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Exhibition documents the early years of performance art in Ireland
Nigel Rolfe, Zebra, 1978–79, performance using flour and soot, Dorothy Walker Collection, National Irish Visual Arts Library.


DUBLIN.- Mobile Encounters presents a selection of ephemera and artworks documenting the early years of performance art in Ireland.

The exhibition is curated in partnership between the National Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL) and IMMA. NIVAL is a public research resource that holds the world’s largest collection of documentary information on Irish 20th and 21st century art. An important objective of IMMA’s newly established Project Spaces is to consider how a museum engages with its collection, artists, curators and visitors.

Drawing on both national collections, the exhibition traces the people, organisations and events that contributed to shaping a culture of ‘mobile encounters’ for performance art from the early 1970s to the late 1990s.

The task of documenting an inherently impermanent art form such as performance raises critical questions about how recordings of ‘live action’ are invariably mediated. The residual traces presented in this exhibition are as much a visual and documentary record of what happened as an indicator of the gaps in collecting–they signpost what is not known about the history of performance art in Ireland and lead us to consider why.

Mobile Encounters presents a selection of videos digitised from NIVAL’s Audiovisual Collection and ephemera from NIVAL’s Artist, Gallery and Subject files. A selection of posters documenting twenty five years of activity at various art centres in Ireland and abroad are presented alongside works from IMMA’s collection.

This project is anchored by the presence of an iconic piece of Irish performance art ephemera from Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland’s Name Change performance. The resultant documentation and the tri-colour painted coat that he adorned during the 1972 performance is now part of the national collection at IMMA. Interestingly enough in May 2008, IMMA was chosen as the final resting place of Patrick Ireland, whose effigy was buried on the grounds of the Museum, thus bookending this important action. As part of the project the museum was interested in connecting with contemporary Irish performance artists, so they invited Dominic Thorpe to create a new work somebody else’s mouth (2014), which was performed on the opening evening. A material trace of this performance will remain in the exhibition for its duration. Thorpe often works with materials that can resonate with the viewer, perhaps triggering memories or connections and is open to the possibilities the materials or movements suggest.






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