Art as a Consumer Durable

Exhibit B, the Piccinni creatures and Maum were the most interesting events for me in the rainy, windswept but fabulous few days I spent at the Galway International Arts Festival. On arrival, we went straight to the Black Box to see Exhibit B (created by South African, Brett Bailey) so I was a little unprepared for the exhibition.  The eye to eye contact at Exhibit B was challenging. I stared at the exhibits displaying the savage brutality of colonial Europe and they stared back. Real people. Black people, revolving on pedestals, painted in colonial gear, exhibited as freaks, slaves holding baskets of laytex rubber hands or human skulls. I lowered my eyes to read the information panel which told me of the mutilation, cruelty, and barbarity of the white colonisers and looked back at the exhibit who still stared at me. And I felt guilty. It was an effective and powerful exhibition. I left, sick to the stomach, cowed by the brutality of man and went to have a drink…shame faced.

The cruelty of colonialism and the miscarriage of justice reared its ugly head again in the brilliant production of Maum, written by Sighle Ni Chonaill which was the last event of our stay. It was performed in both Irish and English with the Irish translated in a panel at the top of the theatre. At first it was off putting as you had to watch for the translation rather than watch the characters but as I got to know the characters better, this mattered less. It is not a tactic that I would over use though, and, to be honest, this production didn’t. The play unfolds and reveals and the acting is very good. It’s denoument is excellent and surprisingly unexpected. Once again, I left the theatre feeling shamefaced and guilty (I am English). I was driving home, so I didn’t take to the drink that time.

But in-between all the guilt and shame, high winds and rain. I had a great time. Art is fabulous. It is very easy to forget how art enables us to think, absorb, and reflect. Creating art is so important, whether it be music, performance, visual, or written. |It enables us to appreciate and understand our own lives – both as the creator and as the audience. It creates a relationship between us all and provides us with different perspectives. It expresses our emotions. It is shocking that the arts is so underfunded and that we do not yet appreciate its value. Art should be considered a consumer durable. If you think about all the things that give us joy in our life time, it is usually something to do with art…books, music, painting, performance. Our lives revolve around entertainment (TV) yet art is not sufficiently valued or appreciated by the powers that be unless it is to manipulate it. Odd that. The relationship between power and art. Hum, I’ll need to reflect on that but in the meantime…I’ll just stick with my visit to Galway in the lashing wind and rain.

Of course, given the weather, I had to get a raincoat. I am acquiring many coats because I never have the right one with me at the time. However, I am delighted with my brand new, half price, swanky raincoat which I am told would give me entry to the horsey crowd at the Galway Races (if I had any money left to go)! So, now I have a coat for all occasions.

Sadly, the wind and the rain put pay to the award winning sky whale which was supposed to swim the skies of the festival , but I loved Patricia Piccinini’s sculptures which we went to see in the Festival Hub. But, they too were very unsettling. She has created half human, half beast mutants whose skin is so life like it is spooky. She uses human hair but the flesh and the eyes of her installations  are totally freaky. They look so real. Ironic really, given the real exhibits of Exhibit B. However, I left this event on a high, delighted by the Art.

puccinini w2puccinini3

I wasn’t as delighted with The Match Box by Frank McGuinness which we went to see on Friday night at the Town Hall. It was a tragedy and delved into the horror of revenge. It was one woman show which went on for one hour forty five minutes and sadly, I didn’t think it had the drama, the stage or the script to make it effective.

But I did enjoy Elizabeth Bourgois’ exhibition of autobiographical line drawings in the Galway Museum. I saw lines of figures and shapes struggling to take shape. I am sure my shape has altered after the cooked breakfasts, delicious chowders, array of hot chocolates, steaks, chips and wine with which we washed down our visit.

Thanks Galway Arts Festival…Galway and all the artists of the world! I had a great time.


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