Homeland 2017, Video Art At Damer House Gallery, Roscrea

For three weeks, every year since 2014 Homeland takes place in Damer House Gallery, Roscrea in collaboration with the Loop Festival Barcelona and Safia Art Contemporani-Barcelona, Catalunja, Spain.  The Homeland Video selection in Damer House is dedicated exclusively to video art and film.  The selection for Homeland 2017, ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of night’ Paul McCartney/ Released: June 1968, features short films and videos from Irish and international artists.

 

The selected films/videos are non-narrative pieces, and all confront the viewer with questions, which may or may not be answered.  The works in the Irish section shows pieces by the artists David Ian Bickley, Kiera O’Toole, Owen Boss, Pat Wallis, Simon Brown, David Quinn.  Each artist has chosen a different theme to explore, which while having no overt connection to each other, nevertheless form a unifying and thought provoking whole, connected as they are by our perception of place and space (internal and external), and what we see and/or hear.

In ‘GOTHIC’, David Ian Bickley, continues his exploration of black and white cinematic studies of Irish folklore/mythology set within dark, brooding landscapes.  Kiera O’ Toole’s piece is entitled ‘Drawing from the Non-Place’.  She says her “practice considers drawing as a means to explore the felt and lived experiences of place and non-place”.  In her piece, we are looking at something which is at once ordinary and extraordinary and we are forced to consider what it is we are looking at. ‘These Rooms’ was selected for the Arts Council’s commemoration programme ART:2016 and was an event which brought the audience face to face with the traumatic events of one hundred years ago, exploring the 1916 rebellion through the eyes of civilians at the moment when the Rising invaded their homes. ‘Falling Out of Standing’ by Owen Boss is the artist’s individual response to that collaborative work and calls into question if we can ever truly commemorate or represent a real traumatic historical event.  In ‘Ambivalence’ Pat Wallis explores the interior of the human body which is both familiar and strange, a silent world, a different landscape which can be mysterious and frightening.  Medical imagery instils a feeling of uncertainty, perhaps even fear, reminding us not just of our vulnerability as humans, but also perhaps of our own mortality.  Simon Brown’s ‘Know not how to proceed, how to return, but I am calm, fearless and confident’ is a mesmerising film, where the viewer drifts over a beautiful glaciated landscape with corries and lakes.  Occasionally the view is interrupted by large virtual sculptures interspersed in the work.  While we may question what are we looking at, these virtual additions do not detract from the view of the landscape, although they do cause us to pause and seem to act as a reminder of how such landscapes were formed by events no longer visible to us, but which we know occurred. The final piece in the Irish section is ‘Who Owns The Blackbird?’ For anyone working in any aspect of creative endeavour, intellectual copyright is an important issue. In this work, David Quinn explores some copyright ownership issues in artistic production, juxta positioning it with a blackbird singing its beautiful song freely for the world to hear.

In Gallery 2 the work of the international artists Marcus Ávila Forero, Miguel Garcia Josep Maynou, Glenda León, Francesca Llopis are presented. In ‘Seahorses’ by Francesca Llopis, two seahorses dance through dreamlike landscapes. It is a suggestive and ethereal piece. Josep Maynou’s ‘Far South: Leisure’ is both hypnotic and disquieting. A tall man incongruously dressed for his journey rides a donkey which is clearly too small for him through a landscape which he seems oblivious to.  Perhaps it is a metaphor for the disengaged tourist.  In Miguel Garcia’s ‘Solve’ we watch as someone reconfigures a puzzle – it looks like a rubix cube, but instead of solid coloured squares, he is reconfiguring a landscape or map.  Glenda León’s Dirgier Las Nubes, creates a map of the world by bring clouds together.  It is reminiscent of games we played as children – what can you see in the clouds, but based on the idea that given the concentration and will, any individual can direct the clouds. Marcus Ávila Forero powerful work, Un Pechiche Para Benkos is a video of hands tapping the pechiche (a kettledrum).  The drum beat is interspersed with words and we realise that the voices are talking about conditions in a boat or ship – a slave ship and a modern day migrant boat.

The North Tower of Damer house is the perfect setting for the internationally acclaimed Spanish artist Esther Ferrer’s work, Extrañeza, desprecio, dolor y un largo etc. (Strangeness, disregard, sorrow and a long etcetera). Ferrer, one of two artists who represented Spain in the Venice Biennale in 1999, sometimes terms her minimalist work “rigorous absurdity”. This film may at first appear a little absurd or comical, but the viewer soon realises that what she is portraying is the facial expressions used every day, excitement, anger, sorrow, attentiveness etc.  In a world where the cult of youth is to the fore and where the perfect ‘selfie’ is pervasive, this film is a refreshing look at nonverbal communication, using only facial expression to convey the emotion.

All the works in this exhibition are intimate and self-contained pieces, where the engagement is only between the viewer and the piece.  They could in one sense be described as meditation pieces.  Step out of the normal world for an hour and visit the exhibition in Damer House Gallery, you may return to everyday life with a renewed way of seeing.

The exhibition, which was opened by Gary Hoctor, Director of Offline Film Festival Birr continues in Damer House Gallery and is free to attend.

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