sense, and wanted to discover how artists based here explore their relationship to their environment. The work chosen reflects many issues currently being debated here and will be absolutely relevant to post-Troubles, so to speak, Northern Ireland and Derry particularly. I was convinced of this when this project was conceived and reading the newspaper from home over the internet has made me even more determined. It seems that, lets not call the hoods, lets call them fascists (I’m trying very hard not to swear here!) have been attacking Polish workers and gay couples with hatchets and the like in their own homes. ( see report Poles forced to flee home: A TERRIFIED Polish couple and their two-year-old son have been left with nowhere to live after they were forced to flee their Waterside home at the weekend following a horror race attack., Derry Journal website: http://www.derrytoday.com, news section, accessed 24 May 2006)
Now it has to be said that in my time both the Left and Right has disliked me in equal measure (as a poet that’s probably as it should be) so I don’t represent any particular group, but everyone has to make a stand against this rising tide of vicious stupidity and cupidity and if curatorially I can do so, even in any small way, I will - though of course as my ego demands on my own terms. The ‘community representatives’ who should be making a stand are by their silence or PATHETIC justifications (as if stating that "somebody was seen wearing a Celtic shirt" could be any justification of the act) compliant. I would say both the Left and Right have failed but that’s for another time (and I’d be agreeing with a hyper trendy French philosopher – won’t happen that often – though to be fair even he objects to the use that hyper trendy critics have put his writing to).
So in a sense this curatorial project is heavy handed in philosophical terms. But it has to be. When viciousness is on the rise you don’t solve it by being subtle. You get your equivalent of a big stick. Saying that, the work in my proposed shows may be subtle (some of it isn’t). There is enough room for the work to breathe within the concept as will be very apparent.
Well... Greg was at the United Nations. In fact for a brief time he was the official representative of Argentina. All my dodgy visions of Eva Peron suddenly reappeared. Don’t Cry for me indeed! Which is strangely tied into the project in that the people of Derry will be hearing that song (Madonna version) a lot next Autumn. Which is also tied to the fact that the next book from my favourite author Malcolm Pryce is…Don’t ‘Cry for me Aberystwyth’. (I’m currently reading Aberystwyth Mon Amour). Weird. Anyway where was I? Oh yeah the UN. To be honest, it looks a bit grotty. It is impressive but 1970s grotty (Sorry kids, the 1970s were grotty, I was there, actually so were the 1980s). They’re also running out of space. There’s a new country created every 20 minutes so where the A’s should be at the front (everyone is seated alphabetically) the likes of Vietnam and Venezuela have been shoved. Sadly I couldn’t seize power, I had no air cover, though the dodgy green carpet deserved to be…ahem…carpet bombed. Still the concert was nice and a pleasant evening was had.
I’ve settled in pretty well here overall, though still haven’t got the hang of the food thing. I never thought it possible to have too much choice. But it’s true. There’s a café every second door and if your well versed in food geographies you’re in heaven but if you’re like me, wondering where the baked beans are on the shelf (they aren’t apart from mutant varieties of) then you’re in trouble. And since my culinary skills generally end with setting timers that go ping after 3 minutes the fact that I haven’t got a micro-wave isn’t helping. But I adapt so things are good. I won’t mention Rounders this entry except to note it hasn’t got any less boring. I did get to see a great El Salvadorean league football (not soccer, football thank you!) match on a Latin-American channel the other day.
What is interesting is the national advertising obsession with personal finance, health and cars, in the written media and on television. Every advert seems to be about one of these. You won’t get an ad for bananas at 50 pence a pound at Dunnes. This is because only the middle income matters. Those who can’t afford heathcare, personal finance plans and cars don’t matter. And since this country is essentially a one party state, (the Republicans are just the Democrats with a hangover) it won’t change, especially when the political parties and media are bought and paid for by corporate interests. God, I’m sounding like a sticker in Sandino’s Bar! (see http://www.sandinos.com/ ) Just in case everyone thinks that I’ve suddenly become hopelessly righteous I have to say that I have no objections in principle to corporations or even corrupt politicians as long as they don’t steal from the most vulnerable or ruin the country for their own personal gain.
But that’s about it for now I think. Still no mention of Donald Trump. Good stuff.
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