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Fables, murder and BBC shipping forecast explored at Tulca festival



Date Published: 11-Nov-2009

Galway’s contemporary visual art festival, Tulca is currently in full swing in venues throughout the city, with local and international exhibitions, live-art performances and discussions providing a packed and free programme until November 21.

Tulca, which is now in its 9th year, aims to challenge and engage its audience, with 12 exhibitions in a range of different media from Irish and international artists.

In Passing from Swedish artist Ann Sofi Sidén at The Fairgreen Building is an urgent, visually stunning story of a young woman who leaves her newborn baby at a ‘baby hatch’ at a Berlin hospital.

Parallel stories featuring the mother and child after their separation are told on monitors and projection screens by Sidén who is one of Sweden’s most prominent artists. She has participated in major international exhibitions, and at biennales in São Paulo, Venice and Berlin. She is Professor of Fine Arts at the Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm.

Yellow at Nuns Island Theatre is a performance piece from Amanda Coogan and refers to the Magdalen Laundries, the infamous institutions that housed ‘fallen’ women. The artists is wearing a large yellow dress, the skirt of which she continuously washes in a bucket of soapy water, while Schubert’s music plays in the background. Coogan who won the prestigious AIB prize in 2004, has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, including at the 2003 Venice Biennale, Liverpool 2004 Biennale, Barcelona’s Galeria Safia, Dublin’s RHA, Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, Bangkok’s Asiat Opia and Paris’s Centre Culturel Irlandais.

Galway Arts Centre is the venue for Second Nature, Guy Ben-Ner’s video of Aesop’s fable, The Fox and the Crow, which blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction. One part of the video is shot as a documentary about animal trainers teaching a fox and a crow how to re-enact the fable. In the next part, the the animals themselves tell the fable, while the trainers re-enact Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Ben-Ner is a video artist whose work represented Israel in the 2005 Venice Biennale. American Theatre at the Fairgreen Building is a slide piece featuring theatre images from the 1930s to the 1950s which explore the infamous McCarthy era in America.

A soundtrack, voiced by actors features excerpts from House Committee of Un-American Activities, including testimonies from playwrights Arthur Miller and Bertolt Brecht. This is the work of Pakistani born Maryam Jaffri who lives in Copenhagen and New York, and exhibits in Europe and America.

In Artifact, at St Nicholas Collegiate Church, the church Artist in Residence Kitty Rogers will explore the roles of the ornamental and decorative in establishing a spiritual space. Dublin based Rogers conducts workshops in that city’s Hugh Lane Gallery. Throughout Tulca Elaine Byrne will be Artist in Residence at Galway University Hospital, in a scheme supported by Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust. Byrne studied sculpture at the Kensington and Chelsea Art College, London and the Frink School of Sculpture, Stoke on Trent, and regularly exhibits in the UK and Ireland.

The BBC Radio 4 shipping forecast has been an institution for years, and Adrift at Galway Museum is Andrew Dodds’ audio reworking of the iconic broadcast. Belfast-born Dodds created this piece by digitally removing every word except ‘…falling…’ from the text, while maintaining the timing and positioning of the original recording.

This results in lengthy periods of silence between the spoken words, creating an atmosphere filled with portents.

Location/Translation at Galway Arts Centre is an installation and sound performance work by Dennis McNulty which deals with the friction between the planned and the unplanned, especially in urban spaces. Dublin-based McNulty represented Ireland at the São Paulo Bienal in 2004 and 2008. He exhibits widely at home and abroad.

The award-winning Metamorphosis at Galway Arts Centre is a nine-minute film depicting a glacial world in a state of transformation, motion, and ultimately chaos. It concerns the relationship between man and nature and is the work of Clare Langan who has represented Ireland at events from Israel to Brazil.

Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly present R V B at Galway Arts Centre. This tells three true stories using a series of loosely connected texts and images. R is a murder story,V a nature story and B a children’s story. Each explores a different perspective of time and space. R V B was filmed over three years in the artists’ building in Paris.

Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly won the 2009 AIB Prize and their work has been exhibited worldwide, including at the Yokohama Triennial in Japan, the Czech National Gallery in Prague and the Museum of Modern Art in Marseille.

In Orphanage II at Galway Museum Dublin based Paul Nugent uses his painterly technique to obscure what the viewer is looking at as he portrays the dormitory-style institutions that blighted so many children’s lives.

G126 hosts Between Me and Galway Bay, the first solo project in Europe by American artist Ken Fandell, a regular visitor to Galway. It investigates the way in which Ireland has been romanticised and commodified in recent times. Fandell manipulates collages and then ‘stitches’ together photographs into long scrolls, as well as creating video and sound-based pieces.

His tongue-in-cheek approach uses reference such as Frank Fahey’s song Galway Bay, Robert J. Flaherty’s film, Man of Aran and a Chicago pub called Galway Bay near his home. Fandell’s work is in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The curator of Tulca 2009 is Helen Carey of Mockingbird Arts, a former director of Galway Arts Centre and the inaugural director of the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, who says she is “proud to present art exploring what it means to be in this world”. Tulca runs at venues throughout the city until November 21. Further details at

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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