A proposal by Michele Horrigan
Askeaton is located in the west of Ireland. A tribe called the Geiphtine established a settlement at a waterfall there in pre-Christian times, which today is a small bustling town fifteen miles west of Limerick City. Founded in 2006 due to a great lack of any contemporary art infrastructure, Askeaton Contemporary Arts promotes contemporary visual art in the area. The sixth edition of Welcome to the Neighbourhood, an annual programme of invited international and Irish artists resident and working in the town, will occur in July 2011. By developing and understanding how art might be produced and experienced in this locality, Askeaton Contemporary Arts aims to open up fresh possibilities of how art might operate outside a city environment, while concurrently supporting the production of new artists’ projects. In its five year history Welcome to the Neighbourhood has facilitated and produced projects for more than 30 artists from Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland and more.
Having developed Welcome to the Neighbourhood for five years, I thought that it was important to re-assess what is possible with the continued establishment of contemporary art practice in this specific location. My hope was that the Curatorial Intensive would hone the skills that I had already developed in the last five years around hands-on community engagement and developing site-specific projects with artists, along with understanding and contextualising Askeaton within similar initiatives internationally. A clear aim in my participation in the workshop was to understand the possibilities of further community involvement and dissemination of the project to audiences locally and abroad.
The possibilities to further disseminate the nature of the project to both visual arts and local audiences was discussed at the Curatorial Intensive in October 2010. As a consequence, an advisory board consisting of individuals who can develop relevant and valuable inputs into the project’s future will be formulated throughout 2011. A small group of international and Irish visual arts specialists have been chosen to offer viewpoints, opinions and feedback on Askeaton Contemporary Arts, allowing a further contextualisation and dissemination of the project. Members of the advisory board will frequently visit future editions of the project, and through conversation and conjecture can act with vested interest as a kind of stakeholder in upcoming developments. Members of the advisory board include three local individuals who live in Askeaton. They will choose one residency artist from a shortlist developed through initial curatorial research. This process is intended to short circuit the curatorial gesture of bringing and introducing artists to the town, as recognition of the local community’s role in many recent projects. For example, in 2008 Dublin artist Michael McLoughlin organised the first game of bingo in the town in twenty-five years. He dusted down a bingo machine he found in the local hall, used his materials budget as a jackpot and got 200 people to attend on a Wednesday evening in July. Now bingo is run each month by the community thanks to Michael’s foresight. In the 2009 edition London artist Andrew Dodds operated a pirate radio station, broadcasting recordings and interviews with musicians and individuals involved in local neighbourhood structures. After experiencing five years of the present programme, many members of the community are in a position now to suggest clear inputs for future working relationships with artists.
2011’s Welcome to the Neighbourhood will feature five international and Irish artists, in residence in Askeaton from July 11th–25th.
Each artist will have a working space in the town, varying from empty retail units, community hall, library, and other public spaces identified by curator Michele Horrigan. Furthermore, hands-on technical and logistical assistance is offered during the 14 days to each artist, both by the local community and a specially assembled team of technicians. An experimental approach to the production of artists’ projects is constantly advocated, furthering an understanding of the possibilities of the project in a very broad cultural sense, and allowing for the development of the festival as a fluid conceptual model rather than as a more traditionally-structured event. Time and space is found for the artists we work with to continually redefine what kind of projects might be possible each year. This year’s artists include Oswaldo Ruiz (Mexico), Amanda Gutiérrez (Chicago), Allan Hughes (Northern Ireland), Alan Counihan (Ireland) and Elaine Byrne (Ireland). Artists will develop new artworks to showcase on an open weekend, which will occur July 24th-25th. Leading up to and throughout the weekend, public events will be scheduled, including an opening reception, artists talks and a tour of the town and completed artworks.
Horrigan is founding director and curator of Askeaton Contemporary Arts. She is also visual arts curator at The Belltable, Limerick, where recent and upcoming exhibitions include Allan Hughes and Magdalena Jitrik. She was educated at the University of Ulster, Belfast and the Stadelschule, Frankfurt. As an artist she has exhibited in Limerick City Gallery of Art, RIAA Buenos Aires, Frankfurter Kunstverein, and the Royal Academy of Art, Copenhagen.