From IKEA to the past — Folk Fiction exhibition comes to the city museum

The touring exhibition Folk Fiction - Translations in Material Cultures, by Galway visual artist Gareth Kennedy has come to Galway City Museum after previously being exhibited at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Kerry County Museum and the National Craft Gallery.

The multi-media exhibition, which will feature film, photographs and objects, will run until January 2014. It will display work created over the past two years with the residents of Gneeveguilla, Co. Kerry, islanders from Inís Oírr, Aran Islands, Co Galway and also a new project created during the exhibitions stay at the National Museum of Ireland in Co Mayo.

The exhibition highlights material cultures both traditional and contemporary, exploring ideas around craft and social values, landscape and invented traditions.

These themes and ideas are explored in three short films, shot on super8 film in Inís Oírr, Gneeveguilla and at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life in Co. Mayo. Key to these works was the use of IKEA furniture which was brought to each locale where it was used as raw material by locally sourced tradesmen and craftsmen to generate new socio-economic folk forms and functions.

The film IKEA Lobster Pots (12 min ) charts the purchase, in Dublin, of an IKEA lampshade which was handmade by workers in Vietnam for global distribution by the Swedish multinational. The lamp was brought to Inís Oírr where it was rewoven by Island caoladoirí (basket weavers ) into a lobster pot in a local style. The pot was successfully tested in the cold waters of the Atlantic by an Island fisherman.

IKEA Butter Churn for Gneeveguilla (32 min ) saw the creation of a new “custom” for Gneeveguilla, Co. Kerry, as a Kerry County Council public art commission for the village. In July 2011, two wooden tables were purchased in IKEA. These were brought to the village, where they were crafted into a butter churn and a firkin by local craftsmen. The wealth of local lore surrounding butter and its social, cultural and economic history was celebrated. Every inhabitant of Gneeveguilla was invited to spin the churn to help produce butter which was then packed into the firkin and paraded down the only street in the village. It was then brought to the local bog where it was buried to become Bog Butter.

The Great Wheel of Mayo (14 min ) documents a collaborative project between Castlebar Mens Shed, Mayo Arts Squad and Willie Creighton of Craobh Eo Woodturners. Shot on location at the National Museum in Turrlough Park, the combined group gathered around a large IKEA table where they were introduced to material relating to the Swedish Ethnographic missions to Ireland from the 1930's. The group then set out to create a replica Great Spinning Wheel of Mayo from this table. The final article being tested with wool shorn from an IKEA sheepskin rug.

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