Everybody Shouts on 'I Love Lucy'…

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 cafĂ© 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.

What Would You Do If I Sang Out Of Tune? Recreationism And The War On Terriers

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.

I’ve been to a few exhibition openings over here. Mark Kostabi’s for example whose work I actually like. There’s nothing wrong with rampant commercialism so long as it’s bloody obvious. The space was basically a shop, which is fair enough. You don’t go into McDonald’s and then complain it’s too commercial. I’ve also seen a few good shows at the non-for-profit galleries. There were a few openings however that are of interest in the context of what is happening in the art world back home at the moment. Interesting in the nature of the exhibition and the crowd that went to the exhibition. Now these shows were in the main filled with competent but rather dull (think Eric Clapton or Van Morrison records) abstraction, which certain Belfast journalists would no doubt wet themselves over. All the painterly qualities were there but God were they boring. But there were a lot of overdressed people looking at paintings and then a lot of red dots appeared beside the paintings. There wasn’t an elitist coterie to be seen anywhere. It appears that this is what we’re going to get in Belfast to replace the Ormeau Baths Gallery. This is what critics and journalists mean when they talk about widening access in galleries. They’re not praising galleries like the Context who’ve given shows to a million emerging artists in a million formats. They don’t want the snotty artist just out of college who wants to blow a hole in the gallery wall to have access to the gallery. Nor do they want the person who thinks blowing a hole in the gallery might be interesting to have access. They want the visual art version of pub bands interminably covering the classics. Safe, but hell it sells. Essentially we are talking commerce here, no bad thing in itself as everyone has to earn a living after all. But the worst of the worst is to disguise commerce with accessibility and education. So we’ll all get to see Jack B and Louis Le etc etc again and again and whatever happens to be touring at the time and no doubt from time to time the ‘rising’ young stars who’ve won the Dublin art awards. Coincidentally those blatantly commercial galleries who have works by the ‘famous’ or ‘emerging’ Irish artists will see an increase in their use of red dots. Now I’m not going to say that I liked every exhibition in the Ormeau Baths (there isn’t a single gallery in existence that has had great shows every time) but the attempt was always made at least to have a programme that brought interesting contemporary art from home and abroad to the public attention. And for one I’d take the mixing of the decks and the screaming guitar by some scrawny kid or strange European conceptualism over Van bloody Morrison any day. Now this may seem like another one of my rants but I think it’s important for people to realise what they’re getting. They’re giving certain journalists and their circle (who buy art apparently) a nice night out with friends and maybe something to put in their new conservatory. They’re giving tourists a half hour shelter from the rain. Conceptually they’re getting a museum. This approach works in New York where’s there’s millions of galleries (that have to sell to survive) and really a lot of potential customers. But we only have a few contemporary spaces. Remember people that the worst exhibitions aren’t the ones you hate but the ones that you can’t remember. And I haven’t even mentioned anything of people losing their jobs.

But I’ve seen a lot of shows that I will remember over here. Robert Boyd at Participant Inc. was excellent. I only caught the end of Camille Rose Garcia at Jonathan Levine but what I saw was great. I saw a great group show Push Me-Pull Me at the ISE Cultural Foundation which had some interesting pieces in it and was very well curated. I’ve also visited a lot of artist studios and have seen very interesting work. Everyone I’ve visited has treated me very kindly so I thank them all for that.

It’s an interesting time to be in America, but then again it’s probably always an interesting time to be in America. Immigration and Spying are the big topics over here. Illegal immigrants have taken to the streets in opposition to a bill which will result in a lot of them being sent back and others allowed to stay on in ‘guest worker’ schemes. I read a piece in the paper who interviewed some Irish guys (in a pub of course) that were complaining of these (Latin Americans) taking their jobs. Somehow this doesn’t surprise me.

Well it turns out the National Security Agency have been listening (technically ‘collecting patterns’ but who’re they kidding as they say around here) to inland telephone calls. It should come as no surprise. That what an NSA does. They’re doing it under the banner of national security (and the war on terriers) which in the past every government has found useful to cover a multitude of sins.

It has to be said I’m enjoying myself immensely here. In case anyone reading these blogs thinks otherwise. I like being in America, there’s a sense of the epic here. I like the people, or peoples more accurately perhaps. Of course I do the colonialist thing and I watch the BBC news and programmes on Public Service Television because American mainstream television for the most part is appalling, though you do get some new episodes of the Simpsons. And I drink tea because unlike Derry you can get decent tea here. But America has produced great art, music, literature and television. And it has the subway which I might have mentioned before. Taking of which - nothing cheers you up like the sudden appearance in a Monty Python Spanish Inquisition manner of a Samba band on the subway train. Brilliant! I did though on the train from Jamaica Centre endure a half hour sermon (and I’m using the word in its correct sense) intended to save presumably my soul. Now leaving aside my potential damnation it was interesting to listen to the woman preaching. I’ve never heard the name Jesus produced with, well I’m not sure if it was vehemence or passion, probably both. Also and this is the difference from Derry, nobody laughed! (Ok being the typical Derry guy, I had a half smile (warning for my readership don’t smile at anyone wanting to save your soul; it doesn’t go down well) – not too bad!) Had she been on a Derry bus there would have been one or two thirteen year old smart alecs shouting obscenities. Most people stared at the floor. One or two even chorused Amen. Did I mention how much I like the subways?

There is one disturbing trait in America and I’ll term this Recreationism. This is where American males (mostly) manage to convince themselves that Rounders is a vital part of their evolution. IT ISN’T! The rest of the world isn’t fooled. It’s only played by primary school girls. It’s the least macho game possible! And to see overweight men waddling at speed in a circle is just disturbing. Also IT’S BORING. It makes cricket interesting. I know I’m savaging a national institution here but it deserves it. And I’m going to continue to call it Rounders.

Well that’s about it for now I guess. I haven’t mentioned the idiot doorperson at the Mercury Lounge. You can only do cool and arrogant if you are a) cool b) have something to be arrogant about. And I know I still haven’t mentioned Donald Trump and I still don’t care. Also nothing of politics and the middle income. Hmmmm maybe next time. Next time will also feature my exciting adventures in and possible takeover of the United Nations. Now does anyone have a white cat I can borrow?

A Pre-Owned Song? A Second Hand Uzi?

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’ll start with the subways. The subways are great. Every city should have one. In fact I should have my own personal one. They don’t come with the graffiti of yesteryear, so there is a nice depersonalised uniformity about them. There is a scratchfiti so to speak where tag marks are scratched into windows with sharp instruments or acid-like chemicals. It has in theory artistic potential I suppose but at the moment it just looks like vandalism. I’m finding my feet with the subways and people are friendly and helpful enough when asked for directions.

I suppose I should mention the art. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of exhibitions. You don’t from the outside realise how many galleries there actually are over here until you actually visit New York. I won’t mention the work that is potentially coming to Derry because it isn’t fair as nothing has been finalised and well it would ruin the surprise wouldn’t it? (In parenthesis I’m currently getting my futbol fix by watching Inter Milan v Roma on a Latin-American channel – they only ever seem to show rounders – (you know what sport I mean) on television here) Anyway back to the art; I saw one of the most beautiful videos works I’ve ever seen by Hiraki Sawa (Sorry, Roma have just scored and the commentators are doing the Goooooooooaaaaal thing; possibly in self parody, possibly not.) at the James Cohen gallery in Chelsea. Imagine sitting there for an hour watching nothing happen apart from a little model plane fly across a window pane or little carousel horses swim across a bathtub. Sometimes the most profound insights into the human condition can come out of the most subtle glances. Words like ‘charm’ and ‘enchantment’ have been used patronisingly but their original meaning was powerful and if a work of art can enchant a person, well you know its bloody good. This guy Sawa will be big, so if anybody gallery connected sees this; bring him to Ireland!

I’ve talked to some very nice people here in New York who have kindly given me their time (I won’t embarrass you by naming names – you know who you are) and so a thank you for that. I’ve seen a lot of different types of spaces, most variations of the white cube and quite a few on the same physical scale as the Context and Void. We’re lucky to have such good spaces as we do in Derry and hopefully we won’t ruin them. Anyway back to the art; Lynne Gelfman’s painting in a really small underground (literally rather than philosophically) space were pretty amazing. Abstraction done with verve and imagination. Multi-layered constructs playing with the viewer’s perception. Really great and standing out in the morass of dodgy but saleable abstraction. Bizarrely, or perhaps not to his many fans, John Waters’ exhibition at the Marianne Boesky gallery was really memorable. Not even remotely subtle and in the grand tradition of his films (though there was no, ahem ‘excrement’ eating he said politely in this show). Among the standout pieces were disturbingly lifelike recreations of Michael Jackson and Charles Manson as grown-up babies. Weird! (In case you’re interested the match ended 1-1 and with Roma down to ten men too.)

Well that’s about it for this report, though I realise I haven’t mentioned Donald Trump as I promised. Well I’m not going to. But back to the subways. One of the rather melancholy aspects of subway journeys are the panhandlers. Some to be fair are rather joyful, as in the young guys break-dancing. A back somersault on a moving train is very impressive I can tell you. Or the gospel singers which appear every now and again. But others are just sad. Like the stumbling old ladies playing harmonicas or the young and very ill looking men looking for dollars. Of course you can’t give to everyone, but you feel like you should. And there’s the very good chance you’re being completely conned but what can you do? God I think I’m inventing working-class guilt. Oh dear.

Well next report will consist of more rambling about art, American television (an obvious target but all I can say is in comparison Channel 5 is an intellectual Godsend…though maybe not Channel Four), politics and the ‘middle income’, tea, Rounders (sorry but it was only a matter of time before I got on my high-horse about it) and Donald Trump.

Sarah Edge

a net art project by Sarah Edge

at the CMR website from May 9th 2006

This interactive website grew from the exhibition MemoryMythPhotography at Context Galleries in January 2005.
Catalogue available

Kim Montgomery

Kim Montgomery
Originally uploaded by contextgalleries.

Kim Montgomery, from: neither you nor I are what we hope to become someday

Kim Montgomery

neither you nor I are what we hope to become someday
Kim Montgomery

Gallery 1 May 13th – June 10th 2006
Artist’s talk 2pm, Thursday 18 May

Kim Montgomery’s work references popular culture, art history, icons and iconography. She identifies modern day ‘icons’, living and dead, objects or places, and creates for them using canvases sharing the traditional measurements of Christian icons. Her interest focuses on the male figure in popular conscousness and how beauty and self-destruction in idolised young men have traditionally gone hand-in-hand and been celebrated and exploited - particularly in the Twentieth Century with such figures as Sid Vicious. The artist is interested in these glamorously subversive figures and their appeal to in particular the young who often identify with them seeing them as rebels against conformity. Montgomery also recognises objects that have gained a cult following among the young. These products deliberately mix mass production and pseudo-subversion, encouraging a spirituality combined with fashion and economics.
The artist also explores the relationship between the idol and herself, the idoliser and the methods of facilitating this worship. Montgomery recreates in paint such throwaway yet obsessively collected and (for the producers) profit making ephemera as posters, postcards, badges etc. In this she references movements like Pop Art, an art movement that began in Britain and the United States in the 1950s that used the images and techniques of mass media, advertising, and popular culture, to make points about contemporary culture, often in an ironic manner.

Kim Montgomery graduated in Fine Art at the University of Ulster in 2004. Previous exhibitions include group shows, From Ritual to Romance, Catalyst Gallery, Belfast, 2003; Take Away, Context Gallery 2004. This is the artist’s solo show.

Peter Kelly, ST1 5HY

Peter Kelly, ST1 5HY
Originally uploaded by contextgalleries.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly
Gallery 2 May 13th – June 10th 2006

Peter Kelly’s work uses photography, text, and objects to examine life in what was once designated as “the worst street in England”, Century Street in Stoke, in which the artist lived for one year. It chronicles instances of crime, destitution and dereliction, yet places these in their context, and looks within them for elements of the tragic and the absurd.

ST1 5HY is based on my experience of living on no.77 Century Street between 16th Sept 2003 – 29th May 2004. It started life as a purely photographic project even though I had never attempted, or been particularly interested in, documentary photography. But as life and events unfolded I felt there was an opportunity to pursue this style of photography. I chose to photograph mainly between 6 and 7am as I didn’t want people in the frame, I was more interested in the evidence that there had been a human presence there.
It was important to not simply condemn the street in its present standing, but to research into its past to uncover clues as to how it ended up as statistically the worst street in England and Wales. The research included Census records, ordinance survey maps and business directories. The more information I gathered the more the need to refine this data into a relevant way that connected the past with the present.
My interest started to focus on the 12 (the 13th being no.77) houses that are abandoned, vandalised, for sale and empty. At the same time I began experimenting decorating pottery with images from the ongoing photographic project. This not only connected the project to Stoke-on-Trent, but also very specifically to Century Street. There where two ceramic factories situated on the street from the early 1800’2 to the mid-1900’s. The ceramics also gave me a medium on which to place the various strands of research, which now included recording dialogue from the street.
ST1 5HY does not seek to judge, but to present my own experiences of living on Century Street along with over 150 years of human and industrial history in a coherent and accessible manner.

Exhibitions previews at 8pm, Saturday 13 May
Exhibition runs until June 10