Study for a Pavilion
‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ – Askeaton Contemporary Arts, Ireland. 2017
In ‘Study for a Pavilion: Askeaton’, Tina O’Connell and Neal White use a range of site specific media to ask how a small town in Ireland might be represented in the context of a global economy, whilst remaining rooted to the local culture and community that has given rise to its own outstanding and Internationally recognised art event – Askeaton Contemporary Arts Festival.
Following a residency in Askeaton, I worked with Neal White to develop a number of interventions for the festival of contemporary Art ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’. The project is primarily based on the nearby Ardnacrusha Hydro Dam and Power Station, Limerick and its inclusion in the 1939 Worlds Fair Expo in New York. This project drew on as a vast mural by Sean Keating (all works later destroyed), that was destroyed and that linked to other works made locally that also featured destroyed works of public art. These projects have since been included in Jes Fernie. project; The Archive of Destruction.
Study for a Pavilion loosely took the original design of the building at the World Expo – a shamrock, that is then mapped out as a plan on the floor into the community centre. Research materials were included inside a Buck Dome, that was also a feature of the World Expos series.
As part of the Art festival event, we included a guided tour inviting local visitors to speculate on the possible sections and areas that might be promoted for an Askeaton Pavilion at a future Worlds Fair. We asked how might we reflect the heritage, industry and culture of the town and area? The work also included a media installation based on a reconstruction of the Keating Mural from lost photographs of the mural in New York.
A further series of spectral reconstructions, of lost or stolen public sculptures that had disappeared in the UK, were developed in local park and displayed alongside the Study.
Curated by Michele Horrigan and Sean Lynch.
The following text was printed on an Interpretation Panel at the entrance to the Community Hall
ART, LOST & FOUND
Whether through vandalism, unplanned devastating events or intentional theft, the loss of any artwork can tear holes in a shared cultural fabric. For art that is publicly accessible, this has a different register. From a sculpture stolen from a park for its weight in metal, through to removal of historical artworks taken during foreign occupations (theft by finding), or even the recent destruction of public cultural icons in the middle east, the loss becomes a direct assault on our shared values, our history and our future.
However, in some cases, a public artwork that is meticulously planned and executed by a leading artistic figure is intentionally lost. Between 1937-39, Limerick born artist Sean Keating worked on an extensive mural for the Irish National Pavilion, designed by the architect Michael Scott, for the New York World’s Fair, 1939. Modern and uncompromising in its quality, and quite unlike any of his previous works, the vast mural depicted Ireland as a pioneer of modern technology, with the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Power Station in Co. Clare at its centre. Flanked by historical references, images of political independence and the future of aviation and telecommunication, this vast painting encompassed the Irish Governments vision of the “Love of Liberty, Love of Learning”.
Only two years later however, the love was lost, the pavilion was demolished, along with the mural. Not only was the artwork destroyed, but it’s short life and lack of photographic apparatus of the time meant that the historical record is limited to a few partial images. Only notes of the process of the painting can retrace the vivid colours of Buff Yellow, Map Green, Burnt Umber, White, Red and various shades of Blue that transmitted the work to the visitors of the World Fair. Keating himself hardly noticed, as events tore Europe apart.
STUDY FOR A PAVILION: ASKEATON
Today, International Art Fairs and Art Biennales promote artists from their nation states around the globe. National Pavilions and ‘statement spaces’ provide platforms that connect curators and collectors, leading Museums and Galleries, which then seek to shape our cultural identity. However, for many, these events represent a global economy of art with all of the critical and political dimensions that such a phenomenon raises. For the artists, critics and audiences consuming these spectacles in person, these events continue the tradition of the World’s Fairs, as temporary sites of power and privilege. Experienced through social media, the rarefied event, exclusive, remote, is connected to daily life through luxurious glossy images in near constant and potentially perpetual circulation.