We had an interesting day visiting The National Sculpture Factory (NSF) and The Guesthouse Artists Collective. NSF is an organisation which assists artists by providing a supportive working environment, giving artists the opportunity to develop new projects and improve skills. They are also involved in a vibrant cross cultural exchange programme, bringing together national and international artists, curators and philosophers. They provide residencies, lecture programmes, cultural exchanges, masterclasses and professional development workshops.
After lunch we visited The Guesthouse on Chapel St, founded in 2004 and opened in 2009. An artist led initiative, the Guesthouse provides residencies for Irish and international artists. The venue faciliates solo and group shows as well as cross-practice peer exchange, all in a residential setting. By hosting events, many based around food, people come together with shared interests and also new exchanges are initiated, artists, curators, critics and passionate cooks come together in this informal setting, encouraging interaction.
It was interesting to actually see how both organisations work with artists and the huge benefits from such relationships. Both organisations were interested in establishing a link with us as artists and wanted to maintain contact. They were both encouraging and open to future projects with any of us should a need arise.
Reading the chapter about Panopticism in Michel Foucault’s Discipline & Punish was a revelation for me.
Through philosophical investigation Foucault uses History to highlight areas of domination over social classes. He illustrates how oppressed we in the Western World are, even though we are under the illusion that we have a certain type of freedom.
He uses the example of the panopticon designed by Jeremy Bentham, the building allows the incarcerated individual no privacy, and gives a sense of permanent visibility, thus ensuring a constant exertion of power – it is like a strange mind-game, inflicting an evil force of control.
This physical manifestation of power through the panopticon has spread in a psychological way through our society, allowing the exertion of power to become more economic and also effective – forming a discipline mechanism.
The panopticon represents the way in which discipline and punishment work in modern society. It is a diagram of power in action because by looking at a plan of the panopticon, one realises how the processes of observation and examination operate and our whole functioning capitalist economy depends on the docility and compliance of it’s masses, the panoptic model could be employed across a wide variety of areas, such as schools, factories, hospitals and prisons. We are all subject to the rules of the panopticon at some stage of our lives. The more sophisticated our society the more opportunity for the State to employ coercive tactics.
We as artists are in a position to question this and are very often non-conformists.
I would like to use the characters of the anthropomorphic tales of the 12th Century combined with 16th Century Ullenspiegel as an example of a way “we” have subverted that exertion of power, psychologically, through our identification with the ‘Other’.
I am interested mid-European Literature dating from the 12th- 14th Century.
The main area of interest within these folkloric tales is the role of ‘The Trickster’ who is also a heroic figure. The trickster myth is universal, ancient and still relevant today.
I am specifically interested in exploring the psychogical reasons for our identification with this recurring figure in myth, legend and popular culture and our need to identify with ‘the Other’.
The Trickster acts like a clown, plays pranks and tricks exhibits crude behaviour but he also appears as a creator, cultural hero, saviour. He is part human, part animal and almost divine, an amoral and comic troublemaker. He operates mostly outside conscious awareness but always from within the human mind. We ourselves identify with and are the Trickster, when we describe Trickster phenomena we are always describing aspects of ourselves. This is the area which interests me most and I would like to research and investigate this aspect.
Thus the Trickster has been called a speculum mentis: a mirror into the mind.
[Speculum mentis, Latin: “mirror of the mind.”] Paul Radin
“Manifestly we are here in the presence of a figure and a theme or themes which have had a special and permanent appeal and an unusual attraction for mankind from the very beginning of civilization. In what must be regarded as its earliest and most archaic form, as found among the North American Indians, Trickster is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself. He wills nothing consciously. At all times he is constrained to behave as he does from impulses over which he has no control. He knows neither good nor evil yet he is responsible for both. He possesses no values, moral or social, is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his actions all values come into being. But not only he, so our myth tells us, possesses these traits. So, likewise, do the other figures of the plot connected with him: the animals, the various supernatural beings and monsters, and man.” Paul Radin, The Trickster in Native American Mythology.
Ysengrimus is a Latin anthropomorphic series of fables written in 1148 or 1149, it is presumed by the poet Nivardus. Its chief character is Ysengrimus the Wolf, and it describes how his various schemes are overcome by the trickster, Reynardus the Fox.
I would like to begin an investigation into the reasons for and the importance behind the ‘heroic figure’ in Medieval literature, right up until another significant trickster figure, Ulenspiegel.
We discussed in a rooftop apartment how de Certeau looks at the ways in which people subvert, or escape the constraints of mass culture, altering things, like their routes home, the way they communicate (or are supposed to communicate) and make them their own. It looks at us as consumers and the way we tactically cope with oppression. This was very relevant to us, as artists as we express ourselves within spaces, physical and psychological.
Talk by Helen Carey, Director and Curator of Limerick City Gallery of Art.
I found Helen Carey’s discussion of the process of “commemoration” very interesting, what it actually means to commemorate and how it is connected to cultural identity, mentioning Pierre Nora. She spoke about the fact that memory and morality are closely connected and that the oral tradition of passing on ‘memories’ continued right up until the 19th Century. With her curatorship of “The Lockout” she wanted the artists to represent the past by making work that was relevant NOW – but still had a resonance with 1913.
T.S. Eliot, The Quartet
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable”.
These experiments in abstraction made me face a series of questions I have about my work. These drawings were part of a deconstruction process I undertook. The questions which I found most difficult to deal with were,
What does abstraction mean to me?
Is it a bad thing to express emotion in my work, and if so why?
What message am I trying to convey?
Is there a way I can rationalise this process?
I began by making a series of abstract paintings and drawings, but because I had so many questions I felt my work was not resonating with me and that I had to focus on where my practice was rooted, where the actual incentive lies for my artistic endeavor. Inevitably I have now taken the path of critical analysis, exploration and a search for answers.