Irish Pavilion at Biennale Architettura
In 2011 Culturstruction were commissioned to undertake a research residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art investigating public engagement with the place of IMMA and its site at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
Our research into ideas of ‘access’ and ‘mediation’ was based on a period of three months of direct observation and field work, looking at the usage patterns of the museum complex and its grounds. We documented ways in which the historic fabric of the building (a former military retirement home known as ‘The Royal Hospital’ built in the beaux arts style) and its generous grounds shaped how people found their way to and through the museum and surrounds. We looked at the high boundary wall, the lapsed historic rights of way through the Royal Hospital’s grounds and the evolution of an exclusion wall around the sites graveyard (Bully’s Acre) in the time of a cholera epidemic. Our residency at the museum also coincided with two high security historic visits to Dublin. In May 2011 Queen Elizabeth of England made her first ever visit to Ireland, and shortly afterwards American president Barack Obama visited the city. As we moved between city and studio we were witnessing contemporary methods of urban crowd control as temporary barriers and fencing suddenly corralled the movement of Dublin’s inhabitants. During the residency we produced a series of abstracted collage drawings, models and temporary installations exploring the experience of visiting the museum and grounds and the wider themes of access and mediation.
As our research developed we began to focus on the tradition of right of way and public bonfire at Bully’s Acre. In 2011 ‘St. John’s Eve (A celebration of rights of way)’ was held as a small research event; a temporary enactment of this public right. ‘St. John’s Eve (A Celebration of Rights of Way)’ is now a reoccurring event and an ongoing partnership with the Education and Community Department at IMMA.
Also resulting from this residency period was ‘Polyvalency’, a small solo exhibition at the ‘Process Room’ gallery at IMMA in July 2011. The work in this exhibition was a quick responsive gesture and drew together our observations of the contemporary art gallery experience, control and security in the wider city at this time and historic research into the high boundary wall of IMMA’s site at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.
With thanks to Lisa Moran, Education and Community Department, IMMA and Janice Hough, Residency Programme, IMMA.
Image by Jeannie O’Brien.