"The Dolmen Show" (The Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen)
"Futures 12 is the fourth in the present series of Futures, a sequence of exhibitions that endeavours to document and contextualise the work of a selection of artists, around whom exists a growing critical and curatorial consensus."
As part of the Futures 12 group show at the RHA, I chose to develop a “Dolmen Show” based on an ongoing topic in my work. I exhibited 6 pieces or documentation of the pieces. My starting point for all of this works is a sort of love/hate relationship with the Poulnabrone Dolmen. I lived in Ballyvaughan for 3 years while attending the Burren College of Art masters and got to know the dolmen and its numerous marketing permutations quite well.
I am at once fascinated by and respectful of this ancient tomb, but also horrified at the crass marketing of the region, with the Poulnabrone Dolmen serving as one of its key icons. To me the dolmen becomes a cultural shortcut, or even a stand-in, for Irish ‘ancientness’ in its prolific reproduction. The fact that we have no idea how or why it was constructed, or what its rationale was 6,000 years ago and the seemingly unimportance of this, is equally as interesting to me.
There is The Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen (2010) and documentation of the tour in 2011. I would knock on doors in the Aughty region of Galway and obtain permission to show the piece. Once it was set up neighbours frequently would arrive with children and discuss the work. It was a very successful process and piece in regards to interacting on various levels with different age groups. As such, it was ultimately about people and communities and negotiation. It brought public art to people's front lawns, back fields and to their parish church. It brought the dolmen, a national icon, to their doorstep for a day and allowed people to playfully interact with the normally sacred and guarded.
Another work documents a fake housing development hoarding placed in the property adjacent to the actual Poulnabrone dolmen. This project dates to 2007, it was vandalised several times and I received complaints from the Gardai, Clare County Planning, the OPW and there where surprisingly even some people interested in buying a unit.
Documentation of a pebbledashed dolmen, a 1:1 replica of the dolmen using builders supplies, is also included. It was a collaborative project with Dave Callen that was built in 2 days.
A long shelf covered in borrowed objects was a new work made in the weeks up to the show. All of the items on this shelf are on loan from a variety of sources in the Burren. Some are knick-knacks, some original works of art, some advertisements, some somewhere in between. I am interested in the everyday representation of the Dolmen in the immediate community and how there are infinite interpretations of this tomb. I drove door to door and explained the idea and asked people to trust me. I’m also interested in the vernacular and how that works in terms of an experimental hybrid artistic–curatorial practice.
A pair of miniature dolmens are a riff off of the ‘fake’ dolmens tourists still build in parts of the Burren with fragments of limestone. The first is a reconstruction of the first dolmen work I did in 2007. It uses pieces of Quinn insulation. These bits of insulation can often be found blowing around unfinished housing developments. There is also the added resonance of the Quinn family financial scandal. The new 2012 matching miniature dolmen is a Pizza Dolmen, which looks to internet culture as the source for inspiration. In my mind it is about the infinite customisation used to sell commodities and also about fantasy and desire. There is of course an added layer of weirdness, disorientation, and the uncanny as the 'Ultimate Pizza Tile' Pizza pattern directly relates to Alan Butler's Pizza Drumkit from the previous Futures 11 show.
10 days prior to the shows closing I took down the Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen. When I was approached in June and asked to show this particular work, I made it clear that members of the public bouncing on it was not simply an option but in fact it was the piece. It was agreed the RHA would sort out the necessary insurance to enable this activity. Less than a week prior to the opening, I was informed that this would not be possible. An agreement was then made that at least 1 off-site public event in Dublin would be organised by the RHA during the exhibition period. Further delays were announced and after expressing my extreme unhappiness and frustration, it was suggested that the off-site event, the only opportunity for the artwork to be actualised, be scrapped. This is a break down of the agreement and I cannot help but wonder if I was mislead from the very beginning, some four and a half months ago. The removal of the work, albeit a minor footnote in the exhibition, is a strike.
Unkie Dave writes about his experience, titled The Physical Impossibility of Bounce in the Mind of Someone Living.