The rural, far from the empty landscape of tourist brochures, is a contested zone in which a complex matrix of perspectives is at work. Socio-economic change, climate change and ecological realities demand a radical re-thinking of the rural so that a new discourse can be developed by cultural practitioners and grassroots participants in the rural dynamic.
Rural Vernacular set out to foster a new type of engagement between Public Art and rural contexts. A number of artists were invited to conduct research in rural Co. Clare . This agricultural region is a European microcosm in which all of the fault lines, developing as a result of the impacts of globalisation and industrialisation on agriculture, are evident.
Relating to the complex, rural context was central to the project; public art was understood as both a both a process of research and a mode of dialoguing between artists, rural communities and the wider cultural discourse. The project proposed the development of a form of public art which would not impose the values of the dominant cultural discourse on rural communities, but seeks to engage with rural issues and vernacular rural culture. It’s important to bring into focus for contemporary art practice the broader definitions of culture which apply in rural contexts and which must be recognised if a genuine cultural dialogue is to occur. Selected artists were asked to consider rural knowledge and rural culture, and to engage with rural communities as part of their research.
vladimir arkhipov, functioning forms ireland, 2006, final work installed in the gallery of the burren college of art, ballyvaughan, co. clare
Amanda Dunsmore, still images from Mr and Mrs Krab's Utopia, 2006
tamas kaszas, seashore reliefs 2006
various locations, co. clare
fiona woods rural vernacular >>
was also located within a particular political context; locality and
sustainability are important cultural issues that are coming under
enormous pressure as priority is increasingly given to the global
economy based on the Oil Paradigm. The cultural imperative of the
global paradigm is to wipe out local distinctiveness and to replace the
community principle of mutual assistance, so central to rural culture,
with relations based on monetary transactions. These are issues that
affect the rural population right across Europe, and beyond.
Vladimir Arkhipov’s project Functioning Forms Ireland
highlights a phenomenon in which economic transactions are almost
entirely absent. His ‘Post-Folk Archive’ is composed of hand-made
objects that individuals have fashioned for their own use. Farmers
are, by necessity, inventors and tool-makers, responding to the
constantly changing needs of the cultivation process. Arkhipov’s
collection shows us that this is a human trait found in many places;
these objects have an ingenuity but also a frailty in the face of
Dunsmore is an English artist living in rural County Clare. This
‘insider-outsider’ status gives her a particular perspective on the
blow-in population, so crucial to the cultural life of rural Clare.
Utopia? is a body of research based on interviews with individuals who
have relocated from their countries of birth to live in County Clare.
These are people who move to rural Ireland in search of a better or
alternative lifestyle. They often revive traditional crafts such as
cheese-making, thatching, organic farming - but many of them come to
have a love-hate relationship with rural Ireland, something that is
reflected in the title of the work.
says ‘The conversations touched on many rural issues, such as the
weather, family, time, roads, drugs, cars, wealth, houses and the
future. I wanted to know why they’d come to live in rural Ireland, were
they looking for a kind of Utopia and what did they find.’
A video work Mr. and Mrs. Krab’s Utopia was screened at the Shifting Ground conference and also in the X-PO (2008).
work of Hungarian artist Tamás Kaszás has social, ecological and
political dimensions; it combines a distrust of state authority and
control with an optimistic rejection pof cynical thinking. He creates
complex environments that function as symbolic spaces where free
thinking and discussion can take place.
His work for Rural Vernacular Seashore Reliefs
is located on the edge of 5 beaches, areas that at first seem remote
and pristine. Kaszás has, however, spent weeks collecting plastic
debris that has washed up all along this beautiful coast and has
arranged it to resemble the kind of colourful signs that are so much a
part of our visual culture.
‘Boards often control our behaviour’ says
the artist. They are carriers of clear, unchallengable messages that
treat the members of society as kids with taking away the possibility
of making a decision. . . . The alternative (signposts) boards are easy
to be understood; they draw people’s attention to the pollution of the
environment but don’t operate with the didactic statement.'
the same time as drawing our attention to the use of the oceans as
dumping grounds, this work focuses our attention on a material with
which we all have a complex relationship. The artist says 'I want to
collect and use only plastic pieces in my work, because first of all,
plastic is not regarded as a nice, soft material; however some of the
pieces that were abraded and polished by the sea like gravel have
surprisingly beautiful forms. Second of all, plastic is connected to
many layers of meaning; it is made from oil, the residue of ancient
seas and also the most important fuel of modern economy for which many
wars have been started. Plastic is also the material of eternity; it
decays very slowly - if ever.'
Bauntlieve - Conversations
is composed of two parallel projects by artists Patricia Hurl and
Therry Rudin. Having recently moved to a cottage in the somewhat
‘remote’ townland of Bauntlieve, Inagh in Co. Clare, they wanted to
find a way to create a cultural dialogue with their new neighbours.
They kicked off the project with a party at their cottage, which
quickly turned into a ‘round-the-house’ céilí event, with the best of
traditional music and dancing.
community of Bauntlieve were familiar with the ‘documentary’ traditions
of art ' portraiture, the representation of houses, animals and land'
and while this was somewhat outside of the usual practice of these
artists, they recognized the opportunity that this presented to stand
on common aesthetic ground and to develop a truly collaborative artwork
with this rural community. Hurl began to invite neighbours into her
studio to paint them; she decided to 'revisit an old favourite
painting, Grant Wood’ American Gothic, the iconic image of mid-American
vernacular' as a template for the portraits. The sittings became a form
of cultural exchange, with stories and histories being offered by the
sitters to the artist, who in turn sought to arrive at a physical
likeness, something that was important to the sitters.
for her part, began to make a photographic record of houses, land and
animals; she sought to 'monumentalise' the images and began to give
framed copies as gifts to the families. The artist is making light
boxes which will illuminate these images of Bauntlieve is a celebratory
fashion. The light boxes also function to bring into focus images of
and insights into the shared experiences of our lives, including
universal questions as 'who am I?' 'how do I define my relationships?'
and 'what happens when we die?' .
Fiona Woods, 2006