Floating – A response to ‘Oileán’ by INTER_SITE collective at the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, Fitzgerald’s Park – by Sarah Long

Oileán is an exhibition by INTER_SITE collective (Padraic Barrett, Deirdre Breen, Aoife Claffey and Kate McElroy) curated by Sinead Barrett as part of Sample Studio’s TACTIC Visual Arts Programme. It ran from May 20th to June 6th at the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, Fitzgerald’s Park.

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John Donne said ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man 

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’

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Theresa May said 

‘if you believe you are a citizen of the world you’re a citizen of nowhere’

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‘Yet I live here, I live here too, I sing’ 

said Seamus Heaney 

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Oileán; Island. I didn’t know that Cork city was an island. I was embarrassed to find out I had been living and working on an island all these years; ignorant. It disrupted my view of my world… What else had I been overlooking?

Although, now that I thought about it –  hmmm it did ring a bell. Yes, I was sure I had actually known Cork city was an island; I had heard it somewhere – years ago –  and I had simply forgotten. It has become one of those everyday facts that you just accept and absorb and live your life in parallel to. Cork city; an island. Ireland; an island. An island within an island. How lovely and safe we all are… floating. 

The Pavilion immediately jarred with the sunny day I had left behind in Fitzgerald’s Park. The world of screaming, happy children quickly disappeared. I got the distinct impression that the newly-formed collective, INTER_SITE were eager to disrupt my day. 

Kate McElroy’s artwork contained smashed glass.

Padraic Barrett’s video installation was displayed sideways behind bars depicting a body in chains.

Deirdre Breen’s sculptures stood knee-height like something that had its bones removed. 

The audio from Aoife Claffey’s installation made me feel like I had awoken in the villain’s lair, in an action thriller and her projected imagery created the unsettling feeling that all was not as it seemed to be … 

What does it mean to be an island nation?

The blackout windows further alienated me from my everyday surroundings. I was confronted with the loud, powerful, visual language of the artists.

Claffey, an expert in the uncanny; manipulates imagery with the magic of someone who knows the language of dreams and nightmares. 

Breen’s use of colour highlights the overlooked matter that occupies space in our everyday life.

Barrett knows the strength and the power in the vulnerability of the human body. The naked, male figure of the artist lies in wait of human empathy under the surveillance eye of the camera. 

McElroy, through the layering of photographic imagery ensures you never quite know what you are looking at. The landscape changes – has changed again – before your very eyes.

I had come here with the intention of writing about the show so, in a bit of a frenzy, I begin to type out some initial thoughts in a Google Document;

Matrix queeZy drone noise unsertling trippy space bourne ultimatim sleeper assaim waking up in the villians layer two convex mitrors interrogation shipping equipment blue sculpture awful blues almost offensive squelchy melted something that had it bones removed sprirals aerial acetate prints blacked out windows bye bye fitzgerald sun technology imagery entering a wire fibre optics circular motif etchy wire spiral black pollution liquid mirrors window of a ship conspirasea  padraic video in front of wire paralell lying in the doc bionic man 

In my excitement, I make lots of spelling errors and typos and accidentally open an old ‘Untitled Document’ that contains disjointed sentences and thoughts. I didn’t remember writing these sentences. They floated on the screen, jettisoned and ostensibly created by me. 

Being good isn’t as easy as it seems. I was against the violence. In tiny sinking boats. 

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You’re supposed to stick it in the ground but it’s here in my pocket. – alone for an ideal – 

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Where are your guns? that’s the dilemma

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These people can become a symbol of hope and peace.

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Follow me. I carry nothing. I thought I lost you

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It’s none of our concern what goes on beyond our border. Hold out your hand. What can you see?

I had forgotten having these thoughts. I had punched them out, on-the-go, so that I could return to my everyday life and save those thoughts for later. But now, here in this exhibition space, amongst all the questions these artists were posing, I had a space to consider my own thoughts alongside theirs. Here was ‘later’. Here was the time to remember and engage. 

What does it mean to be an island nation? That is the question that each artist was asked to respond to. The sea-levels are rising, the refugee crisis is ongoing, the islands are in the stream.What does it mean to be an island nation? Well it can’t mean isolation.

 It can’t mean isolation; not anymore.

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