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MART International Curation: 2009 - 2019


Activating Pangea 

MART International Curation 2009-2019

Text by Bernard O’Rourke

As an artist-led, self-sustaining organisation for the development and promotion of contemporary art, MART have always had ambitions of connecting with an international audience, rather than limiting their sights to the development of art within Ireland. 

A key part of MART’s ethos is their role in finding audiences for exhibitions of contemporary, non-traditional art works, frequently doing so in a way that encourages engagement with the work on display. Often, this has involved inviting audiences to interact with the exhibition. As the organisation grew, MART developed this curatorial ethos in galleries in the UK, across Europe, the USA and Japan to promote contemporary Irish artists to an international audience. 

MART’s first international exhibition came in June 2009, when eight of the fledgeling organisation’s artists showcased their work with a group show in London’s Shunt. Adam Gibney, Natalie Zervou, Joan Healy, Matthew Nevin, Ciara Scanlan, Ivan Twohig, Katherine Nolan and Lisa Marie Johnson all contributed to a collection of installation, video and performance works, reflecting MART’s commitment to the promotion of these non-traditional media. 

This initial introduction to an international art audience explored ideas of voyeurism, narcissism, technology, digital media, and the concept of creating a playful interaction between art and audience. All of these ideas became recurring themes in MART’s curation, both at home and abroad. 

In 2010, An Instructional marked MART’s first large-scale international venture. A touring exhibition that visited galleries in six cities – Bergen, London, Bratislava, Berlin, Dublin and Jackson – An Instructional built on the developing aims of the MART organization, bringing them to a large international audience for the first time. 

Curators Matthew Nevin and Ciara Scanlan devised an exhibition format with a unique interplay between artist,  curator and artwork – with the intention of challenging each role through a dynamic collection of video, installation, sound and performance work from contemporary Irish, British, European & North American Artists. This reflected the curatorial approach of MART as an organisation with an aim of supporting art making practices that break new ground, that test and stretch the material and immaterial, and ever changing conventions of ‘the norm’.

An Instructional subverted the norm (and cut down on costs) by challenging its artists to embrace a readymade approach in their work. This involved asking participating artists to produce artworks that were easily transportable or reproducible onsite in each new city. This ad-hoc approach embraced the idea of found objects, or “Manufactured objects raised to the dignity of works of art through the choice of the artist” [Andre Breton] while also creating an opportunity for connection and collaboration with local artistic (and non-artistic) communities in each location. 

Over the course of the tour, works from over 30 artists were displayed. The travelling exhibition began its run in the Entree Gallery in Bergen (Norway) in June 2010. From there it went to Shunt gallery in London (UK), on to Space in Bratislava (Slovakia) and Stattbad in Berlin (Germany), before returning to Dublin to exhibit in the Molesworth Gallery

The final leg of the tour saw the MART team cross the Atlantic for the first time to bring An Instructional to The Lewis Gallery in Jackson, Mississippi (USA) in November. In an interview with NBC while visiting Jackson Mississippi, Ciara noted how the An Instructional  was intended “to challenge what people would expect from a normal exhibition.”

MART’s next trip to the states came in 2011, with Invite or Reject, which visited three notable galleries in three of America’s most artistically influential cities: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. 

Invite or Reject, as part of Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland programme, engaged with its setting by referring to the duality of understanding and miscommunication that existed when Irish people first immigrated to America. Curators Matthew and Ciara sought out a range of work that was challenging yet irresistibly welcoming for American audiences. Many of the works invited interaction from members of the public, opening up a more dynamic communication between an American audience and a selection of newly emerged irish artists. 

Toni Earls of Irish Emigrant Online praised the way Invite or Reject “drew attention to the fact that the Irish were treated as second class citizens in 19th Century America. When they came searching for a life free of famine, war, and oppression, they faced hardship and were in many cases unwelcome.” 

Invite or Reject opened in the Pop Up Art Loop in Chicago on 2 June 2011. From there it traveled on to Flux Factory in New York, opening on 7 July. The final stop of the tour was C4 Gallery in Los Angeles, where the exhibition opened on 4 August. Over the course of the tour, a total of 14 Irish artists displayed work: Ella Burke, Adrian Duncan, Adam Gibney, Benjamin Gaulon, Joan Healy, James L Hayes, Tony Kenny, Sofie Loscher, Matthew Nevin, Katherine Nolan, Margaret O’Brien, Ciara Scanlan, Nicky Teegan, and Stephen Woods. 

In attempt to keep art from becoming too unapproachable and academic, MART has frequently adopted a playful approach in its curation. This came to fore in their 2013 exhibition  Non Zero Sum Art Games which ran simultaneously in Unit 4 Dublin, metamatic:taf Athens (Greece)  and Plataforma Revolver Lisbon (Portugal) from 7 – 24 March. Participating artists placed in a competition with strict rules, but no results or winner. These Non Zero Sum Art Games opened concurrently on 7 March 2013 with a live video link between all venues.

As with An Instructional, Non Zero Sum Art Games encouraged the use of found materials in each city, rather than extensively pre-prepared art works. In fact, this was enshrined into the game’s rules, which stated that “Artists may not bring any materials or equipment with the exception of one Mobile Phone & one Laptop” and that “Artists must work with at least one local artist or resident.” Each artist had only five days to prepare their work before the exhibition began. 

The resulting exhibition created a reconsideration of “the notions of possessing, being a winner, being a loser, communicating and deciphering media messages as well as conceiving the urban space,” according to Stella Pekiaridi of Greek publication El Culture. Meanwhile in Metropolispress, another greek publication,  Kika Kyriakakou noted how the exhibition explored “the possibilities of art and people to transform the mentality of the public”. 

The Non Zero-Sum Art Games was part of Culture Ireland’s ‘Culture Connects International Programme’, marking Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The choice of cities represented three countries on the fringes of Europe who had all been disproportionately and disastrously affected by the global economic crash, engaging with the question of producing art in an environment of recession. 

Aine Phillips Non Zero Sum Games 2013

MART went further afield than ever before in 2014 when they visited Kyoto (Japan) for Imitators. Once again embracing a playfully non-traditional approach, Imitators was an interactive video installation that encouraged attendees to imitate the work on display and share their attempts on social media – blurring the line between artist and audience through an embrace of technology. 

The curators collaborated with three Irish artists – filmmaker Trish McAdam, visual artist Andrew Carson, and musician Róisín O – to produce a performative video installation which was displayed in the Koyoto Art Centre from 2 to 10 August. By inviting its audience to produce their own imitations of the work on their camera phones, Imitators explored the narcissism of modern culture, selfies, minor feats of ‘fame’ and our obsession with self indulgent self promotion via social media has changed how we live day to day. 

As with previous trips abroad, MART’s method of presentation encouraged an interaction between visiting Irish artists and a local audience as a way of opening a dialogue that would not have possible with an exhibition that relies simply on passive viewing of works of art. 

MART’s lead curators Matthew and Ciara represented their country and its artists abroad again in 2015 when they curated Ireland’s exhibition in the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ’15). The exhibition – Activating Affective Atmospheres – created an interactive sensory environment that explored the themes of weather and technolgy, and once again invited the local audience to be a participatory part of the presented work.

With Activating Affective Atmospheres the curators created a construct to produce and observe the audience as ‘activators’ who directly affected the atmosphere of the exhibition space. The installation consisted of a simple mechanism that graphed the pressure exerted by the room’s atmosphere. By triggering this mechanism, the audience began their own short-term documentation of the atmospheric changes within the space during their visit. 

To create this interactive multimedia exhibition environment, Matthew and Ciara worked with composer Tom Lane, visual artists Brian Duggan and Stephanie Golden, critic/historian Siobhan O’Gorman, and producer Noelia Ruiz.

As well as representing Ireland in Prague, MART also returned to the US in 2015 with Instinct – a cross-disciplinary visual art and design based exhibition which visited three Los Angeles art galleries simultaneously in July and August, before returning to Dublin for a follow-up exhibition back in MART’s own gallery in Rathmines. 

Curated by Matthew Nevin, Instinct sought to open up a confrontational visual argument with the viewer. To achieve this he collated a series of artworks that question the role of instinctual art production, with the artists develop their ideas through experimentation and the use of formal creative training.

The tour visited the Hive Gallery in Los Angeles from 9 July to 1 August 2015, the Los Angeles Centre for Digital Art from 11 July to 29 August, and the Santa Monica Art Studios from 25 July to 22 August. Across the three exhibitions, a total of eighteen artists showcased work:  Dominic Thorpe, Liam O’Callaghan, Margaret O’Brien, Katherine Nolan, Terence Erraught, Eleanor Lawler, Francis Fay, Aidan Smyth, Olga Criado Monleon, Kayleigh Forsythe, Marie Farrington, Róisín de Buitléar, Gearoid O’Dea, Grainne Tynan, Ida Mitrani, Patricia Douglas, Karen Vaughan, and Christina O’Donovan.

As well as introducing yet another group of emerging Irish artists to an international audience, Instinct laid the foundations for an ongoing creative exchange between Dublin and Los Angeles, helmed by MART and their ever-expanding range of American contacts. 

By 2016, Los Angeles had become something of a second home for MART, who returned there again in April for Activating Pangea in the DAC Gallery. This marked the first in a planned three year series of exhibitions in the city.

The exhibition title referenced a pre-human world without borders, and sought an imagined space without physical and cultural barriers that prevent new ways of being and thinking. The participating artists – Margaret O’Brien, Sofie Loscher, Gearoid O’Dea and Jonathan Mayhew – created work that depicted a series of imagined worlds which served to challenge and distort reality. 

Furthermore, as part of their endeavours to provide creative platforms, during April 2016 MART attended its first Art Fair: Supermarket Art Fair Stockholm, showcasing works by James L Hayes, Adam Gibney, Ruby Wallis, Margaret O’Brien and Katherine Nolan.

In the coming years, MART built upon the close relationship they have developed with LA to further promote Irish artists and their work to the US, allowing for the development of new work and many exciting opportunities for exposure. Activating Pangea was the first of two trips to LA in 2016 for Matthew and Ciara, who curated The Voyage at CB1 Gallery featuring works by Adam Gibney & Brian Duggan, which reflected on geopolitics over time and space, negotiating real and imagined places in a global context. 

2017 proved to be MART’s busiest international year to date, heading to USA twice, Latvia, France and Hungary. Matthew Nevin with assistance from Deirdre Morrissey were selected to curate a three city exhibition as part of EUCIDA’s 2017 Exhibition Programme with Echo Chamber. The three parallel exhibitions, which mirrored each other, analysed how culture, politics and socio-economic issues are reflected across Europe. Featuring replicated works by Jeanne Briand, Adam Gibney, Fabien Leaustic, Helen Mac Mahon, Rasa Smite, Paula Vitola across three galleries RUA RED  Dublin, Gantner Multimedia Space France and Lūznava Manor Rēzeknes

A Residency in 18th Street Arts Center Los Angeles followed in July 2017, which allowed curators Nevin & Scanlan to produce Destroy These Walls at Arena 1 Gallery in Santa Monica, featuring Margaret O’Brien, James L Hayes, Steven Maybury and live performances by Katherine Nolan, Terence Erraught. Thinh Nguyen, Meital Yaniv and Cindy Rehm. By encouraging participating artists to explore and reinvent material, technologies and methodologies, the curators pushed for work that can provoke the limitations of the gallery environment, producing powerful, informative and experimental new work.

October 2017 saw two exciting projects come to life, firstly MART represented Ireland at Budapest Art Market showcasing works by James L Hayes, Jane Fogarty and David Lunney, presenting a unique artistic composition in a vibrant and exciting region and in one of the culturally most attractive cities in Europe. The organisation was then invited to exhibit as part of the inaugural Irelandweek, creating a pop up contemporary art gallery on Hollywood Blvd. RE:IN Force featured work by Richard Forrest, James L Hayes, David Lunney, and Katherine Nolan, and focused on artworks that commented on the relationship between the viewer and object, often creating a visual abstraction which highlights the process and creation of the artworks.

For the early part of 2018 Scanlan & Nevin worked alongside leading performance and sculptural artists to devise a large scale exhibition highlighting the work of groundbreaking artists through Acts to Objects at  LACE, Los Angeles. Artists harnessed and heightened the spectacle of the visual, allowing their form of subjectivity comment on the tradition of ‘attention grabbers’,  that the artists in this show regularly employ a strategy addressing the audience gaze. Featuring works by Aine Phillips, Helen Mac Mahon, Margaret O’Brien, Katherine Nolan, Laura O’Connor, Jane Fogarty and live performances by Amanda Coogan, Eleanor Lawler, Cindy Rehm, Thinh Nguyen and Mothertongues (Meital Yaniv & Kim Ye).

Later that year saw MART return to Art Market Budapest for a second time. Led by Deirdre Morrissey, MART’s presentation to the atr fair exhibited the work of James L Hayes, Shane Berkery, Steven Maybury and Niamh Hannaford. Showcasing four Irish artists at different stages of their professional careers working across painting, drawing and sculpture whose work takes innovative approaches to traditional media. While across the atlantic Transmission as part of IrelandWeek 2018 saw the works of Sofie Loscher, Helen MacMahon and Robin Price curated by Matthew Nevin exhibited in the Hangar Galleries Santa Monica. Within their work, the artists examine and reinvent light as a material, producing experimental methodologies to act as a mirror and analysis of the structure of our world.

2019 will see MART endeavour to deliver their biggest international project to date, by launching the pilot programme for CIACLA – Contemporary Irish Art Centre, Los Angeles – during the summer of 2019. Utilising the previous nine years of exhibiting in Los Angeles and receiving funding from Department of Foreign Affairs MART will launch CIACLA. The center will promote Contemporary Irish Culture through a multidisciplinary programme, coinciding with local and international cultural partnerships. CIACLA aims to develop a creative platform to support and challenge Irish artists, working across disciplines, as a means of promoting Irish culture in Los Angeles.

With no signs in slowing down in their role as a true leader of promoting contemporary Irish art abroad, MART is working to establish long lasting channels for the creation and promotion of contemporary Irish art internationally. The MART team will continue to explore opportunities abroad with yearly visits to international art fairs and events, while continuing to provide creative platforms across the world.

MART’s international endeavours have been kindly supported by Culture Ireland.


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MART Annual 4: 2017 – 2018


Destroy These Walls

MART Annual 4: 2017 – 2018

Bernard O’Rourke

July 2020 

2017 – Destroy These Walls

In January of 2017 MART Directors Matthew Nevin and Ciara Scanlan launched a year-long curated programme titled Destroy These Walls. This market the first time that MART had run a single curated programme spanning the whole year. After ten years of national and international curation and four years in their own permanent gallery space in Rathmines, Dublin 6, the programme of 2017 marked a curatorial achievement which the organisation had been steadily building over previous years. 

MART’s gallery space in the old Rathmines Fire Station opened in 2013, and during its formative years of existence alternated between hosting their own curated shows, supplemented with operating as a gallery for hire as a way to keep the organisation running. This approach allowed MART to showcase a wide range of different activities. 

Destroy These Walls can be viewed as a self-contained statement of what MART as an organisation had been established to achieve – at the heart of the programme was an encouragement for its artists to experiment with traditional forms and new media. MART served up a programme of work that challenged perspectives of what art could or should say, while also providing works with many accessible points of entry for a wider audience.

In their own words, curators Ciara Scanlan and Matthew Nevin sought to ‘encourage participating artists to explore and reinvent materials, technologies and methodologies.’ By taking an active role in the production of the work displayed, the curators encouraged artists to ‘produce work that can provoke the limitations of the gallery environment, producing powerful, informative and experimental new work.’

This brief included an encouragement for artists ‘to be reactionary and politically engaged in their approach to their practice, and to tease out new radical ways of viewing and perceiving their art works.’ All of these approaches were elements that have been central to MART’s ethos since its inception as an organisation that champions work which challenges existing traditional notions of fine art, and seeks to amplify voices which challenge political and cultural conventions.

As part of this championing of artists, MART’s Dublin programme was complimented by a series of international curations – most notably an ongoing collaboration with Los Angeles based galleries and cultural partners which would eventually lead to the formation of CIACLA (Contemporary Irish Arts Centre, Los Angeles) in 2019. Many of the artists who appeared in Destroy These Walls in Dublin would also go on to have their work shown abroad, a pattern MART has continued to the present day as a way of offering participating artists a way to grow their profile and practice, and of presenting a fresh perspective of contemporary art to new audiences.

Tomoko sawada exhibition opening 2017

Destroy These Walls began in January when MART welcomed renowned Japanese artist Tomoko Sawada for her solo exhibition School Days (12 January – 24 February). Scanlan and Nevin had first met Sawada during a residency the pair did in the Kyoto Art Centre in 2014, and had been keen to bring an exhibition of Sawada’s work to Dublin ever since. The work in School Days consisted of photography and video that experimented with the notion of self-portrait, and it’s complex relationship to perceived images of femininity.

Following Sawada’s programme launching show, MART engaged in a series of solo and two-person shows from emerging Irish artists, many of who had developed a relationship with MART over the previous years through featuring in group shows and other collaborations.

For each of the shows the curators worked with the artists to ensure an environment that allowed a high degree of creative freedom, particularly when it came to experimenting with form and making large scale work. Most of these exhibitions featured ambitious sculptural and installation works that acted to transform the gallery space, delivering a series of shows where each offered a significant visual contrast to the last.

The Mistress of the Mantle (2 – 31 March) by Dr Katherine Nolan echoed School Days with its use of photography and video to explore gender identity, this time in a specifically Irish context, revisiting cultural memories of womanhood. The exhibition launched with a durational performance by the artist which further contextualised the works presented for the audience present.

Providing a space for performance art has been part of the MART mission since day one – and in collaboration with the performance art collective Livestock, MART was able to provide a venue for many live art events throughout its gallery programme in 2017 and beyond.

Livestock is an artist-led initiative established by curators Eleanor Lawler and Francis Fay to support, encourage and promote performance, the artists and their work. Central to their ethos is the creation of a positive and welcoming environment where artists can perform their live work to an appreciative audience. Scanlan and Nevin share this belief that performance facilitates a relationship between artist and audience, creating an intimacy and a space for dialogue between both parties – and as such have endeavoured to have MART Gallery serve as a space where this engagement with live art can occur.

Livestock November 2017 - Amber Baruch Photography (23)

The next exhibition at MART was Transmission (6 April – 4 May) – a two person show from Helen Mac Mahon and Sofie Loscher. Through large sculptural works that employed projection, reflection, refraction, the exhibition examined light as a material, exploring visibility, the process of perception, expectations versus function and how our beliefs or understanding of light can be changed or manipulated through positioning, alignment and juxtaposition.

Following this was A Rhythm Exposed (Routines: 5–6) by Steven Maybury (11 May – 8 June) , a part of the artist’s ongoing Routines series. In this series drawing was used as a key conceptual tool for the artist to examine obsessions in archiving, ownership and preservation. The works of A Rhythm Exposed invited contemplation of the meticulous use of ink, light, and time spent on the aesthetic of the artworks.

For Dragons of Eden (15 June – 13 July) the curators invited the artists Aoibheann Greenan and Terence Erraught to produce work that would provoke the limitations of the gallery environment, producing new work that teased out radical ways of viewing and perceiving our culture and society. Greenan and Erraught responded with powerful creations that took on alternative perspectives on gender representation via symbols and icons of ancient cultures experienced through a schema of digital means.

In the summer of 2017, the Destroy These Walls programme moved outside the walls of MART Gallery in Rathmines through a series of national and international collaborations.  Throughout May and June, Scanlan and Nevin teamed up with RUA RED (Tallaght) for the sixth Glitch digital art festival. Since its inception, Glitch has brought leading digital media and technology artists, curators and artist groups together with audiences to draw out connections between art, culture and technology. For the 2017 edition – Sedimentary Structures (2 May – 10 June) –  the artists David Beattie, Cliona Harmey, David Lunney, Richard Forrest and Robin Price were invited to create works that were interactive, reactionary, impulsive, divisive, explosive and political in creation leaving a significant and possibly mystifying residue of what took place. This took place over two weeks of live making, during which the artists were present in the space at RUA RED and the public were invited to engage, question and interact with artists and artworks. This blend of art making and art display was complimented by ‘interface’ a live art event hosted by Livestock. The performance artists (Francis Fay, Lisa Freeman, Laura O’Connor, Rachel Ní Chuinn, El Putnam, Eleanor Lawler) all responded to contemporary modes of communication and the symbiotic relationship between artist and public. By using digital technology as a starting point for their response, a series of works spiritual, physical or intellectual responses to the theme were presented.

glitch 2017 david beattie rua red

MART’s next project of the year also involved RUA RED, but this time with an international scope. European Connections in Digital Arts / EUCIDA was a three year project funded by Creative Europe led by RUA RED Ireland in partnership Gantner Multimedia Space (France) and Lūznava Manor Rēzeknes (Latvia), and curated by Matthew Nevin along with MART Gallery manager Deirdre Morrissey. The Project aspired to demonstrate innovation and high standards in Digital Arts, and to boost the international visibility of the artform.

The resulting show – Echo Chamber (16 June – 15 August) – exhibited simultaneously across Ireland, Latvia and France, showcasing six contemporary visual artists, two from each of the host countries (Jeanne Briand, Adam Gibney, Fabien Leaustic, Helen Mac Mahon, Rasa Smite, Paula Vitola), whose practices were rooted in various aspects of digital technology. Its primary aim was to create an accessible conversation and debate between the digital arts, technology, politics, culture and society in an accessible way to a European public.

European partnerships also featured in MART Gallery’s next two exhibitions in its Dublin gallery, with a duo of exhibitions forming a conversation between digital video art from France and Germany. Trouvées Métrage (Found Footage, 20 June – 18 August) presented the works of four French digital media artists – Yan Beauvais, Nicolas Montgermont, Antoine Schmitt and Pierre Jolivet. Following this, Freedom of Movement (25 August – 22 September) presented an exhibition of film work by renowned German artists Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani. The films displayed posed questions on various aspects of human identity and society, the limits of geographical, artistic and social structure, and race relations. “Watch this film,” wrote art critic Gemma Tipton in her Irish Times review of the exhibition, “and the unsettling answers will come to you. The next question is: can we go back out into the world and help to try to prevent our own fall, to get it right this time?” Both of these exhibitions were curated by Deirdre Morrissey, and served to broaden the awareness of European trends in video-based art  to the gallery’s Irish audience.

For the summer of 2017 MART returned to Los Angeles, where Scanlan and Nevin built upon years of previous transatlantic collaboration with Activating Pangea: Destroy These Walls (8 July – 5 August), hosted by Arena 1 gallery (Santa Monica). For the third exhibition in the Activating Pangea series Scanlan and Nevin curated a selection of artists to work under the parameters of risk, political agitation and ephemerality. For this they drew upon artists of their Dublin programme that year (Steven Maybury, Dr Katherine Nolan, Terence Erraught), plus artists who had or would go on to have solo shows in Rathmines (Margaret O’Brien, James L Hayes). In line with the title, and as a means of highlighting impermanence, artworks displayed in this exhibition were destroyed after its closing. Here the curators pushed for work that would provoke the limitations of the gallery environment. As a form that is inherently impermanent, performance also had a role to play. To mark the exhibition’s opening,  performance artists from both Ireland and Los Angeles (Cindy Rehm, Terence Erraught, Katherine Nolan, Thinh Nguyen, Meital Yaniv) were invited to respond to the show’s themes through live art.  This ongoing cultural conversation between Ireland and the west coast of the United States would continue in subsequent years – culminating in the formation of CIACLA in 2019.

Terence Erraught Arena 1 Los Angeles 2017

The MART team returned to LA in October as part of Irelandweek Los Angeles 2017, with RE:IN FORCE  (18 – 21 October) – a pop up contemporary visual art exhibition which focussed on artworks that commented on the relationship between the viewer and object. In keeping with previous exhibitions that year the participating artists (Richard Forrest , James L Hayes , David Lunney, Katherine Nolan) were invited to explore and reinvent common material, technologies and methodologies, resulting in works that provoked artistic limitations.

As 2017 drew to a close, MART Gallery Dublin presented two final shows as part of its goal to provide an exhibition opportunity to emerging artists. In September Deflated Capital II presented the work of sculptor Doireann Ní Ghrioghair, recipient of the annual Fire Station Artists’ Studios & MART Gallery Exhibition Award. Following this MART unveiled a new partnership with Crawford College of Art and Design (Cork) to award recent graduates of that institution with an exhibition opportunity. Can You Hear Me Now (2 November – 1 December)  unified the work of four graduates (Enid Conway, Elena Sawczenko, Thomas Spencer, Chloe Tetrault) working in performance art whose practices dealt with concerns around identity, voice and the body. In order to provide these graduates with mentorship to further develop their practice, MART once again teamed up with Livestock.

By the end of 2017, MART had exhibited a total of 32 artists across 16 exhibitions, brought 12 international artists to Ireland and flown 10 Irish artists abroad. In terms of sheer numbers, this makes it MART’s most expansive year to date. The next two years would see a refinement of the curation work done in 2017, as Scanlan and Nevin continued to develop a captivating and original programme in the MART Dublin, alongside international endeavours with a steadily expanding scope.

2018 – Acts to Objects

For 2018 MART focused on providing international and local opportunities for artists. The centrepiece of this year was Acts to Objects – a group show in Los Angeles. Beyond this MART further cemented their partnership with the performance art collective Livestock, through a yearlong residency in 2018. Over the course of the year, they hosted a series of performance events and workshops. Through these live events, both emerging and established artists working in performance were given space to present new work to an audience, under the constructive guidance of Livestock curators Francis Fay and Eleanor Lawlor. The workshops meanwhile aimed to further build upon this by giving performance artists an opportunity to explore theories and methods underlying their practice. These workshops included ‘The Body and Activism’ by Áine Phillips, ‘Walk to remember, Walk to forget, Walk to re-imagine’ by Rae Goodwin and ‘Body and Borders’ – a weekend of talks and workshops in association with UK based collective Something Human. Central to the year’s programme of events were questions of how to give voice to marginalised identities through art, and the role of digital technology in performance.

Performance art was also located at the heart of MART’s primary international curation of 2018. Acts to Objects ran in LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), between 15 March and 29 April, and featured work by Áine Phillips, Amanda Coogan, Helen Mac Mahon, Margaret O’Brien, Katherine Nolan, Eleanor Lawler, Laura O’Connor, and Jane Fogarty, with live performances on the opening night by  Amanda Coogan, Eleanor Lawler, Cindy Rehm, Thinh Nguyen and Mothertongues (Meital Yaniv & Kim Ye). The exhibition marked the final iteration of the three year programme Activating Pangea. The exhibition brought together artists from Ireland and LA that spanned a number of generations, in order to explore the role of spectacle in feminist practice today.

The artworks on display investigated the idea of art as spectacle. Sculptural works explored methods of refracting and manipulating light, while also playing on expectations of material form and colour. The performances and their remnants represented acts that intervene in social space and norms. By engaging with the city of its staging – Los Angeles – the exhibition challenged that locus of production of the Hollywood spectacle, which much early feminist discourse critiqued for its dominant gendered narratives that positioned women as passive objects to the active masculine look – a gaze which continues to persist in new forms.

amanda coogan acts to objects 2018

In November of 2018, MART again returned to LA to take part in Irelandweek, this time with an exhibition directly inspired by one which had taken place in MART Gallery Dublin the previous year. Transmission (presented in Hangar Galleries, Santa Monica Art Studios, 27 October – 27 November) saw artists Helen Mac Mahon and Sofie Loscher revive work shown in Rathmines in 20017, this time alongside Robin Price, whose work echoed their use of light as catalyst to investigate the risks in our everyday life. The exhibition surveyed the processes of how light moves through space, exploring visibility, the process of perception, and expectations versus function. Writing for Art and Cake, Genie Davis said of the exhibition: “There is an edge of science in each of these works, and an edge of the ephemeral: light itself is a ghost that we see and allows us to be seen.”

Back home in Ireland, 2018 was the year of a historic vote on the Eight Amendment to the Irish Constitution – a law introduced in 1983 which outlawed abortion. Ahead of this referendum MART hosted an exhibition and art auction in April to raise funds for the Together for Yes campaign. In selecting the work for Artonomy (5 – 13 April), Deirdre Morrissey of MART and Sophie Murphy of Taproot Art curated work from invited artists and MART Studio members who believed in the removal of the Eight Amendment. MART Directors Ciara Scanlan & Matthew Nevin felt strongly that the organisation should lend its support to this campaign to repeal a law which “denied Irish women the freedom to make choices and have autonomous control over their own bodies.” Further, MART has always firmly believed in the self-determining artist and art organisation as vital societal and cultural catalyst. On 25 May 2018, the people of Ireland voted to repeal the Eight Amendment by a resounding majority.

MART’s exhibition programme resumed in November with Things Twice (multiple times) – a solo exhibition from David Lunney which marked the beginning of a new run of shows which would continue through 2019, and represented – among other things – a fresh attempt to offer opportunities for artists to present new work, while also having a large degree of freedom to use the gallery space to experiment with large scale installations. Things Twice served as a snapshot of the artist’s extended process of making. Lunney’s work involves the undertaking of protracted art processes. Typically, these processes start with the construction of site-specific sculptural works in Dublin Mountains, and proceed through photography, painting and handcrafting frames and other methods of display to create layered compositions. Things Twice also served as something of a return for MART, and a promise of things to come in 2019. 

Bernard O’Rourke

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MART Annual 3: 2014 - 2016



MART Annual 3: September 2014 – September 2016

Article By Lynda Phelan

September 2016

Since 2013, when Ciara Scanlan & Matthew Nevin seriously put down roots in the busy suburb of Rathmines, MART has grown exponentially. From their consolidated vision back in 2006 and the subsequent coming into being of MART, the partnership – named, to the light-bulb moment which led to a real hands-on restoration project behind the iconic red doors of an old fire station 25 years closed, MART has now become so much more than the sum of its parts. The tenacity of Ciara & Matthew paired with their overall experimental ethos, makes MART today one hell of a cultural catalyst, one that is continually reshaping the notion of a self-sustaining arts organisation using similar creative processes to that of the self-determining artist who is never fearful of failure ending only in closed doors.

The last two years have seen so much activity done in the name of MART. So where does MART stand now? Forgive the quick flashback: September 2013 – The old firestation @ 190a Rathmines Road Lower re-opens as The MART Gallery & Studios, consisting of two Gallery Spaces, eight Artist Studios + one Office. The following year [Year One] sees the opening of The MARTCADE & MART House Studios just down the road @ 46 Rathmines Road Lower, adding a further 15 Artist Studios, A Café + Event Space. 

As well as providing a constant turnover of art exhibits plus a variety of events at The MART Gallery, along with a large number of events also held at The MARTCADE; between September 2014 & September 2015 [Year Two], we also see the addition of 3 more Studio Buildings. Across the road from The MART Gallery – The MART Casino Studios with eight Artist Studios. Also in the heart of Rathmines: The MART Parker Hill with 11 more Studios. Venturing slightly further afield to Lennox Street, Portobello: six Studios + Café 34 run by HOMEBEAT. All the while, MART continued to play host, not just to artists seeking studios, but also to the exhibition of art, and to those more commercially minded. The MARTCADE, for example, held anything from Record Fairs, Upcycle Fairs and Art & Crafts Fairs, to Spoken Word, Music and Film Events etc.

September 2015, however, saw The MARTCADE close up shop, so to speak; no more Café(s) or one-off events, offering instead the use of a substantial Project Space downstairs with the 15 Artist Studios still operating from above. A shrewd decision that allowed MART to function much more efficiently by cutting down on all the extra out-of-office-hours required for the constant management and overseeing of events. These money-making attempts were essentially a drain on resources well seen by the Directors. An example of MART implementing its fearless experimental ethos while learning on the job some good old agility training. 

For less than one year, The Project Space offered a dynamic new platform from which to cultivate experimentation and create new work. MART saw The Project Space as operating somewhere between Studio, Residency and Exhibition. With collaboration its intention, and experimentation its mode of operation, the selected group of artists worked together alongside an established curator in an intensive, live and supportive space, one that helped foster creative partnerships, new ideas, plus the realisation and exhibition of new work. The Project Space gave birth to three group projects, and ceased artistic operations by 2016, giving way finally to the easier-to-manage shared Artist Studio. Yet another example of the agility required for the sculpting of a viable self-sustaining arts organisation; along with building up and out, one must be able to hack away at that which does not work at feeding the overall whole.

This constant ‘agility training’ paid off in July 2016, when Ciara & Matthew faced their most difficult situation to date. With a few days notice, MART were asked to quickly vacate The Casino Studios due to a problem with the landlord’s lease with a receivership lease. Immediately they had to arrange for the removal and temporary storage of all studio contents, while at the same time, look to re-house a large number of artists asap. In the seemingly impenetrable world of property management there is always something to learn; and the Directors of MART have once again showed no fear as they continue to improve upon this new language of landlords and property. This very same year [Year Three], MART is plus three Studio Buildings: eight studios in Kilmainham, six Studios in Malpas Street, and a newly acquired building in Crumlin hosting 12 studios. MART can now be seen to stand for provision as well as artistic vision, providing studios for over 100+ Studio Members, across 68 Artist Studios / seven Studio Buildings. 

With the introduction of The International Residency Space in an old coach house to the rear of the fire station, MART projects the number of artists engaging in the organisation will significantly increase over the coming years. The Residency Space works as an ongoing collaborative model between one international artist on one month’s residency and three Irish artists on six month’s residency. From July – December 2016, MART has three NCAD MFA Graduates (Austin Hearne, Mags O’Dea & Celina Muldoon) on site along with a different international artist each month. This continuous turnover of artistic dialogue by way of cultural exchange makes for an exciting new direction for MART, culminating with an an End of Residency Exhibition every six months. 

MART has seen such growth within a relatively short space of time, and with this comes much need. A reliable and committed workforce is definitely a requirement for the smooth running of any developing organisation. While the scope of Ciara & Matthew has significantly increased the breadth of MART over the past two years, how, might you ask, is all of this possible for a Non-Profit Organisation? First, let us acknowledge the humble beginnings of any such operation: loans from friends, credit cards and the bank allowed Ciara & Matthew to get those big red doors open initially. They were by then, of course, reputable providers of a curatorial partnership (since 2006) which made it easier no doubt to trust in their resilience when it came to the crunching of numbers. And with The MART Gallery & Studios now open for business (2013), along with The MARTCADE (2014 – 2015), plus one Studio Building after another, all income/profit went straight back into the business and love affairs of MART. It seems simple but I’m in no doubt of the stress involved in balancing the books. On the one hand you’ve got rent payable on an ever increasing number of buildings + rent increases + maintenance + overheads + property charges etc., not to mention original debts owed; and on the other hand: rent payable from studio members, rent payable from the various gallery/event/project spaces, commission on all artworks sold at exhibition, tickets for various events etc. With a lot of hard work and ingenuity, the eventual paying back of some of those initial debts owed (2015) meant some cash now flowed as basic wages, meaning full steam ahead for MART. Instead of relying on a voluntary workforce, MART in 2016 employs its two Directors full-time and a selection of part-time staff: a Financial Manager, House Cleaner, Studio Manager and Gallery Manager. 

MART is showing signs of financial stability, and in these uncertain times, this smacks of hard work and a lot of it. MART it seems is getting to grips with such things as finance, property management, event/project management etc., things that wouldn’t necessarily roll off the tongue when it comes to thinking about a grass roots arts organisation. But MART is just that, an arts organisation and a developing one at that, continuously evolving from strength to strength. With any and all funding from Dublin City Council, Arts Council Ireland, or Culture Ireland being awarded for the special purpose of carrying out specific curatorial projects both Nationally and Internationally, MART remains for the most part an independent body of the arts, strengthening its role within the local community year upon year. A recent I HEART MART survey conducted by MART shows that out of 594 people, 493 deemed MART to be ‘very important’ to the locale. 2017 will see MART unveil a fully curated exhibition programme for the first time. No longer will MART have to rely on open call/gallery hire to make ends meet, necessarily colouring in the artistic calendar around a hand-full of their own curated exhibitions.

According to Co-Director, Matthew Nevin, “MART’s primary aim is to create a platform for new media, installation, sculpture, experimental film and performance artists.” And over the past two years, MART has really begun to carve deep into the seemingly already reserved art-spaces of Ireland. By way of exhibition, events/seminars and workshops, MART tells of the contemporary and of what lies ahead, representing art and artists as not a thing of the past but as here now for the future. “Not only is [contemporary art] [or MART] merely ‘of’ the times, it basically bestows value upon these times simply by… wanting to infiltrate, inhabit, and if possible even shape it” (Roelstraete 2010:194). 

Since its inception, MART lends to experimentation, most recently with the creation of The MART EXPERIMENTS SERIES setup (2014) in order to allow emerging artists and curators the use of a gallery for play, somewhere between the lines of both exhibition and event, pushing boundaries of illusion relative to permanence and ephemerality. 2015 saw Feedback (27+28 April), a mini-retrospective by artist John Conway, curated by Siobhan Mooney. This two day exhibition considered Conway’s artistic development through the medium of the ‘artist statement’. Audience participation was also encouraged through the use of ‘the survey’. An Experiment in Life Drawing (13+14 June) was conducted as a type of socio-psychological experiment, which took the traditional life-drawing setting as its form, while actively observing this tradition as a potential site (given the right conditions) for a ‘short-circuit’ to occur. 2016 saw yet another two experiments take place in the name of MART: Offer (2–7 May) was an exhibition by day (1–6pm) and an event/performance by night (7–10pm). The MART Gallery was offered up as new testing ground to approach the artistic practice of Claire McCluskey in a new way. Curated by Siobhan Mooney, Offer encouraged audience participation by way of invitation: what do we have to offer the artist and what does the artist offer as experience. FORCED 2 (with your permission, Of Course!) An Experiment in the Art of Viewing [VIDeoART] (11–16 July) juxtaposed the artist’s private collection against that which is deemed fit for public consumption. Contributing artists included: Tony Red (ROU), Luke Byrne (IRL), Johnny Welch (AUS), Darren Caffrey (IRL) & John Russell (GBR). 

The Project Space provided us with three collective projects in 2015. The first group of artists worked on site for two months between May and June under the curatorial eye of Jonathan Carroll (Art Lot): Jason Dunne, Paul Hallahan, Jennifer Kidd and Sarah Wilson. Their working together culminated in opening the doors of their incubation space as an invitation to the public to enter in. Too Soon, Too Late (25–29 June) turned our thoughts to questions around notions of the finished piece, and surrounding influences of environmental and artistic energies. In fact, these questions were raised throughout all three projects regardless of the diverse range of artistic practices involved and mediums of choice. The subsequent project took July and August as an incubation period to investigate future possibilities in performance as a means of artistic engagement. Curator Francis Fay (Livestock) employed his skills as overseer to correlate multiple trends in the working relationships of eight different artists: Lisa Freeman, Sharon Murphy, Bryan Duffy, Brian Gregory, Samuel Bachy, Riin Kaljurand, Derek Smith and Neil Dunne. Project three took place between September and November, and concluded in an open showing of their findings entitled unFold (12 – 20 November). Artists Paddy Joe Rickard, Varvara Shavrova, Stephanie Deady, worked alongside curator Peter Prendergast (Monster Truck). 

MART is now the go-to-name in multimedia and digital art installation. Glitch is an annual Interactive Digital Arts Festival. And for the last two years running, Ciara Scanlan & Matthew Nevin [MART] have been invited to curate Ireland’s only Digital Art Arts Festival: Glitch @ RUA RED, Tallaght, while also, on each occasion, curating a satellite exhibition on home turf @ The MART Gallery, Rathmines. The last two years saw MART cultivate a land of new media and technology with artists from far and wide, artists that seek to plough and upturn our pre-conceived relationship to technology, its possible limitations and future reach. For Glitch 2015 (30 May – 06 June), MART asked: Adam Gibney, Anne Cleary & Denis Connolly, Bonnie Begusch, Brian Duggan, Cecily Brennan, David Stalling, Jonathan Mayhew, Katherine Nolan, Louise Brady, Marie Farrington, Mark Clare, Sam Jury, Stephanie Golden & Moya Clarken and Stephen Maybury, the question: how can technology activate a more visceral connectivity from a virtual standpoint? 

Glitch 2016 (30 May – 11 June) begged for a Risk Assessment. MART employed their usual experimental modus operandi for their curatorial remit in 2016, which ended in the surprise of having selected only female artists: Margaret O’Brien, Elaine Leader, Helen Mac Mahon, Janna Kemperman{Algorithm}, Sinead McDonald and Aileen Drohan. Glitch 2016 focused on live durational events and collaboration between digital and live processes. The participating artists produced live experiential artworks and performances around the idea of risk and danger and the seemingly safe space of the gallery. MART, it seems, also wanted to challenge these ideas relative to gender roles. For Glitch 2016, Dr. Katherine Nolan led a seminar entitled: Women’s Work: Undoing the Gender of Media, whereby she invited many an esteemed perspective from Valerie Connor, Leah Hilliard, Dr. Kylie Jarret and Dr. Paula Quigley. With the support of Arts Council Ireland, MART were able to present a high-end visual art exhibition alongside the customary seminar and creative workshop: Introduction to Processing – Learn to Code a Slit Scan Camera & Explore Light and Sound with Basic Electronics. 

Over the years, MART has sought to travel upon its curatorial impulses. This is a core objective for MART: to increase awareness and circulate the excellence of Irish visual art abroad, in turn, deepening connections and strengthening the axis from which to rotate their creative energies. This is a core cultural objective widely seen as vital and therefore generously supported by the likes of Culture Ireland. In 2015, MART travelled to Los Angeles with the work of 18 emerging and established Irish Visual Artists and Designers: Dominic Thorpe, Liam O’Callaghan, Margaret O’Brien, Katherine Nolan, Terence Erraught, Eleanor Lawler, Francis Fay, Aidan Smyth, Olga Criado Monleon, Kayleigh Forsythe, Marie Farrington, Róisín de Buitléar, Gearoid O’Dea, Grainne Tynan, Ida Mitrani, Patricia Douglas, Karen Vaughan, Christina O’Donovan. Instinct, curated by MART’s Co-Director, Matthew Nevin, took the form of 3 cross-disciplinary exhibitions, with the Irish Instinct put on display thrice @ three different LA Galleries (The Santa Monica Art Studios Gallery, The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art & The Hive Gallery) and once @ The MART Gallery between July – September 2015. Instinct questioned the role of human instinct in the production of art and it was good old Irish instinct that led Nevin to LA in the first place, resulting in hard-line curatorial ties being made in the process. 

MART were back in LA not before long with a show entitled: Activating Pangea @ DAC Gallery (16 April – 06 May 2016). Activating Pangea, curated by both Scanlan & Nevin this time, presented the work of four leading Irish artists (Sophie Loscher, Jonathan Mayhew, Margaret O’Brien & Gearoid O’Dea) to an anything-Irish all-consuming American audience. The exhibition sought to activate Pangea; in other words, to imagine our pre-human world, the supercontinent of many a day gone by where there were no borders or cultural barriers in order to reflect upon identity, geopolitics and culture relative to time and space. Kindly supported by Culture Ireland, Activating Pangea is the first of a three year series of exhibitions produced by MART, showcasing leading Irish Contemporary Visual Artists abroad. Activating Pangea, therefore, looks to solidify and promote the future of MART along with MART’s International agenda. 

While Activating Pangea was actively seeking to engage an American audience, MART was simultaneously representing Ireland in Supermarket (21 – 24 April 2016), an International artist-run art fair in Stockholm dedicated to showing the best from artist-run galleries, artist collectives and other artistic initiatives from around the world. Curated by Scanlan & Nevin with on-site support from Dr. Katherine Nolan & Deirdre Morrissey, five Irish artists (James L Hayes, Adam Gibney, Ruby Wallis, Margaret O’Brien & Katherine Nolan) exhibited their unique artistic positions within this global artistic market. Thanks to the continued support of Culture Ireland, MART were capable of being in two places at once on an International level. Coinciding with Activating Pangea in LA & Supermarket in Stockholm, The MART Gallery in Rathmines issued a warning about The State We’re In (21 – 30 April 2016), calling our attention to issues affecting the modern social and political landscape in Ireland, through works by Mayo based artists Jo Killalea, Bryan Gerard Duffy and Conor O’Grady. 

MART also seeks out the lone artist whose work is mature enough to hold its own in the form of a solo show. Without a Future (02 – 24 October 2015), a solo exhibition by Irish artist Margaret O’Brien, took to looking into human things from the point of view of our physical makeup and the phenomenon of what charges us. Without a Future is artistic evidence of O’Brien’s research into the wonderful world of electricity, sculpture and form. In February 2016, the wall-based sculptural work of Irish artist Jason Dunne, took to the walls of the old fire station to communicate certain unseen aspects of the human condition: emotion, aspiration, an awareness of the senses. Primes (12 – 27 February 2016) held a formidable position in The MART Gallery whilst attempting to also look beneath human things, beneath the skin of human things. 

Every year, MART also invites a curator to oversee their annual Members Show. Independent Curator, Writer & Researcher, Anne Mullee got her hands on the 2016 show. Motley focused on the curatorial quest: work that accepts the agency to perform self-determining acts. Motley featured a large troupe of studio members: Varvara Shavrova, Coilin O’Connell, Una Kavanagh, tag Beckett, Eimear Tynan, David Lunney, Eva O’Donovan, Robert Lumezi, Tadhg O’Cuirrin, Guillaume Cugnet, Nessa Finnegan, Jennifer Madden, Stephanie Golden, Grainne Tynan, Ivan Matancevic, Tommy Flavin, Seamus Bradley and Terence Erraught. 

I am sure in the coming years MART will continue to provide many multifarious platforms for artists to showcase their work, whilst managing to balance the act of provision with artistic vision.  

Lynda Phelan

September 2016


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MART Annual 2: 2013 - 2014

Blue Monday

MART Annual 2: September 2013 – September 2014

Text By Katharine Mauer

September 2014

On the 4th of September 2013, the opening of the large red  doors of the old fire station on Rathmines Road signified a new episode in the life of an iconic building in this urban village. In the year since, they have become a familiar invitation to the unfamiliar, the surprising, the sometimes challenging, the beautiful, and the fun. Step through them and you step into MART’s contemporary cabinet of curiosities. Ciara Scanlan and Matthew Nevin, the curators of MART, have developed a multi-faceted platform for the production and viewing of new media and installation art, sculpture, the work of experimental film and performance artists. Starting with 2 galleries and 8 studios in the fire station, in the last 12 months the duo have added a further 20 studios, an office, and a cafe – event space, which occupy nearby buildings. This polycentric engagement with the built fabric of the area has stitched MART into everyday life in Dublin and is a physical reflection of their curatorial concerns and programming.

MART aims to bring contemporary art to the forefront of culture through the active engagement of all sectors of society in its viewing and production. The fundamental impetus for artistic endeavour is the exploration the human condition. Contemporary art has opened up new possibilities for public interaction with that process. MART mediates this through inclusivity; the gallery is a permeable interface between the artist and the public; diversity generates new audiences; workshops, talks and discussions around exhibitions and artist led events involve all potential contributors. These events are recorded and thus, through archive and action, MART is providing space for the creation of a durable discourse generated by the community as a whole.

Independence is a key factor in maintaining openness. MART has received funding from Dublin City Council, Arts Council Ireland and Culture Ireland for specific undertakings, and these seed investments have allowed MART to become over 90% self-sustaining through innovative practice and the integration of the aesthetic into the everyday. Engagement with MART is not with a passive showroom but with a series of active spaces – part laboratory, part community meeting point , part academy. This is evident from the range of events and happenings over the last year. The opening show, Curb Your Carrie Bradshawism, encapsulated many of the diverse motifs: a curated group show involving mixed media explorations of a central contemporary concern ie how do we deal with the overload of modern life? More politically sensitive was Implicated held in October 2013, which explored the real issues of privacy, intrusion and transgression in the 21st century. In May 2014, Translucent Flag, a show exploring the ambiguity of identity by a group of Cork based sculpture and video artists and the Safe European Home? exhibition of work about racism and cultural identity by Roma and Traveller artists from the UK further emphasised the direct connection between art and everyday experience.

Earlier in the year, Blue Monday had provided the opposite experience to the viewer, as El Putnam curated an exhibition on the positivities of art: that it provides relief from the incessant suffering of life. The other group shows were not thematically collated, rather each was the snapshot of the work of connected groups of artists:  The MART Fair (30 artists curated by Eoghan Phelan – showing the work of new artists), Grosvenor Studios Group Show, The Clay Room Project (DIT), Needlehead (NCAD Textiles Students), Separate (IADT Students), I Pity The Fool (First Studio Artists) and 3’ (IADT Students). MART held five solo shows during the year which demonstrated the flexibility of the galleries – in providing the clarity of the ‘white cube’ as well as the laboratory space for experimentation. First, Clogagh Evelyn in a MART Experiment showed the process and results of explorations of the relationship between space and place using fabric in a three day ‘experiment’. In contrast the next show with a similar concern (space and place), by Conor Ferguson, was a photographic exhibition of the canal bank scenes. Shota Kotake also held a MART Experiment over three days with Manga Characters in 2013 and then returned in July of 2014 for a month long performance, sculpture and drawing exhibition, The State of Me. Harking back to the pop-ups of MART’s virtual incarnation, Niko Tarka, a studio member, had a solo exhibition of her ongoing works for one week.

In its mission to present the contemporary, MART facilitates a wide range of media – from the recognised to the experimental. Within the established frameworks last year MART staged The Last Post by Just The Lads showed as part of the Fringe festival and had full Culture Night Screenings. Performance for MART covers a wide range: theatrical productions like The Strindberg Project by Maeve Stone, Caitiff by Underdog Theatre Productions and The Daft Project by Verbatim Theatre; performances by Katie Kim + Owensie and Patrick Kelleher + Hauer; mixed media performative events like Cinephonic, a visual arts night and Milk + Cookies – After Dark Three, a spoken word and music night.

Film was not neglected during the year as MART inaugurated The Firehouse Film Contest and Venture, an experimental film screening night.This diversity allowed for events normally outside the expected ambit of a contemporary gallery such as The Fire Escape Music Festival which took over the galleries for two days, 190a Retelling, an exhibition retelling the history of the fire station and the surrounding area and Landmarked a street art exhibition filling the galleries. MART’s relationship with the community is a primary focus and throughout the winter there were workshops at the MART Academy, and as well as the MART Christmas Market, the Upcycle Pop Up Market and the Irish Record Fair. As the majority of MART events were free, fundraising was required. Two major fundraising events were held which were open to all: Ghouls of Ghostbusters Past  at Halloween and Pay Day (featuring Nanu Nanu + Voids) in January 2014.

There have been two recent developments which indicate the success of MART and the determination of its curators, Matthew Nevin and Ciara Scanlan: the opening of MARTCADE, a cultural space of possibility fostered through social interaction, which will consolidate the connections between the artists and the local community created in the last year and the showing of IMITATOR, a performative video installation in Japan in August 2014 which has led to the foundation of the MART international residency and exchange program between arts organisations in Kyoto Japan and Chicago. 

Next year’s line up of visual art exhibitions and events continues the eclectic mix of programming. MART are looking for a fourth space to provide studios for sound artists and are developing a Mobile App to promote the MART artists, while MARTCADE will host a bi-monthly design market. The diversity of MART as a platform is an invitation for experimentation. This ability to adapt and adopt is a strength which allows MART to embrace change and the new. 

Katharine Maurer

September 2014

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MART Annual 1: 2013

Curb your Carrie Bradshawism

MART Annual 1 – Opening Text 2013

By Rowan Sexton

September 2013

The MART, a new visual arts depot located in the iconic old fire station in Rathmines, Dublin, has been reappropriated to house multifarious elements, which include several galleries, an art shop, a workshop space and studios. MART seeks to position itself as a mediator of social and cultural transformation, through engagement with the arts. This dynamic venture will provide an accessible location and platform to develop and promote Irish and International contemporary visual art, one of the key principles fostered by MART. 

This exhibition highlights the cycle of creativity beyond the confines of the gallery. Through a Fund-it campaign to raise resources for MART’s new premises, all contributors who invested in the initiative were invited to participate in the Curb your Carrie Bradshawism exhibition, in recognition of their support. This is a strong gesture and reflective of the inclusive nature of MART’s modus operandi. The realisation of this exhibition in this rejuvenated space sees the outcome of an exciting venture come full circle, culminating in the official launch of this new venue.

MART’s egalitarian ethos is echoed in the inaugural exhibition Curb your Carrie Bradshawism, as each participating artist will be given an identical challenge – to work within the constraints of a cardboard box, in any visual arts medium. As our culture is evolving into a society full of restrictions and limitations, artist’s struggle to find financial resources and opportunities to showcase their voice. The format of the exhibition and its established restrictions will generate an equal standing for each of the artist’s involved, without prejudice or favouritism. 

The title of the exhibition Curb your Carrie Bradshawism, weighs heavily on contemporary material and cultural ideology. The all pervading suffix, ‘ism’ has become commonplace and part of visual art pop culture. It enables the user to attain a certain gravity, or level of authenticity in their distinctive practice, philosophy or artistic movement in contemporary art. By initiating a response to the fad of ‘ism’, another layer is added to the prerequisite conditions imposed on the artists.

Impossible to ignore, Carrie Bradshaw becomes a focal point of the exhibition’s title. Her character from Sex and the City, has become symbolic of consumerism, excess and materialism. Her happiness appears to be counted in material goods such as shoes, bags and couture clothes, in strict contrast to values and quality of life, and acts as an interesting foil to the realities of the artistic lifestyle. How would she survive the recession or economic hardship? 

According to the philosopher Jacques Lacan, how somebody reads and interprets an artwork is determined in large by their subject position, as they inevitably project their own views on an object. To mirror this, another perspective worth considering is Carrie Bradshaw’s career as a journalist. Her character is established as possessor of ‘the gaze’, whose position involves objectifying situations to her individual perspective – highlighting the rupture between sight and gaze.

A similar scrutiny will be undertaken by each of the artists involved in the exhibition, as they will be bringing their unique approach and individual interpretation to the fore as they create specific pieces. Despite the fact that the artists all have a common starting point, the final selection of artworks on display will differ significantly, both in composition and in their conceptual and philosophical deliberations – in stark contrast to the lite existential questions à la Carrie Bradshaw. 

The use of cardboard boxes for each artwork is a confident, if unconventional method to provide unbiased,  equal footing to every artist in the show. Yet, could it be argued that this scenario becomes symbolic of being somehow boxed-in? Or categorising the artists and their work – putting them into boxes, in a manner of speaking. The paradox of this construct is highlighted in the duality encapsulated by a seemingly neutral perspective, that when analysed may in fact be interpreted as including a somewhat judgemental element. These shifting concerns that are at play throughout the exhibition; the concept, the title, the symbolism and the display format, all combine to constantly challenge the perspectives of both artist and audience, as these fluctuating layers offer room for evolving interpretation.

Text by Rowan Sexton


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MART Catalogue: 2007 - 2013

The MART Catalogue documents our activities from December 2006 – March 2013, inside you will find interviews, accessible essays, images and performative texts. It covers topics on inclusion, politics, participatory art and considers the issue of exclusivity found in the Irish contemporary art industry.


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