2013-2014 – Review by Katharine Mauer
2013-2014 – Review by Katharine Mauer
On the 4th of September 2013, the opening of the large red doors of the old fire station on Rathmines Road signified a new episode in the life of an iconic building in this urban village. In the year since, they have become a familiar invitation to the unfamiliar, the surprising, the sometimes challenging, the beautiful, and the fun. Step through them and you step into MART’s contemporary cabinet of curiosities. Ciara Scanlan and Matthew Nevin, the curators of MART, have developed a multi-faceted platform for the production and viewing of new media and installation art, sculpture, the work of experimental film and performance artists. Starting with 2 galleries and 8 studios in the fire station, in the last 12 months the duo have added a further 20 studios, an office, and a cafe – event space, which occupy nearby buildings. This polycentric engagement with the built fabric of the area has stitched MART into everyday life in Dublin and is a physical reflection of their curatorial concerns and programming.
MART aims to bring contemporary art to the forefront of culture through the active engagement of all sectors of society in its viewing and production. The fundamental impetus for artistic endeavour is the exploration the human condition. Contemporary art has opened up new possibilities for public interaction with that process. MART mediates this through inclusivity; the gallery is a permeable interface between the artist and the public; diversity generates new audiences; workshops, talks and discussions around exhibitions and artist led events involve all potential contributors. These events are recorded and thus, through archive and action, MART is providing space for the creation of a durable discourse generated by the community as a whole.
Independence is a key factor in maintaining openness. MART has received funding from Dublin City Council, Arts Council Ireland and Culture Ireland for specific undertakings, and these seed investments have allowed MART to become over 90% self-sustaining through innovative practice and the integration of the aesthetic into the everyday. Engagement with MART is not with a passive showroom but with a series of active spaces – part laboratory, part community meeting point , part academy. This is evident from the range of events and happenings over the last year. The opening show, Curb Your Carrie Bradshawism, encapsulated many of the diverse motifs: a curated group show involving mixed media explorations of a central contemporary concern ie how do we deal with the overload of modern life? More politically sensitive was Implicated held in October 2013, which explored the real issues of privacy, intrusion and transgression in the 21st century. In May 2014, Translucent Flag, a show exploring the ambiguity of identity by a group of Cork based sculpture and video artists and the Safe European Home? exhibition of work about racism and cultural identity by Roma and Traveller artists from the UK further emphasised the direct connection between art and everyday experience.
Earlier in the year, Blue Monday had provided the opposite experience to the viewer, as El Putnam curated an exhibition on the positivities of art: that it provides relief from the incessant suffering of life. The other group shows were not thematically collated, rather each was the snapshot of the work of connected groups of artists: The MART Fair (30 artists curated by Eoghan Phelan – showing the work of new artists), Grosvenor Studios Group Show, The Clay Room Project (DIT), Needlehead (NCAD Textiles Students), Separate (IADT Students), I Pity The Fool (First Studio Artists) and 3’ (IADT Students). MART held five solo shows during the year which demonstrated the flexibility of the galleries – in providing the clarity of the ‘white cube’ as well as the laboratory space for experimentation. First, Clogagh Evelyn in a MART Experiment showed the process and results of explorations of the relationship between space and place using fabric in a three day ‘experiment’. In contrast the next show with a similar concern (space and place), by Conor Ferguson, was a photographic exhibition of the canal bank scenes. Shota Kotake also held a MART Experiment over three days with Manga Characters in 2013 and then returned in July of 2014 for a month long performance, sculpture and drawing exhibition, The State of Me. Harking back to the pop-ups of MART’s virtual incarnation, Niko Tarka, a studio member, had a solo exhibition of her ongoing works for one week.
In its mission to present the contemporary, MART facilitates a wide range of media – from the recognised to the experimental. Within the established frameworks last year MART staged The Last Post by Just The Lads showed as part of the Fringe festival and had full Culture Night Screenings. Performance for MART covers a wide range: theatrical productions like The Strindberg Project by Maeve Stone, Caitiff by Underdog Theatre Productions and The Daft Project by Verbatim Theatre; performances by Katie Kim + Owensie and Patrick Kelleher + Hauer; mixed media performative events like Cinephonic, a visual arts night and Milk + Cookies – After Dark Three, a spoken word and music night.
Film was not neglected during the year as MART inaugurated The Firehouse Film Contest and Venture, an experimental film screening night. This diversity allowed for events normally outside the expected ambit of a contemporary gallery such as The Fire Escape Music Festival which took over the galleries for two days, 190a Retelling, an exhibition retelling the history of the fire station and the surrounding area and Landmarked a street art exhibition filling the galleries. MART’s relationship with the community is a primary focus and throughout the winter there were workshops at the MART Academy, and as well as the MART Christmas Market, the Upcycle Pop Up Market and the Irish Record Fair. As the majority of MART events were free, fundraising was required. Two major fundraising events were held which were open to all: Ghouls of Ghostbusters Past at Halloween and Pay Day (featuring Nanu Nanu + Voids) in January 2014.
There have been two recent developments which indicate the success of MART and the determination of its curators, Matthew Nevin and Ciara Scanlan: the opening of MARTCADE, a cultural space of possibility fostered through social interaction, which will consolidate the connections between the artists and the local community created in the last year and the showing of IMITATOR, a performative video installation in Japan in August 2014 which has led to the foundation of the MART international residency and exchange program between arts organisations in Kyoto Japan and Chicago.
Next year’s line up of visual art exhibitions and events continues the eclectic mix of programming. MART are looking for a fourth space to provide studios for sound artists and are developing a Mobile App to promote the MART artists, while MARTCADE will host a bi-monthly design market. The diversity of MART as a platform is an invitation for experimentation. This ability to adapt and adopt is a strength which allows MART to embrace change and the new.
Katharine Maurer – September 2014