In_flux artist-led fair, Limerick

A very brief showcase of static, performed and discussion led art filled 5 storeys of the now-titled Thomas St Centre last week. Presented by Occupy Space with assistance from Limerick City Council, ev+a, Creative Limerick, The Arts Council and more.

Ten galleries spread their wares in the generous emptiness of a building donated by Don and Michael O Malley. With this fair the spot can now justiflably be said to be the centre of Limerick’s progressive Art scene and representitive of the profile work both Faber and Occupy studios have done in the City Centre. Would it  now be time for parties to talk seriously about developing it as a funded Arts Hub?

Artists from the Galleries, 1646 The Hague, Basement Project Space Cork, Block T Dublin, Catalyst Arts Belfast, 126 Galway, Monster Truck Dublin, Transmission Glasgow, Soma Contemporary Waterford, Transition London and Wolfart Rotterdam presented well-designed installations of which those in the basement made the most of the unadorned space.



The glass lift shuttled viewers between the 5 floors where a combination of delicate constructions and rough assembalages were laid out. Here, work that used projections and screens had to contend with a 3-block long window space in terms of light and also for attention as the rare opportunity to see the panoramic view of Georgian Limerick dominated viewing. In fact my overall sensation of In_flux above the first 2 floors was the constant head-rotating experiance of art-window-art-window.

My brief vist didn’t absorb all of the work on show and by the time I was able return the project ended. I will not the only one who will hear about it and wonder why it didn’t continue longer but it was well supported in its run by Limerick’s art community and considering the variety of galleries I’m sure links and contacts were made between the participants. It was certainly engaging enough for repeated viewings and coinciding with deadlines for Limerick’s Art College In_flux also acted as a resource for students finishing up their own work. The Event also hosted a talk with Jota Castro the Co- Curator of Dublin Contemporary and various film screenings.

No doubt funding the sheer amount of art and artists accounted for the allocated time space but it certainly merits a return visit.



Vitiate is an exhibition by the LSAD 3rd year sculpture and combined media students. It is curated by Maeve Mulrennan and Kate Mangan and situated in the Franciscan Church on Henry street until Sunday April 3rd 2011 with opening times 10am-5pm daily and admission is free.

What was possibly the most spectactular intervention to date by the Students of LSAD in a city centre space was represented by a combination of the enormous former church with the considered artpieces carefully placed in the space. The Franciscan church was bravely chosen with sponsored finance by the group and the curation certainly reflects the challenge that was undertaken.

The furniture contained in the space, confessional booths etc, inevitably added resonance to the installed pieces and the exhibition’s statement mentions that ‘some of the works take on an other-worldly quality, ghostlike structures move in and around the formal structure of the church while others are more brazen in their attempts to resonate with the former functions of the spaces within.’  Certainly visiting the space in daylight hours will offer a different experience to the opening night’s almost ceremonial quality.

The Artist Alice Maher opened the show and delivered a polemic from the imposing pulpit in the middle of the Church. She spoke with passion on the continuing fight for creative recognition in the light of art education cutbacks.

The Limerick public would take any chance to vist the reopened city centre space even without the breadth of work now installed and Vitilate makes the most of this as well as showcasing the professional approach by all concerned.

For further information contact 0879486870 or email

















Bock adds …


I dropped in for a look myself.  Marvellous stuff.

It moved me to deliver a short sermon.








Bock's People Venues

Spec.Drum at the Loft Theatre

Thursday March 10.

Spec.drum is a monthly night of electronic music run by a group of students and djs who gravitate around the University of Limerick’s music technology course.

Upstairs in this theatre, experimental sounds live side by side with DJ performances as the crowd mingles and swings. The entry charge is small, the show goes on till about 2 and all are welcome.

This was the second Spec.drum featuring Ennis composer and DJ ‘My Name is John’ as the headliner.  John was here to perform tracks from his debut EP and did so in style mixing his own work into an uncompromising DJ set that spoke to the head as well as the hips.

Under a video-projected feed of staged performance, the hosts, who included DJs ‘Deviant’ and ‘Mickey Fingers’, organised the night’s noise.  Wires, cables, laptops, cameras, projectors and decks spilled from the stage creating a virtual assault course for Deviant as he introduced the participants, including one impressive young performer from Athlone who hovered  over a laptop generating Aphex Twin-type sounds as I got there after midnight. The other participants on stage were Dal Kas, Rumbus Merrylegs and Tweek.

Visually, the stagecraft projects a link between the Spec.drum collective and occasions where friends are given the opportunity to hear the latest experiments and related musical selections.

With Laptops instead of, say, guitars on stage the audience cannot help but feel a visual link here with their own undoubted daily internet music sourcing and sharing.  The night also acts as a monthly trade fair where the audience swap tech info with the organisers.  The hosts also diligently extended the night as a podcast.

My Name is John is aware that though the night is tech and contemplative this is still a gig.  He reminds the crowd that it’s ok to dance.  Just because the tools of the trade may have changed the practice and appreciation of dj-ing, the professional responsibility in composing a varied and creative set is now more than essential in representing the current scene as well as the past.

John’s background and skill as a hiphop DJ and producer made tonight’s sculpting of noise appear a lot simpler than it was.  The genial banter and body language of the Ennis man also drew deserved cheers as his own tracks filled the Loft with offbeat bass and textured stabs. A knowing cheeky move was a couple of seconds of pretend ‘equipment malfunction’ at the start. In the usual jungle of wires and leads, glitches and power loss are par for the course in this scene.

Many followers of the performers tonight are familiar with the possibility of tweaking sounds and software. The structure of a ‘song’ is up for grabs then manipulated by laptop and phone and rapidly offered to their peers. Artists like John use the breakdown of these barriers to push boundaries even further during a performance.

Quickly, the dancers agreed with the barrage of multi-genred fractured loops that were expertly cut and pasted and they embarked on a wonky journey. What did it sound like? Imagine a series of progressive radio stations pumping out everything from heavy-riffed rock and twisted hiphop to old-school jungle and folk music then spending an hour rapidly spinning the dial between them while dancing on a sampler. It was something as funky as that.

The attuned crowd here will have considered the format of a song not as a finished commodity to be consumed at a record company’s discretion but as a sequence of open-sourced noise reconfigured for their own purpose. Its the punk legacy of the composer Luigi Russolo who said ‘’Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound’’.  And he said this in 1913.

What is evident with the sound promoted by Spec.drum in Limerick is that the traditional timelag between the profile and appreciation of contemporary sounds and the showcasing of them has disappeared. Facebook and the above techno anarchy bring the production and presentation of music and noise into the hands of those who see the gap between performer and audience as insignificant.

My Name Is John’s free download is at

And the other performers can be found at


Paul Tarpey.


Film as Conversation

Videogram Limerick is a recent addition to the cultural hub that is the corner of Thomas St and Catherine St. The Occupy Space gallery is the venue for these nights of film and talk. Admission is free and events begin at 8 o clock. Dates and listings are available on the Videogram Facebook page.

Last Thursday’s event drew a healthy crowd and the night was an interaction between Videogram and the curator of Occupy Space’s current show Mary Conlon. One of the films she chose was the often-mentioned but seldom seen short ‘Werner Herzog eats his shoe’, directed by Les Blank in 1980. This energetic portrait of Herzog recorded the honouring of a promise he made to his ex student Erroll Morris in which he swore to eat his shoe if Morris ever managed to finish a project. The shoe was eaten in the middle of a question-throwing crowd at the premier of Morris’s lauded Gates of Heaven, a documentary about American pet cementeries.


Herzog is known in both Art and popular cinema circles as a dynamic instigator of projects that explore and question the individual’s place in situations. Blank’s film reminded us of what an effective orator he is on the need for what he called a ’grammar of alternative anti-capitalist imagery’ and the idea that complacency was a curse to be avoided in all walks of art.

Occupy hosted another film the following Saturday organised by ‘Troubling Ireland Artists Think Tank Programme’. Maquilapolis (city of factories) was made with the participation of Mexican Factory workers. This night was billed as an evening of talks and film screenings on Labor issues from the Limerick Soviet to contemporary struggles.

There was talk last year of a city centre cinema to be situated not too far from Videogram’s base, but in the absence of this conversation being continued events such as this are more than necessary. A visual commentary on the proposed cinema site may be taking place on the top of Catherine St with a mock shop sign spelling out the situation.


24 Hour Print Marathon in The Limerick Printmakers

On view at the  Limerick Printmakers are the results of a 24 hour print marathon that was held in their studio on Market St.

Members and invited printers started the process at 12 oo  o’clock on Saturday 26th and presented a show of the work to the public at 12 the following day.  The lithographs, photo etchings, screenprints etc that now fill the gallery were dramaticaly taken from idea to ink in this intense time frame.

A 24-hour web link tracked proceedings, fuelled by bagels and coffee, and with beds available for the weary marathon artist if necessary.  Well-known Limerick printmaker Des Mac Mahon confirmed his determined status by reputedly remaining awake for the full 24 hours and was busy sweeping the area as the first visitors came through the door on Sunday.

Printmakers spend a significant amount of time prepping the studio, preparing ink and paper, plate and stone before cleaning up and the print marathon gave an insight to this process as part of the discipline.

The Gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays.

Marian Keating



Noelle Noonan


Catherine Heier
Des McMahon



Fiona Quill


Clare Gilmore


DRY Performance Art

There are usually two guaranteed opportunities to experience Performance Art in Limerick each year. The breadth of the International art exhibition that is ev+a tends to feature work of this nature and then there is the annual Art College performance night.  This year the city will not host an ev+a so at present the Art College flies the flag.

This year’s LSAD performance night was a culmination of a workshop held by artist and writer Oscar McLennan. The participating sculpture students, under the stewardship of staff Amanda Dunsmore and Sean Taylor, used  the theatre over the Locke Bar in George’s Quay to present a series of short individual performances collectively titled DRY.

Any presentation of performance art outside a college or gallery tends to invite derisory comment, often calling up the stereotype of the wild/ difficult/ concept-heavy Artist as an outsider. Since the 60s, popular types of drama and comedy and even protest actions have claimed the expressive tropes of performance as their own and by doing so have neutralised the impact of what originated – and is still taught as- a vital discipline in the Arts.

That’s why we need events like Dry, a showcase that dispels stereotypes and shows where artistic practice is now, as well as offering an introduction to the discipline over the course of a night. Straight monologues, chaotic noise and flickering projections as conceptual vehicles were all in evidence in the Locke.

McLennan is an artist who has worked as a stand up comedian and teacher of performance art since the mid 80s and he opened the show with a tone-setting twisted monologue of childhood. This was important because, irrespective of the nature of the work on display, it is still courageous to stand up in front of an audience, even if they are on your side.  The students who followed him in 15-minute slots delivered on themes of identity, the role and experience of a performer, and the necessity for emotion.

After tonight some of these students will immerse themselves in the discipline and practice and become performers while others will have the experience to look back at as a one-off. This is no reflection on the variety of work as everybody acquitted themselves well and collectively ran the night professionally.

The questioning of Self identity is the fundamental theme for a performance piece and it was inevitable that the audience would experience examples of this from the workshop.  Because all the acts were on and off quickly, their performances represented not only small performed stories about themselves but examples of the kind of performance art you would see in other (classic) exhibitions.

The blindfolded knife-wielding woman, the man in conversation with himself through a mirror, the burlesque quoting performer Candy Warhol were all respectful manifestations of previous performances that quoted the discipline’s history. Once you were aware that Amy Riordan’s reading of DRY involved her spending the showcase away from the audience in an adjacent room and writing on why it was impossible for her to perform work, it was safe to say most boxes were ticked.

Some pieces were noticeable for their precise conceptual brief, effective stage design and timing. Teresa Dyer hammered 6-inch nails from a wooden bowl into a full-length crucifix, the methodical silence of the act briefly interrupted by a low voice hinting that the event was really an ominous domestic narrative visualized on stage. Eilish Tuite, in judicial robes and wig, delivered a vigorous, well written, anti-establishment speech decrying the ‘vertigo of power’ which she angrily punctuated by swinging a wooden mallet instead of a gavel.  (The effective weariness of her performance no doubt a result of her work managing the stage all night).

Carla Burns’s deceptively simple demonstration of a yoga workout complete with mat, rubber plant and motivational voiceover initially blindsided the audience who may have presumed by her deadpan seriousness she was channeling a parodic comedy sketch. The performance however was based on Burns’s careful détournement of herself and the props in the space to reflect on personal and public empowerment. Rewriting and re-recording the yoga tapes as a confrontational manifesto to perform both with and against was an indication of the professional level the students projected.

One downside to this progressive night was the unfortunate lack of publicity. The absence of the public was a loss for the students and those who certainly would have been entertained and exposed to professional-standard performance. Performance’s reliance on diverse audience interaction is an essential factor in how this work is considered and this is why the previous LSAD showcase nights are part of Limerick folklore.  If possible the work could be performed again in to rectify this. It certainly would be worth it.

As the students dismantled their props and went outside, the lights of the Trinity Rooms flickered and crowds gathered for one of Ireland’s best known conceptual performance acts.  The ironic and surreal Cork family unit Crystal Swing were booked for a Rag week gig. Both occasions on either side of the river graphically illustrated the current breadth of the discipline as hosted by Limerick City centre in February 2011.


Cheese Review

New contributor intro:

You might recall the Big Cheese Poverty Party that we held some time back in conjunction with assorted starving artists and mendicant ne’er-do-wells.  It was attended by a representative of the  European Cheese Bank and a team of surgeons to remove an organ of your choice.

The Students of the MA In Social Practice and the Creative Environment contributed a  slideshow on the night and one of the course directors, Paul Tarpey, wrote this about the event on his own website.  I bumped into him recently and he suggested posting it here, so why the hell not?

Is that really how it was?  I thought we were just taking the piss out of a bunch of half-wits who call themselves the government.

Now.  What do you think of that?



I don’t know much about protest but I know what I like.

The Big Cheese Poverty Party launch. Bourkes Bar Catherine St Limerick 3/12/2010.

An awareness that some particular forms of public protest may have peaked led Limerick Web agitator Bock The Robber to announce the formation of his ‘Big Cheese Poverty Party’ in the centre of a ‘troubled’ Limerick city centre.

In coming to the idea of an imaginary political party Bock redirected his editorial duties away from the internet and by deciding to place himself in front of a ‘real’ audience he announced an intention to wash himself with the soapbox strategies of his usual critical targets, the mainstream political class.

While farce as a tool was employed for this event, the eventual production engaged not a parody of a political stand up, cabaret, performance art or even a version of the current mainstream satire on the subject. Bock engineered a combination of cross-genred creative communication stategies that underlined the ethos of his site as a performance.

An agenda and party speaker were dressed up but there would be no deposit paid to Leinster House and no manifesto sent to the media. This protest party would exist primarily just for its opening. The exercise could be seen as a conventional art referenced ‘happening’ crossed with a version of something like the old Irish tradition of creative stump politics where trees would be planted for votes and then dug up after election day.

Topics on the mismanagment that have created this immediate social state have been well dissected and served by commentators ranging in breadth from The Irish Times’s Fintan O Toole to the driver of the agit-prop concretemixer and it is within this critical gap The Big Cheese Poverty Party intends to operate.

The project is as concerned about the necessity of acting out and emphasizing protest reminders as it is about flagging citizens’ responsibility in being informed about relevant content and commentary. Remember the concrete truck protest had been rolled out in Galway City months before with only minor media coverage of its anti-Anglo message filtering out. For repeat emphasis its driver deemed it necessary to reconsider the size of his stage for Dublin. Bock’s decision to communicate information physically is related to this strategy.

In realising the responsibility inherent in presenting a message that also incorporates an awareness of protest fatigue, Bock and his collaborators concentrated on curating, staging and designing work that creatively confirmed a position rather than a offering any new ‘State Of The Nation’ response. For the design of the content delivery, the evolved intention was to relay a Bock reminder about the consequences of the country being in hock to the IMF via a combination of materials and theatrics for a short performance.

Bock is not a practising artist but through his site a collective has come together and, when required, these voluntary media workers and artists suggest various directions in realising ideas generated from the website’s commentary. Also, it is imporant to reiterate that all aspects of this production were self-financed in a spirit of bring what you want to the table. Once the Poverty Party idea was upgraded from an inital virtual rant, a city centre space was negotiated and the process of creative visualization began.

With this work the ‘non-artist’ Bock has unintentionally referenced a number of socially-engaged creative references.  Think here of the theatre activist Augusto Boal’s notion of the ‘spect-actor’, the philosopher Theodor Adorno’s insistence on ‘the experiential dimension of the reception of artworks’ and perhaps for future events Bock could even take from the Yippie leader Jerry Rubin’s 1968 attempt to crowd design a mass exorcism of the US Democratic party

A photographic exhibition was one direction taken with an open call put out and all entries then displayed on the bar walls. This aspect was the project’s support for Limericks ‘starving artists’. Bock then developed a downtroden peasant persona for his keynote speech and encouraged a similar dress code for the audience. Volunteers were dressed as surgeons for metaphorical organ  removal and a white-gloved mechanical hand was set up for ‘Minister flesh pressing duties’  in the absence of course of those invited Ministers.

There was a battered wooden box with the word ‘soap’ daubed on its side, which on inquiry turned out to have previously held ammunition from the Curragh camp.

On the night Bock’s character was framed against a projected slideshow of the downturned Limerick City centre donated by students from the LIT Masters course in Social Practice And The Creative Environment. In full character, Bock’s impassioned rant concentrated on the consequences of a future irish identity provisionally processed through the German economy as two surgeons listened silently either side of him.

As he spoke, his words were translated by an invited German speaker whose dramatic barked delivery echoed Bock’s spiel.  ‘Seb the German’ was also available to quip in english, ‘Have your fun but pay up before that happens’.  Meanwhile a selection of cheese neatly topped with EU flags was passed through the crowd as Dublin visitors to the event handed out an edition of ‘Ireland owned by the IMF’ stickers.

As befits an event in a public house the audience was an open and diverse mix of family, collaborators, curious customers, artists and media workers who had answered the call to support an attitude as much as to enjoy a Friday night out.

Bock co-ordinated an event that accessed and made use of various arts practices electing professional and non professional actors to create a participatory event on various levels. The result redirected the now contentious political language of local (‘parish pump’) politics to service the design of this performance piece as an contemporary exercise in social protest.

By the nature of its contract with the audience this was an open sourced event. Self-funded, open to all and descriptive of a contempoary protest strategy corresponding to Jacques Ranciere’s words on the subject. ‘Politics’ he says,’ is first of all the configuration of a space as political, the framing of a specific sphere of experience, the setting of objects posed as ‘common’ and subjects to whom the capacity is recognised to designate these objects and to argue about them’.