FESTIVALS COME thick and fast in Galway this time of the year. The Comedy Carnival has only just finished, but next week will see the launch of the TULCA Festival of Visual Arts which runs from November 7 to 23.
TULCA 2014 is curated by Aisling Prior, the Dublin-based independent curator, and is entitled and themed Neutral. The festival will showcase work from 30 Irish and international artists, selected from more than 550 proposals submitted from 10 countries.
Among the artists exhibiting are Mark Wallinger, Bedwyr Williams, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, The Domestic Godless ‘food art’ collective, Mark Garry, Jeanette Doyle, Brendan Earley, Steven Maybury, Elaine Leader, Stephen Gunning, Conor McGarrigle, Cecilia Danell, Saoirse Wall, Aileen Conroy, Branch & ITSA Collectives, and Juliette de la Mer.
Work will be in a variety of media including film and video, sculpture, painting, and installation, which will be exhibited in the TULCA Festival Gallery on Market Street; the Galway Arts Centre, Dominick Street; the 126 Artists Gallery, Flood Street, and various other locations in the city centre.
Aisling titled the festival Neutral in an effort to draw attention to the lure of stillness and of silence in this increasingly digital age where all of us, even those who live in the most remote parts of any given country, are known, traceable, and expected to be readily reachable. Escape is impossible.
The collision of these locations - picture the brooding quiet of Connemara, in particular, and the lively, social character of the city of Galway - which is the conceptual framework for TULCA’s theme, invites audiences to consider what would happen if the levels of activity increased or decreased: how much silence does a person need? How much noise?
Since its foundation in 2002, TULCA is the only festival in Ireland to specifically commission Irish curators to develop a theme unique to the event. Speaking of this year’s festival TULCA producer Kate Howard, tells me:
“Each year TULCA aims to engage with the people of Galway and the cultural landscape in both the county and city. We are lucky Galway has a wealth of artists and an arts audience that support the festival each November. The festival has now grown to be a highlight on Ireland’s cultural calendar, and has exhibited work from artists from Canada to An Cheathrú Rua and from South Korea to the Spanish Arch.”
Kate also explained how TULCA’s theme is decided: “The title comes after. The open call for submissions, which is pretty detailed, is put out first then when you see the work coming in then the concept and theme starts to come together and the artists are as much part of that as the curator would be. It’s a whole process.”
Of the various artists exhibiting this year, Kate cites Mark Wallinger as the ‘heavy hitter’. “He is probably best known for his 1999 sculpture of Christ, Ecce Homo [pictured above], in Trafalgar Square,” she says. “He has taken part in the Venice Biennale in 2001 and in 2007 won the Turner Prize. We’ll be showing his film Sleeper which was part of his Turner Prize exhibition.”
Other artists to note are Welshman Bedwyr Williams, another Venice Biennale participant; as well as Korea’s Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (a duo of Young-Hae Chang and Marc Voge ) whose The Art of Sleep will also be seen at TULCA.
“It’s a commentary on artists and what exhibitions are about,” explains Kate. “I think the wider audience, not just art aficionados, will find that funny. There is also a very good representation of emerging and established Irish artists which is very exciting, especially as a lot of them haven’t shown in Galway before.”
‘Make a day of it Tuesday’
Howard also speaks enthusiastically of TULCA’s educational programme.
“We have introduced and developed our educational strand, or T-Ed as we’re calling it,” she says. “This year we’ve brought in an education coordinator, Joanna McGlynn. Already some 600 hundred students are scheduled to visit the festival via our free tours and they range from national school right up to third level.
“We work with the curriculum; for second-level students we invite fifth and sixth year students to come along, we give guided tours to the shows and tell them about things like how to organise an exhibition and things like the lighting and curating of it.
“We also have good uptakes from third level and primary schools, the primary kids are coming in from both city and county. We’re working in conjunction with the library this year on ‘Make a day of it Tuesday’ so the primary school kids will go into the library first for storytelling then coming to Tulca.”
Another intriguing event is How to See Clearly From A Distance which has been especially commissioned by Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust. A compilation of thoughts from other times and other places, fragments to gather and settle into each other. Artist Jennie Guy has invited a selection of artists and writers to read aloud texts that they have written, chosen with a particular context in mind.
Contributing artists and writers include: Hu Fang, Fergal Gaynor, Jennie Guy, Russell Hart, Léa Lagasse, Tamarin Norwood, Leila Peacock, Alan Phelan, and Frank Wasser.
Available online and advertised via posters in hospitals within the Saolta University Health Care Group for the duration of TULCA, these voices offer a series of narratives that stray between the mundane and the imaginary, simultaneously distant and intimately present.
European Capital of Culture?
As well as exhibitions, TULCA will also host workshops and talks, including what promises to be a fascinating forum - Sound Out: Discussing European Capital of Culture Legacies in The View, Áras na Mac Léinn, NUI Galway on Saturday November 15 from 1pm to 5pm.
The event looks at the processes and experiences of bidding for and hosting the European Capital of Culture, and given that Galway is bidding to be the chosen city in 2020 is sure to be of keen interest to local arts practitioners. Chaired by Patrick Collins, (lead consultant ECoC 2020 Galway ), speakers include Dave O’ Brien, lecturer in cultural and creative industries, City University London; Tara Byrne, consultant and cultural policy researcher; and Craig Richardson, professor of fine art, Northumbria University. Each speaker was involved in previous ECoC bids (Liverpool, Limerick, and Glasgow respectively ) and their insights should prove illuminating.
The official TULCA launch takes place at the Festival Gallery, Market Street, at 7.30pm on Friday November 7 with guest speaker, writer and documentary-maker, Manchán Magan.
There will also be a launch party at Electric, Upper Abbeygate Street from 9.30pm, with food and special guest DJ, the artist, curator, and historian Pádraic E Moore, aka DJ M0REM00REM0RE playing Eurodisco, neu-wave, and anthemic trash.