JIM RICKS



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Stating the Obvious: The Luck of the Irish
Proposal for a motorway Percent for Arts Scheme (Unrealised)
To be made of aluminum
2015

Proposal for a self-aware and self-deprecating monument to the notion of a mistaken national identity by digitally scanning a kitsch touristy figurine and enlarging it to a 2 meter tall polished aluminium statue. The result will be an unforgettable attraction of national significance, and one that demonstrates an understanding of the difference between Brand Ireland and a country that 'can laugh at itself'.

I am fascinated with the construction of identities. National ones, racial, gender, brand, etc. All are constructions particular to a period and place. At times gaps appear between peoples perceptions of these identities. Sometimes absurdly so. By semiologically studying symbols of identity I hope as an artist to exploit these gaps. It is my aim, using a sense of humour, to demonstrate that all identity is fluid; that we make it up as we go along. That these things, these notions, are prescribed for simplicity, but humankind is anything but. We are enormously complex and nuanced, as are our cultures. This is in no way to highlight more difference, but to collapse them. We are all fluid individuals, shaping and making culture; borrowing and influencing each other; evolving.

Tourists come to Ireland, as they do anywhere, to consume a product that they already have preconceptions and expectations about. They want to have theOirish experience that is promised to them. Much like arriving at a fast food restaurant, you know what you want and what it should be, cost.

My proposal, Stating the Obvious:The Luck of the Irish, takes a simple approach. Working in an established vein of contemporary sculptural expression, I propose to take a small 6 cm plastic tourist chachka, digitally scan it, create a mould from the file, and cast it 2 meters high in reflective aluminium. The finished piece will be a contemporary re-invisioning of a hackneyed interpretation of the past.

It is a way to take 'ownership' of the ultimately twee representations of Ireland that bear no resemblance to the country today. It won't serve as an unsophisticated flogging, but rather the opposite: a self aware, fun loving and self-deprecating monument to our particular moment in time.

And while few Irish people actively identify with this type of symbol, it is in fact sold everywhere in Ireland, in every tourist shop. Funnily enough, if you think about the aos sí comparatively to the Leprechaun collectible (no doubt mass produced from far afield), these objects are the invisible miniature 'little people' with their promise of gold: easy money from tourists.

I am particularly drawn to the numerous imperfections in a plastic, mass produced and miniature figure that will be 'drawn out' when monumentalised. Contemporary distribution and production will be highlighted, as will a playfully re-thinking of Irishness. By working directly with modern technological processes, a series of questions are asked about epistemology and how we, as a society, come to shape or be shaped into a fixed cultural identity. Further, by casting it as a polished, reflective metal object, a new contemporary beauty is discovered. There are of course numerous references to fine art, including Duchamp, Levine, Kapoor, Koons.

It is my aim to make a piece that at once acknowledges history, popular culture, is highly accessible to a broad public, is memorable and attractive, and that leads to a thoughtful investigation of ideas or series of questions as to “how do we know these things?”. Or even just “why?”.

In keeping with my previous art work I hope to combine elements to highlight their difference, and to create new meaning: a hybrid built from a collaging methodology. It is populist on one level: “give the people what they want”. But this project will ultimately deal directly with historical representations of Irish identity. It is rooted in iconography, translation, the absurd, the colloquial and simulacra. "It is commentary on our past, our present, the concept of Brand Ireland and the very idea of public art; and everyone is invited..." for a look.

Various 'points of entry' for the understanding of the piece is essential. As is that it ultimately be fun yet polished (literally), will become a local, if not national, landmark drawing tourists and becoming a 'must see' art work.