Music Religion

U2, Apple and a New Sound for God’s Country

U2’s recent attempt to reboot their brand was probably hailed as a success by their team, though that’s not to say it was.  This time the criticism and contention will be explained away as being a necessary component of what it takes to gain one-stop international exposure in the global marketplace. Music never felt as much of an afterthought.

u2 apple iphone

The campaign was akin to the test of neutron bomb, that mythical weapon that wipes out populations without laying waste to the land.  Two big boxes ticked.  New markets opened up and a head count was taken of the growing disaffection Bono has drawn onto the band. Vice commented that U2 are now very well aware of how much they are hated by certain sections of the under 40s – those who know who U2 are, of course.  This time they had to do something about it.  A strategy appeared that had the U2 corporation seem to ditch the traditional western rock demographic (and its increasingly tendency for cultural criticism) in favor of new uncritical followers.  These would be populations that would find the band’s unthreatening type of what was being called ‘dad rock’.  Such as those found in Asia and the American Bible belt for instance.

Apple balances a similar dichotomy. Rather than deal with detractors and those ignorant of their product as separate issues they summoned a 20th century spectacle, a media-designed neutron bomb simultaneously dismissing and embracing fandom as their corporate buildings weather the explosion.  The new markets of India for example where millions of phone users have not yet been converted to smartphone usage became the thing.  For U2 to piggyback on this penetration made complete sense to a corporation used of doing business the 20th way.  India’s population appears to be ripe for upgrade and if there was a gap for a band to exploit this then it could only be one as large as U2 consider them as.

In this campaign Bono’s huckster schtick, previously detrimental to the band, became inflated beyond the reach of hater parody as he led the bombing raid.  Its why we are called U2 … we want to be you too he said as the commentary about the unwanted virus album spread.  This was preacher talk akin to a money call by TV evangelists.

In the hubris, other corporations looked on as Apple eventually offered to remove the product after a week, confident that the ringing in the ears from the audacity of the strike left them uncontaminated. This was a campaign that courted negativity to such an extent negativity had to be redefined.  In just a week the two brands cleared a path for new ways of insinuating their product into (what they hope is) a new generation of compliant uncritical consumers.  The concept of selling, though laughable and unsophisticated, was made redundant.  Both brands had lost interest in courting any 90s model of ‘cool’.

Apple and U2 had spent a good a decade being prodded by the left about their messianic missions with the criticism focused on a type of vulgarity associated with their corporate strategies. They needed a new firewall, as this now-established critique was building and Twitter commentary eroded profits.  While Apple cheerfully acknowledged the album’s identity as a virus that may still rake in profit, they let it be known that traditional critique is inadequate. If the campaign embraces or swats away the comments of someone with the hip cultural clout of profile rapper Tyler the Creator, who demanded to know why fuckin Bono’s album was in his digital possession, what platform now exists to fully criticise either the campaign or the product in the pop cultural arena?

Recently at the peak of his hipness Tyler offered himself as a creative brand offering his services to corporations desperate for hipness and one big drink company took the bait. One surreal TV ad mired in accusations of racism later, the company beat a hasty retreat and Tyler went back to music and t-shirts. Hold that thought and imagine the two strategies analysed by a ruthless ad exec. Imagine a resulting campaign that would not only test the range of both old and new ways of pushing product but also reaffirm the 20th century boundaries of consuming music as well as keeping the media that champion the likes of Tyler’s left field thinking in their place?  It would have to be a campaign that would cost millions and involve the uber-synergy of mega corporations seeking untapped markets for rock music and trendy mobile devices.

And so it came to pass. Within a week as the tide turned in U2’s favour, the Guardian went from criticising the endeavour to criticising those who hate Bono (it was getting boring it seems). Complementing this turn, The New Yorker published a detailed biography of U2 that focused exclusively on their Christian roots including an assessment of their standing in biblical America.

This article also listed a surprising amount of American Christian books dedicated to the band.  By now Bono was laboriously emphasizing the album’s theme of family and loss to anyone who would listen, but who exactly would want to hear this from a rock singer?  Nobody in their 20s for a start.  In an outrageous ‘bono-ism’ the millionaire white singer mused that rappers often created music about their missing fathers, while U2’s album had themes about mothers. Not even Daniel O’Donnell would have been so audacious, or borderline racist in commentary.  Daniel knows his market in America well of course.

The chime of cash registers is the new ringtone in God’s country. Most of us heathens wont hear it but U2 are ok with that.

Milk Market

Horslips at Limerick’s Milk Market

This was always going to be a night for the true Horslips fan.

Horslips Limerick Milk Market
© Dermot Lynch


As the band came on stage I found myself positioned beside three immaculate Levis jackets, bought many years ago and worn proudly tonight by Belfast men in their 50s. In this company my own Levis denim shirt felt like it was trying too hard.  One did focus on clothes once especially when there wasn’t much choice. The denim clothes that became campaign uniforms will always represent an age when the Irish rock fan operated on basic signifiers.

Hair, a good jacket, and a scarf with maybe just one badge could see you through a decade.  It was a solid enough look for an Irish lad before Punk encouraged him to make more of an effort. Variations of the denim uniform were occasionally allowed but the faded Levis Jacket held its own for decades.

Those men wore denim tonight as a mark of respect for the band as much as the times they must have seen them in. This  commitment and respect was evident everywhere. Even the two-handed waved scarf made sense. This was a particular community that Horslips had seen through to the present and they were glad to see each other.

Horslips Limerick Milk Market
© Dermot Lynch

Up until the late 90s, emigration was the government’s safety valve in syphoning off the national excess and Horslips featured in the soundtrack for those who remained.  The theme of exile was a real one for all as was the concept of leaving.  It was something that had to be dealt with eventually some day and the thought of that day stayed with you whether you left or not.  Whether you sought to cut ties or you chose to stay for good and finish with any notions of exile.

The thought of that day always remains, its part of how one once processed the notion of being Irish  and a lot of those emotions are in songs by Horslips.  In their career the band kept up a healthy tour schedule. They were known to deliver a challenging spectacle that served to banish the lingering rituals that hung to the dancehall circuit. Unlike the Show bands and pop cover bands who used the same venues Horslips early shows show were bereft of the often ‘unsaid- but- followed – anyway’ traditions of the dancehall, the rules and regulations that insidiously directed social behaviour within church-monitored halls.

Horslips Milk Market
© Dermot Lynch

An impatient young rock audience saw those archaic rituals as redundant clichés.  They were impatient for an alternative but had no power.  They could only tolerate the lack of a representative culture for themselves, but no-one was going to provide viable alternatives if you were 18 and chose to remain at home.

You accepted what was left to you.

Rural youth in particular had no real opportunity to create change. The totems of the halls and their show band priests would remain intact well after Horslips disbanded in 1980 because a Horslips gig in all its loud Celtic glory was a different sort of Irishness that challenged this despondency.  Every dancehall gig by them allowed youth to temporarily occupy the dance floor of their parents and cast off an amount of frustration in the process.  Within this and in an absence of a national platform for the voice of the youth, Horslips stood in solidarity with a generation who experienced a country not of their own making.  A generation that experienced one war in the north while in the south emigration waged another.

Once a year, between 1972 and 1980, in a hall in the likes of a town the size of Castlerea, you would be briefly immersed in the sound of an alternative Ireland when Horslips came.  You had a couple of LPs and knew that the songs they brought were their own, not cover versions representative of the pop charts or any sort of familiar radio fodder.

They mixed old Irish tales with new stories and drew from the remnants of a counterculture that encouraged beatnik-approved mixes of folk and rock and roll.  They respected folk as rebel music but loved rock and roll too much to slavishly replicate it.  In this they were committed to being Irish in a way that few others chose to be.

Jim Lockhart recounts a story about listening to a Dublin musician regaling him with the Americanisms of a song he had written.  Lockhart wondered what on earth any talk of pick- ups and diners had to do with living in seventies Ireland. Surely one should make contemporary Irish music using sounds from abroad without compromise?   Horslips songs soundtracked generations and often spoke of the crux of emigration and leftover rituals at home and abroad.  With jigs and boogie riffs in the same measure they were received as a dance band but had sad songs too with tales about characters who were away too long.   They even left themselves, playing for emigrants aboard and returning with songs culled from the experience for albums called ‘Aliens’ or ‘The Man who Built America.’

In the Milk market Barry Devlin dropped historical notes on the audience from the stage as the band’s set was designed for a  celebration not just on the legacy of music but of place.  Stories referenced early Limerick gigs in the Redemptorist Hall and Johnny Fean paid tribute to all those who had travelled to Limerick and as a gracious host saluted many of them during the night. His brother Ray replaced Eamonn Carr on the drums making it a touch more local as well.

In a nice touch for the occasion, the Cha Haran band played support, featuring two  members of Granny’s intentions, including Cha himself, an ex-roadie for Horslips.

Cha Haran Band Limerick Milk Market

There was never any new album to introduce.  Instead there was a careful set list designed to showcase and celebrate their timeline, as the reaction to the first notes of the King of the Fairies showed.

The early years, the Book of Invasions section and the emigration themed songs were all threaded together before they finished with the anthem ‘Trouble with a capital T’ and reclaimed Dearg Doom from Italia 90.   The songs said it all.  Altogether, the music provided a cachet of memories from 1972 to 1980.

It will never be separated from its time and that it how it should be.  In that evocation it contained the reminder of what the band has bequeathed to modern Irish History.  Horslips created music that said that the Irish Jig was not the property of academics and rock n roll is owned by all no matter where you live.


Athlunkard Street Art

As part of National Recreational week, four artists have completed a vibrant collage of different urban styles of the corner of Athlunkard St and the Island road.  This site now hosts a collective mural on a site provided by Limerick City Council.  Helen Carey and a team from the Limerick City Gallery alongside Catherine O Halloran, representatives from LSAD and various volunteers from Limerick’s Street art community, oversaw the collaboration on the day.

International urban Artist RAsk participated as part of the team as an invited guest.  The mural is the city’s first officially sanctioned urban art piece and attracted considerable interest on site as it was completed over the course of Saturday 3rd November.

The artists researched the site and collaborated with the council and the committee for this project on conceptualising positive themes for their final image.

Printmaker Owen Barry who used the occasion to debut an original form of ‘street printing’, represented the Limerick School of Art.   Barry is a 4th year printer in LSAD and has developed a technique that allows a high-quality photographic image to be printed directly on an outside surface.   Printing tools that are usually studio-bound were adapted for this and the resulting repeated image of a sax-playing sailor is a striking and unexpected part of the overall scheme.

An ongoing part of this agenda is a series of talks by prominent Irish urban artists.  These talks are open to the public and are aforum for artists, academics, and civic workers to discuss attitudes, directions and Limerick applications.  Rask was the second speaker in this series and his talk on the possibilities for these types of projects was facilitated by Ormston House Gallery.

The successful event is a continuation of last summer’s Make a Move festival, which seeks to reposition and promote creative urban actions in and around Limerick City Centre and it is hoped that the Athlunkard St project could lead to similar creative opportunities between Limerick’s artists and civic authorities.



Art for Art’s Sake Tour of Limerick

Just in:



On Saturday the 10th of November starting at the corner of Debenhams,  Art for Art’s Sake will be holding another walking tour. We will be taking in the best contemporary art spaces Limerick has to offer such as Limerick Printmakers, The Belltable and Limerick City Gallery. Each gallery will have the artist/ curator/ guide available to introduce the space and to answer any questions.  Tours are free but any donations are welcome to contribute to the development of Art for Art’s Sake!

To book a place on the tour email

Art for Art’s sake is an online service for promoting artists and galleries in Ireland, founded by Jennette Donnelly. Within the website, there are reviews of exhibitions, featured artists, featured galleries, news/upcoming events, a monthly online exhibition and information about the Dublin and Limerick Art Tours. The aim of both tours is not only to promote the artists involved, but also the galleries from the established to the grass root. Jennette has also recently established an Art for Art’s Sake Gallery in 30 Avenue Road, Portobello, Dublin 2.

Arts Politics

Bertie Ahern. People Before Politics

The most memorable staged image from the 1997 Fianna Fáil election campaign remains the quasi-religious poster of Bertie Ahern aglow under the text ‘People before Politics – leadership through understanding’.  This  directed image, as well as notable for being a radical change from the usual poster layout associated with previous Fianna Fáil campaigns, is also a mark in time for many cultural and historic reasons.

Visually, the impact was particularly strong outside the Pale as the design broke with decades of poor layout and plain speak familiar to rural audiences.  Previous campaigns had favoured a design template with a blank space left to insert the local candidate’s (often rudimentary) portrait that had remained unchanged more or less for generations.  It reflected a design process  which continuously gave an appearance of inclusion.  Its simplicity united the grassroots and politicians with no more than a picture and a timely slogan.  Through repetition these codes became naturalised.  ‘Lets make it work for Ireland’ was one such one from the 80s, ‘  ‘For another Spurt Forward !, Vote Fianna Fáil is the actual copy from the 1961 campaign.

For generations the rural electorate were key and were not to be distracted by excess gloss or ambiguity at campaign time.  A simple reminder in plain language with the image of the candidate and party / tribal colours would suffice.  Hence the radical turn experienced when the slick international style of the 1997 posters appeared on Galway ESB poles.  Long gone was the party’s statement of 1978 that sought ‘ by suitable distribution of power to promote the ruralisation of industries essential to the lives of the people as opposed to their concentration in the cities’. The culture of the developer was on the rise and with it an increase in percieved sophistication that it was thought proper to disseminate via the election poster.

For this design, the saintly glow eminating from the poster was intended to depict Ahern as a Karsh-lit matinee idol, a reassuring Hollywood father figure shepherding the flock through boom times.  New imagery was required to emphasise the significance of how the boom was to be managed, so out went the flat evenly lit expressionless black and white head shot.  What seemed to be required was dimension and atmosphere.  This didn’t take much. With simple change of setup and with the use of a corporate type of side lighting the desired narrative was created.  The key light then became a light of reassurance.  It signified that the chief was up late, in Dublin, listening and looking out for us all.

In the poster, sporting make-up and a quiet determination, the chief stares towards the middle distance.   A fixed image that could be read as half listener in a pub clinic for the western audience and half Rodin’s Thinker for cosmopolitan Dublin.  As for the campaign, the visual package was intended to be, as usual, nothing more than a transient statement printed on plastic to be recycled after the campaign.   A visual that reflected power as it stood and as it stood to be managed.  As a portrait it was not produced for archival purposes and certainly not future-proofed for historical hanging.  However it remains a loaded vernacular mark when positioned both for the history of the Celtic Tiger and Ahern’s legacy. Sigificantly the 2002 Fianna Fáil campaign poster reverts back to the old template with a daylit image of Ahern in his office safely framed by the party colors.

The official portrait of Ahern currrently owned by the State was painted by the artist James Hanley in 2004.  It shows him blandly frozen, slightly askew and a little defensive.  The pose here is reminiscent of the neutral expectancy captured on the faces of defendants used by trial court artists. When it was presented to the Dáil,  a minor controversy occured when the subject of where to hang it arose. The debate that followed unavoidably coincided with more unsavoury revelations about Ahern’s finances.  Hanley’s €10,000 painting inevitably featured as part of this dialogue much more than it would have liked.

Eventually a sizeable volume of the commentary associated with Ahern had begun to merge visually with the type of events which underlined an increasing fallen status.  In the style of how a clipping editor would shuffle press cuttings to reflect a subject’s dominant news thread, Ahern’s fall became digitally shuffled in this manner.  The subject of course has no say in the programming of this search engine

For a proven example, a quick search for images of Ahern lands upon a startling image of him with Charles Haughey in the 1980s.  Haughey appears paralysed as something important on a desktop seems to have failed and so perhaps has the operator.  A shadowy-eyed Ahern is on hand to take over. The black and white image is cropped and dramatic.  Haughey’s famous comment on Ahern being ‘the most devious, the most cunning of them all’ is visually acted out here in the manner of turn of the century German Expressionism.  This is just an example.  In retrospect, many similar imagined narratives, based on what emerged from the tribunals, begin to write themselves as the combination of information and reclaimed images like this become more familiar.

In Galway, a vernacular version of the 1997 campaign poster appeared.  This startling version focused on a remake of the contemplative nature of the pose. It was home made and quickly achived popular status in the University town. Bertie, as the Taoiseach, was folksily known, looked stoned.   Encouraged by the poster’s comedic visual opening, an unknown artist had Tipp-exed a large joint into Bertie’s fingers and coloured his eyes neon green.  This stoned expression of leadership now spoke to a cohort far removed from Fianna Fáil ’s natural voter base but the incongruous text  ‘People before Politics’ remained.

The style of the act was perhaps directed by contemporary culture that consumed the irrelevant ethos promoted in the labored photoshop examples which were featured at the time in Lads’ magazines such as Loaded.  No matter what the inspiration was or how it came to pass, the ridiculous image of Bertie as Stoner in Chief  totally rejected the gravitas of Fianna Fáil’s economic stewardship, certainly for a Galway audience who had the people’s Bertie propped up on rented mantelpieces and taped to the Dunnes Stores framed pictures provided by their landlords.

It is safe to say the inital corporate look of the ‘untouched’ 1997 thinker image was imported from the presidential style favoured at the time by Tony Blair.  In fact, photographs from the first meeting of Blair and Ahern after the latter became Taoiseach in ’97 show the two men wearing nearly identical powdered grins and grey power suits.

The transient gallery in Galway for image of the understanding stoned thinker was not unsuprisingly the accommodation of the student or service worker . These were the drones of the Tiger’s early phase, night owls who carried out the nightime ‘pull downs’ that liberated lamposts from an unwanted presidential gaze.  They were gathering material for interventionist artwork and minor anti-propagandist resistance.  Fianna Fáils corporate vision was regularly rejected and remade on the nightly trip home.

This creative act took hold and proliferated.  Before both the end of the offical and unofficial campaigns it was possible to buy the reconditioned image of a green-eyed stoned Taoiseach, so popular was the remake.  Others began to follow the original artist’s template for similar versions briefly to be sold in Dublin.  Each poster had to be removed and individually Tipp-exed yet all were similar and held the original text as part of the saleable concept.   In responding to the intended depth of Fianna Fáil’s PR vision (and the audacity of its polished imagery) a successful minor countereconomy in the sale of the plastic printed image was led by Galway. The free market as anointed by Fianna Fáil was working and in a creative nod to the Blair project the remaking of the poster by non- artists celebrated the application of transferable skills demanded by the new economy.

By the time of Ahern’s fall, the dialogue surrounding personal accountability for the financial crisis of 2008 invited a variety of commentary from traditional art practitioners.  After an interview by Ahern in a 2009 issue of VIP magazine, the painter Jonathan Aiken painted a portrait of the former Taoiseach against a background of high-end consumer packaging and crushed credit cards.  Once again, as in the case of the Galway turn, it is Ahern’s gesture that inspired the artist.  On the Gormley Gallery website Aiken explains his rationale

‘’The piece was inspired by an interview Bertie Ahern gave in 2009 in the VIP magazine, responding to attacks from cynics, where he questioned the value of ‘pointing the finger’ and unproductive ethos of blaming others. I was stirred by Bertie Ahern’s response that we can either ‘dig the garden or grow blue bells’ or as he added do something useful.  The portrait seems as though Mr Ahern is set-up for us to yet again point the finger at him, but in his gesture he is also waving back at us, as such throwing it back to us.


Briefly looking further back, a 1983 photograph of Ahern by Tom Lawlor on the comeheretome site shows the creative use of signifying props that is often the mark of the Irish Times in campaign coverage.  Here Lawlor has emphasised  the ‘caught’ nature of the subject framed by bell ropes that also hint at a hangmans gallows. The text on the wall ominously wishes peace and prosperity to Ireland.  The Irish Times most notable image along the lines discussed is a front page foreshortened portrait of Ahern in a gymnasium as a basketball hoop seems to hover as a halo over his head.  Again the seriousness of the then Taoiseach’s expression, in conjunction with the objects of a public space, was accentuated to his detriment.

A damning image of Ahern is of course any video still from of his 2010 post Taoiseach appearance in an ad for the British tabloid, The News Of the World.  The thought  Ahern being paid to be squeezed in a cupboard, with a tea cup, as the citizen-funded state car waited on the shoot still provokes derisive and angry commentary

By the time of the Bertie in a Cupboard  incident, representational fatigue on the subject had set in and derisive imagery was even expected. Sourcing was available from the media’s photoshopping to any amount of rants on social media.  His sucessor Brian Cowen was now in place and was also a target for the backlash. He even attracted painted abuse in 200 when the painter Conor Casby famously, and illegally, inserted the image of Cowen as a leader stripped of his robes into the National Gallery.   As for Ahern? The commentary surrounding his tenure built towards straight digital abuse as his facade crumbled.  Ahern ceased to hint that he may run for president and reduced his media appearences as the mounting and unforgiving commentary began to mould his legacy.

The image of the green-eyed stoner is a physical mark from a pre-Youtube Galway and may only exist in the image I had the opportunity to record.  I photographed the image then as the ubiquity of Ahern’s official image truly seemed to represent an unassailable neoliberal chieftain who promoted the interests of those who filled what was then known as the ‘Galway Tent’.   In 1997 this remake struck me then as the only art-led counter-commentary being practised in traditional Agit-Prop style.  It was above all funny as was the concept of refusing to salute the chief but instead taking him home for a joint in a houseparty in Rahoon.  There was testimony in this, even then, that there was more to Ahern’s public image than met the eye.

Fianna Fáil’s infamous Galway Tent fundraisings were cancelled in 2008.  In 2010  the consequences of a late night  in the bar for Brian Cowen at a Fianna Fáil ‘think-in at the Ardliaun Hotel Galway was the beginning of the end of a certain party style.  In prioritising the entertainment of his staff and colleagues over an interview for the national broadcaster the following day, Cowen had literally put ‘People Before Politics.’



Paul Tarpey (Skip Traces).






Art for Art’s Sake Tour

The large X of shipping containers currently balanced in Limerick’s Arthur’s Quay park is Construction X by the Artist Luc Deleu.  The artwork is part of this year’s EVA international art event and will be in place until August 12.  It may be familiar from its previous visit to Arthur’s Quay in 1994 and the memorable reception it received then is one of the reasons Annie Fletcher, this year’s curator, decided to reconstruct it.

EVA 2012 is titled After the Future and this theme is intended to encourage us to take stock of the present and resist the many false notions of progress for an unreachable future.  Many of the featured works dotted around the city adapt this theme in a variety of creative finishes.  The return of Construction X celebrates its own Limerick memory and in choosing it for reconstruction the curator balances demands for the new with something that, in its own history, still has something to give.

Construction X is now the meeting place for the second Art for Art’s Sake tour which takes place at 12.00 pm on Saturday the 14th of July. Led by Limerick Artist Orlaigh Tracey this popular walking guided tour will include EVA International venues such as 103 O’Connell St. and The Belltable. It will also tour other gallery spaces in the city such as Ormston House.

Each gallery will have the artist/ curator/ guide available to introduce the space and to answer any questions.  There will be a break in between for lunch. The tours are free but any donations are welcome to contribute to the development of Art for Art’s Sake!  To book a place on the tour

Adaptive Identity

The annual off campus exhibition by the LSAD third year students of Sculpture and combined Media is currently showing in the Integrated Media Solutions building at no 8 Chapel Court Limerick City.

28 artists have organised themselves under the banner of Adaptive Identity which is directed by the curator Annette Moloney. Film, Video, Performance, Sculptural Objects and drawing feature as the group present a variety of work on the theme of Identity.
It is evident that there is a strong collaborative aspect in the class and the show invites an audience to respond to the concept with an invite to participate in one of their group discussions that could be held in the space.

A mark of this annual LSAD outing is its diversity in materials and engagement with an off campus space and this is reflected in the shows full title Adaptive Identity: from singularity to pop-up collectivity. The catalogue features short statements and images and are an important calling card in communicating the professional ambitions of the third year artists as they begin to make ‘ their concerns voiced in visual art and public discussion’
With the open-ended theme of identity it is possible to investigate and appreciate each work as stand alone as well as link similar concerns.

The work of Erasmus student Elisa Cocchi references her experience in a foreign country (Ireland) and here inward and outward perspective is embodied in a delicate installation contained in a transparent tent.

There is also a healthy amount of socially based concepts translated within the shows expanded sculptural process. Liz Ryan represents here with work and reformatted objects from her investigation historical fishing groups on the River Shannon.  Padraic O’ Hora dramatically proposes turning manure into gold in a bid to open an eco dialogue on the subject. Feel free to take these nuggets away.

Limerick popular culture Tradition

That’s Limerick City (On Parade)

St Patrick’s day as a brand in Ireland is often seen as re-imported such is the prominence of re-broadcast Irish news items featuring American presidents, cities with green rivers and a running joke in the Simpsons. This year RTE ran a glowing piece showing the Sydney Opera house matched with a financial building in Abu Dhabi joined together  by St Pat and strong green lighting.

Dramatic foreign picturesque events should not be looked at as an Irish performance benchmark for March 17 as we have come to terms with the fact of having no ownership of this brand abroad.  It’s common knowledge that Obama’s casual vist to an Irish bar this year in Washington spoke to the Irish vote for America rather than any meaningful gesture to our sainted isle. The meaning of the day is now whatever you want it to be.  And so it should.  Let everyone now fashion a paton saint to serve both corporate interests and the craic of a day off.

In Limerick the day manifested by the parade is a celebration of people and the city.  Previously, in various counties I usually spent this day working either as a parade participant or as a photographer (contributing to ‘The Brand’) but this year I spent it as a member of the public and watched the city pass by outside the Hunt Museum.

What was immediately evident in the excited atmosphere was the amount of collaboration between crowd and participants.   It was easy here for anyone local or otherwise to get caught up in the support and reasoning of this parade as it peopled itself through the city. Between the cheers and shouts of recognition there was plenty of detailed commentary from friends and relatives filling in on the Friends of the Elderly walk-past, bands, and various school and sports groups.

Confusingly, youngsters behind the barriers screamed for attention at random flag carriers and other facepainted adults who came over for brief chats before carrying on. I realised that those in the parade were teachers or assistants and their fans were those who were previous participants or knew them from weekend workshops. March 17 always showcases the creative community work that has been ongoing for months but the interaction through the barricades registered just how much off it there is in Limerick. The gangs of cardboard covered children in the Limerick Printmakers and also Northside Learning Hub LSAD assisted group stood out in this celebratory context.

The public spirit of Limerick remains its diversity and pride in an understated public identity and the rhythm of the parade reflected this.  A chanting group from a primary school would be bookended by a fire engine and the Limerick Filipino community, who showcased a beauty pageant on a truck with a raucous rock n roll band. This band were fully aware of their situation and rose to the occasion by gleefully belting out ‘you may be wrong,  I may be crazy’ by Billy Joel.  I realised that the presentations that conventionally did not make sense spoke the loudest in representing the city.  Most enjoyable was the speculation on possible meanings in clusters and groupings. For example, why were a troop of scouts armed with attitude and water pistols and what was with the unexpected and heartening cheer that greeted the inter-faith groups walk-by?

There is a traditional local business aspect in parading wares and trades on this day.  An Irish cliché has many a small town shivering on the sidelines waving flags as the local car dealership makes its annual drive by. However it is often in this self-designed world that the richness of the local vernacular is glimpsed often just once a year and intentions and self initiated creativity triumph over formal artistic approaches.  Illustrating this I very much enjoyed the surrealism and fun contained in a parade float from Crecora, County Limerick.

Stone Age brick and stone supplies may have simply designed their contribution as a showcase of their sculpted wares but in treating the flatbed as a theatre set they ended up presenting much more.  A Victorian nymph kneels in a job lot of sand to face a galloping stone horse and foal. Riding the horse is a live redheaded horseman in a Limerick jersey with a tricolour for a saddle. He ignores a duck at the horse’s feet and also a backwards-facing stag. The feeling is mutual.  So preoccupied is the stag that it pays no attention to the Munster rugby flag tied to its antlers. Perhaps it is because there is a small green hat covering its eyes. Quietly at the back, a smaller nymph seems to be dreaming all this at once.

Any creative situation involving a horse is currently very ’Limerick City’ and as the tableau from Stone Age Brick and Stone passed the Hunt I imagined that somewhere in its building the gilded horse from the Horse Outside community art project nodded its head in approval.  In celebrating a Limerick confident with its unique self reflection, and creativity may I suggest that It is only a matter of time before the Rubberbandits are asked to lead the parade.



“Location” — An Exhibition


An exhibition in Occupy Space Gallery Thomas St Limerick from January 12 to February 4 2012

Location is curated by Ruth Hogan who presents four artists engaging  with concepts of landscape through the relation of space to the self.  These artists are Jonathan Sammon, Lisa Flynn, Michelle Horrigan and  Elaine Reynolds and their work is delivered through a combination of drawing, photography and Video. The exhibition is balanced in the gallery’s 3 areas  and is well designed in emphasising the elements of place, wandering and discovery that accompany the varied subject matter of ‘Location’.

The statement for the exhibition refers to a collective positioning of intent by the participants through the phenomenon of ‘Psycho-geography’.

The term ‘Psycho-geography’ originated in the late 50s and by the 60s in one of its many interpretations it became a lateral tool of anti-capatilist resistance used by the group of mainly French creatives who designed its outlines.     Its popularity in art circles stems from the visual research methodogies that have been suggested in the various documents associated with the group.

In their writings these ‘Situationist’ writers such as Guy Debord encouraged wanderings and skewed storytelling to develop surreal associations between the urban landscape and a wanderer’s conception of a journey.

These exercises  came to be documented as reconfigured maps and collaged photoworks in which juxtapositions of certain areas and states of mind achieved significance as a result of ‘psycho-geographical’ investigation.   While not a studied disipline, its ethos has increasingly become a reference in many contemporary projects where the communication of an artist’s involvement with place is integral to the reception of the artwork.

Positioned as such the work in ‘Location’ can be experianced both as research documents on the above theme and as individual works referencing its ethos.  As a whole these results respect the lateral overlapping that occurs when it is the artist’s intention to focus themselves (in and out of character) when engaging with both the conventional and emotional history of a chosen place.

Elaine Reynolds’s video in the blackened Gallery 3 animates an unoccupied house in an Irish ghost estate at night.

In ‘On / Off States’, lights dramatically flash the SOS pattern in morse code.  There is the appearence here of something that subverts the conventional image of a ‘mad party’ on the estate should the developer’s dream of that estate come to pass.  Without any sound to direct us otherwise we are left to deal with the scene’s silence as it becomes a visual echo for the chosen landscape and all associated with it.

In its darkened gallery setting, a documentary impression now appears to suggest the holding of a captured warning beacon. The artwork speaks of ‘systems set to a new purpose’ refering to the artist’s personal interest in fallen economic remnants.  More so the simplicity of Reynolds’s performative intervention presents ‘On /Off’ States as an effective, accessible and direct polemical comment on the psychic legacy of the Celtic Tiger.

In a direct micro contrast some of Lisa Flynn’s close-up video work  ‘Drawing Breath’,  ‘Hello Stranger ‘ and  ‘Untitled Breath’  in Gallery 1 focuses on detailed imagery of the body.  By the nature of its filming the work invites a response akin to intimately following a drawing in progress.  Her screens on the back wall now become the curiously interactive visuals that by location can be seen to speak first to the gallery’s window and street beyond.

Johathan Sammon’s boundaries can be regarded as traditionally ‘darker’ representing the sometimes heightened sensory psycho-geographic readings   of landscape made familiar by writers like Ian Sinclair and WG Sebald .   The gothic graveyard looming in Sammon’s film  ‘A Merry Peal of Celebration’ flickers between a 50’s B movie Hollywood set and a sort of 3D european fairytale.  In his presented visual notes it appears the landscape itself has to be unpacked before a path can be traced.  His statement mentions emotional detatchment.

Gallery 2 hosts photos, graphics and a video by Michelle Horrigan who presents a poetic fusion of biographical details of the poet Dante and the landscape of Baux de Provence.  This landscape with its representational rock formations is said to have been an inspiration for the ‘Purgatorio’ section of his Divine Comedy.  Her cinematic video ‘Purgatory’ is a true almost acedemic example of the wanderer making observations, links and formulating a many stranded narrative speculation towards a work that in its final form transends the investigative process undertaken for it.

This engaging show reflects well the curator’s intention to present artists who explore self, identity and place through a prism of landscape without overly referencing the august tradition of ‘Landscape Art’ in an Irish context.   The concept of destination is also collectively questioned in the respective pieces by a variety of macro and micro strategies and this is one of the exhibition’s many strengths.  Location also succeeds as an introduction to the fluid ‘almost practice’ of Psycho-geography by contemporary visual artists.

Arts Entertainment Limerick Media

The Spirit Store Poetry Bus. Culture Night in Limerick

Last year for Culture Night in the Milk market, the Spirit Store offered the experience of bespoke poetry. Choose your subject and discuss it with a poet who creates a unique response for you to take away. This free event drew a healthy and happy response.

To repeat it in a similar environment for this year’s Culture Night would have been too easy for the SpiritStore’s Marilyn Lennon. She proposed instead, ‘Why not place the poets on an open top bus to tour the city and let people hop on and off with the chance of their poem not only being crafted but read out for the bus and city to hear?’

Why not?  Quickly organising the Red Viking bus and three of the Inkstorm poets, the adventure began at Merchants’ Quay at 6 o’clock. The route took in many of the art events which opened late for Culture Night with stops at the Belltable, the City Gallery and Impact Studios among others.  Above these venues creativity circled as the poets got to work as the bus chased the dusk.

Not only was each poem unique but also so was the experience for the participants. There was applause for each other’s poems and they shouted greetings to waving crowds on the route. Everybody should tour the city this way once it certainly does change one’s perspective. Undoubtedly this did find its way into rhyme tonight as some stayed on the bus for the night and left with more than one poem.

The poets delivered sincere works of varied length carefully read out by Denise who accepted the job on joining the trip. She alternated with Pat the driver who offered his own commentary as the event settled into a poetry party on wheels.

Night and rain fell in the end and a weary Dave, Mike and Lisa of Inkstorm who had been continuously writing for three hours headed for another bus to take them back to Galway. Their officially stamped work will no doubt be framed on many a Limerick wall before next year’s adventure.