Askeaton Contemporary Arts
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Set around the legacy of Second World War battlement infrastructure along the Shannon Estuary, Hughes' video, audio and photographic installation examines ideas of the ‘neutral state’, not solely as it pertains to the neutrality of Ireland during the Second World War, but also as an exploratory idea of historical memory and site as an ever-evolving understanding. A sound work was produced from interviews made with Michael Foley, John Guinane and Michael D. Ryan, all of whom had volunteered in the Local Security Force (LSF) and Local Defense Force (LDF) in the 1940s. As they each reflect on their life and work during ‘The Emergency,’ their recollections frequently intertwine and sometimes interrupt their respective accounts. Hughes subsequently photographed several pillboxes in the West Limerick area, small concrete structures these men would have been stationed in. Ardmore Point, the only defense battery built by the Irish government during World War II, features prominently in Hughes’ accompanying video. Located in County Kerry on the mouth of the Shannon, a sprawling variety of lookout structures and underground bunkers were constructed to prevent the invasion of German or Allied forces. Over the last seventy years, the entire complex has gradually disappeared from view and local consciousness: overgrown by bushes, and forgotten, with no conservation program enacted.
As these environments shift and change over time, modified by progress, neglect or erasure, Hughes’ work does more than simply inform us and create awareness around these places. Instead, by situating us as viewers and audience for his investigations, he democratically exposes the hidden power that these structures represent. The resulting mediation, within the politics of memory, social and political circumstance, proves that landscape and territory are anything but neutral.
As a model for a series of nocturnal trips in the town of Askeaton and the surrounding countryside, Ruiz considered the fable and lament of Sweeney, an ancient Irish King who was cursed to be half man, half bird, forever to roam throughout the land. He spent his life leaping from place to place, mad and exiled, lamenting and composing verse as he travelled. In a resuscitation of the myth, Ruiz journeyed around West Limerick for two weeks, his camera moving amongst streets, fields, yards and inside an ancient ring fort with an eerie, often surreal direction. His wanderings led him to find the proverbial road to nowhere, a mile-long tarmacadam lane built for an unrealized industrial estate, ending abruptly into a field. One night Ruiz constructed a sculpture there with a variety of found objects. Formally akin to a tree, upon a countryside road and in the evening, Ruiz’ piece evoked a place for Sweeney to finally perch and rest. Moreover, his project suggests that another drama might be played out in these places: a provisional, live version of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, where whatever might happen in the future is replaced with the need to establish an environmental consciousness of the present.
Sculptures and installations were carved of local stone and constructed of polystyrene sourced in a factory nearby. Through his working methods, Counihan juxtaposed the nature of these materials that form a physical part of the shape of Askeaton. A collection of inter-related works were exhibited in the central cloister of the town’s Franciscan Friary and in the Community Hall.
For more on Alan's work in Askeaton, see here
A project was based around her work with individuals who have immigrated to Askeaton in recent years. Through a series of monologues, highly personalised stories of hope, desire and everyday reality were played out through a multi-screen video projection and scripted texts available at the local Community Hall.
Byrne produced a video about an empty cottage on Mussel Lane, working with local man Willie Harty. Recollections of his late aunt Hanni Harty were juxtaposed with the remains of the cottage’s interior. Later in the residency, Byrne performed an ephemeral architectural alteration upon a window in the local Friary.
Several public events occurred in conjunction with the artists’ stay, including an open day with artists’ projects presented around the town, a concert with prominent Irish storyteller and folklorist Eddie Lenihan and local poet Michael D. Ryan, and the annual Deel Swim, organised by Askeaton Swimming Club.