Writing on the
Powerful, political and emotive, Dublin artist Shane Cullen's installation is
3 bound to cause a stir. Words: Paul Welsh
7 Institutions Rv/mb/icainm IV
For centuries. Ireland and Scotland have been allied by a common political and social history. The CCA‘s season of the latest art. literature and poetry from the Emerald Isle New Art From Irv/and. includes one work bound to provoke a reaction.
Dublin-based artist Shane ("ullen's vast. text- based installation explores a particularly emotive. politically-charged aspect of Northern Ireland‘s history — the IRA hunger strikes.
(‘reated by (‘ullen during a series ol‘ residencies in liurope. Frag/Hens .s'ur luv
consists of over 35.000 words taken l'rom texts written by the hunger strikers in the Maze prison during the early b’lls‘.
()riginally these messages or ‘comms’ — short for communications — were scrawled on cigarette papers. scrunclied-up. wrapped in cling film and hidden in human oril‘ices. 'l‘he comms are now held in lreland‘s
National Library. and provide a first hand account of the personalities. issues and conditions at the heart of
the hunger strikes.
('ullen says his eight panels ol‘ text covering ||0 square metres are not an overt political statement championing the Irish Republican cause. To draw
'My strategy is to get people to pay attention to the work. I try to provoke thinking ~ that's my idea of an artwork's function.’
Right on: Shane Cullen at work on Fragments
conclusions about his personality or politics from his work would be a mistake. he adds.
‘Working with this type of documentation. my job is to remain objective.‘ he says. ‘Retrieval and scrutiny is the method I adopt in my work. I take texts from different sources and subject them to further investigation. My work is not about me.‘
ln many ways his installation is reminiscent of a war memorial. particularly the US Vietnam war-dead
memorial in Washington. where thousands of
numbers are inscribed on polished granite.
When Frugnmzs .s‘ur [es Institutions Repub/icaines IV appeared in Dublin's Douglas Hyde Gallery. the Irish media‘s reaction was largely negative. but the work drew a large audience. At CCA. the installation will stretch along the gallery’s length. making a physical and psychological impact on the viewer.
To read every word ol‘ the Bodini typeface text from beginning to end takes approximately four hours. and in Dublin. visitors frequently returned to pick up where they left off. Cullen hopes Scottish audiences will do the same.
‘ll‘ artists work with images. people scan them very quickly.‘ he says. ‘Their attention span is really short. My strategy is to get people to pay attention to the work. I try to provoke thinking — that’s my idea ol~ an artwork‘s l‘unction. You cannot hold people for any period of time without text.’
Cullen. who represented Ireland at the I995 Vennice Biennale. believes the nation‘s history offers an endless supply of subject matter. ‘I did not consciously choose [Irish] nationhood. but the feedback I get from people alter the event tells me I have.’ he says. ‘For me. it‘s the most interesting subject and area to work in.‘
New Art From Ireland is at CCA. Glasgow, Sat 6 Sep—Sat 18 Oct.
Eavesdropping on the goings-on in the art world.
ALL CHANGE AGAIN at Glasgow's CCA. Months after the resignation of exhibitions director Nicola White, the centre's director Penny Rae has announced her departure after just two years. It seems the multi-arts venue is having a rocky time. Closure for Lottery-funded refurbishment has been delayed until 1999. though Page and Park were recently announced as the project's architects.
MEANWHILE GLASGOW MOVES nearer to its reign as 1999 City of Architecture and Design. Excitement has been muted so far. News of new projects may offer a respite. Japanese architect, Shinichi Owgawa and artist Alan Johnstone are to build a six metre glass cube behind the City Chambers in John Street. Adam Barker-Mill, who earlier this year had a show of amazing psychedelic, light installations at Edinburgh's lnverleith House, is to coordinate its illumination.
BUT IF ANYTHING has received a critical slaughtering, it's art at the Edinburgh Festival. Critics up from London have not spoken kindly about this year's offerings. The Guardian's Adrian Searle, described the overall effect of the National Galleries' Raeburn exhibition as ‘boring'. He noted that Scotland, with National Galleries director Timothy Clifford and head of Glasgow Museums Julian Spalding, had 'the pick of the daftest gallery directors in Europe'. While William Feaver of The Observer called the lack of modern art shows 'pathetic.’
Scotland has answered back, though. Scotland On Sundays art critic lain Gale said: 'Pundits from what used to be Fleet Street cannot resist an annual binge of Scots-bashing,’ and went on to detail what Edinburgh had to offer.
A Scots v English, tit for tat approach to a serious issue, perhaps? But however you cut it, Edinburgh’s art scene this Festival has been no great shakes. The Scottish Arts Council should perhaps take the initiative and start kicking ideas around for next
Scottish delight: Raebum's famed skating vicar, the Rev Walker
29 Aug—ll Sep i997 rncusns