“Away from the bustling cities are the small towns that planners, architects and politicians often forget. These small towns are neither the hubs of the global financial industry nor are they the high-tech centres of their countries. They are towns where ordinary residents experience the vagaries of the global economy and the impacts of global climate changes. But they are also towns from which we can learn how to develop a sustainable future….
‘Small town sustainability’, Heike Mayer and Paul L. Knox, Birkhauser (2009)
The first iteration of ‘Commonage’ was an exhibition in 2010 of work by invited artists and architects which formed an ‘architectural strand’ of the community summer festival (the Abhainn Ri Festival of Participation and Inclusion) in Callan, Co. Kilkenny.
Looking at both ‘community’ and ‘commonage’ (the term more usually used in Ireland to describe ‘commons’ land) is particularly pertinent in the context of Callan town, with its Augustinian history and active life-sharing communities (including Camphill and L’Arche). The town is also home to one of the last independent agricultural co-operatives active in South Leinster. The exhibition and temporary installations of ‘Commonage 2010′ highlighted this context by situating itself in areas of the town which are civicly or collectively owned and operated. These places included the former home of the Callan Co-op Farm Store, the recently vacated and deconsecrated Augustinian friary and the banks of the King’s river which runs through the town.
This exhibition presented both newly commissioned work (Rhona Byrne, Gerry Cahill, Lisa Cassidy, Culturstruction (See also project titled ‘Glittery Embrace’), The Good Hatchery, H.U.R.L and Henrietta Williams) and existing work (Gabriella Kiss, Dominic Lavelle, Katie Mangan, and work by 1st year students at the School of Architecture U.C.D.).
2010 marked the starting point of a much longer engagement between the project curators and the communities of Callan. In 2010 the stated aims of ‘Commonage’ were to ‘encourage possibility’ and ‘to provide a resource for future development to be measured in qualitative rather than quantitative terms’. The evolving approach of Commonage has been to explore the ‘lives that grow between the buildings’ over the commodification and objectification of architecture.
In 2010 we were struck by the generosity of spirit of those who worked with us to realise the exhibition and temporary installations. Later we realised that this process of negotiating, collaborating and activating should become key to the participatory approach of ‘Commonage’ as it developed in future years.
‘Commonage‘ was initiated in 2010 by Jo Anne Butler and Tara Kennedy (Culturstruction) with Rosie Lynch as a ‘five year architectural research project’ in the town of Callan, Co.Kilkenny. ‘Commonage’ in 2010′ was curated and produced by Jo Anne Butler and Tara Kennedy (Culturstruction) with Rosie Lynch.
PDF download of Commonage 2010 brochure here
Video by Henrietta Williams about both Commonage and the Abhainn Ri Festival commissioned as part of Commonage 2010.
Commonage 2010 was supported by the Arts Council. For more see also commonagecallan.com
Abhainn Ri Festival