Artthrob Diary - February 2007
Ralph Borland moved from Cape Town to Dublin, Ireland at the end of October 2006 to pursue his PhD with an art and technology research group at Trinity College.
Thursday, February 1
I gave a presentation about my past work and current ideas to staff and students at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Dublin's main art university. Nathaniel Stern had done the same two weeks previously - he wasn't in the audience for my talk as he was back in Johannesburg for his exhibition at Art on Paper.
My connection to NCAD was initially through Seoidin O'Sullivan, an Irish artist and Master's student at NCAD, who kindly contacted me before I moved to Dublin after seeing news of my move here on ArtThrob. Seoidin studied Fine Art at Durban Technikon. She has been a good connection to the art scene here in Dublin, introducing me to other artists and institutions.
My supervisor at Trinity, Linda Doyle, has also encouraged Nathaniel and I to connect with NCAD, to provide a more art-oriented context than the Electronic Engineering Department where we are studying offers. Her friend at the institution is Mick Wilson, a well-regarded local character in art and academia. One of the ideas he's engaged with at the moment is 'Hauntology'; he's identified the figure of the spectre or ghost as a recurring theme in recent art. He held a mini-conference on 'Hauntology' in November 2006.
I've been aware of the motif of ghosts and haunting in my own recent work - Jetty Square saw the creation of ghost-shark sculptures to haunt Cape Town's foreshore with the memory of the sea, and my exhibition 'Promised land' contained a number of ghostly motifs: the death's head and apocalyptic trumpet of 'Jubilee', the spectre of Pixley Seme, ANC founder, glow-in-the-dark machetes, and a work titled Epitaph. 'Song of Solomon', created with Julian Jonker for the Durban Art Gallery just before I left South Africa last year also resurrects the spirit of Solomon Linda through an automated machine for audio composition, Morpheus.
The past haunts the present, identifying past injustice, calling for resolution; the spectre is in this way a metaphor heavy with political intent.
Friday, February 2
I went to a music performance at The Project in Temple Bar, at the invitation of my friend Tim Redfern, an artist. musician and techie here. The show was by Roger Doyle, 'the godfather of Irish electronic music', playing with Ian McDonnell, a laptop muso and graduate of the Music and Media Technology (MMT) course here in our department at Trinity. I'd seen Ian McDonnell play before at a performance by the Crash Ensemble a few months ago. He was at his best tonight when performing with Jennifer Brannigan as 'Jenny and the Deadites', a spunky MC.
A rumour before the show intimated that a Dutch gabba producer was going to be performing; this turned out to be Ian McDonnell in a horror mask (more Hauntology?). This reminded me of the story of James Webb's 'YDESIRE' performance when he masqueraded as a female Japanese hard-core noise DJ. Roger Doyle's grand-piano playing was nice, but a bit Chariots of Fire at some points, as someone pointed out. Some nice moments of riffing backwards and forwards between Ian McDonnell on MIDI controller to laptop and Roger Doyle on piano.
Sunday, February 4
On my way out on Sunday night for the dancehall sessions at Temple Bar Music Centre I noticed a 2nd-hand clothes shop for the first time called 'Sharpesville - Clothes to riot for'.
Tuesday, February 6
I take part in a frisbee long-throw competition for 'Green Week'. There is a very high level of awareness of environmental issues in Europe right now. If not downright fear...
I win 2nd place in the frisbee-throwing competition.
Tonight is a party by the Trinity Afro-Caribbean society. There are some great Ugandan dancers. It's a very multicultural crowd. There are a lot of black Africans in Dublin; the main street near my house in Dublin has half a dozen Nigerian wig and movie shops. Along with Eastern Europeans, they also run many Internet cafés in town, every computer equipped with webcams for Skyping to friends and family back home.
Thursday, February 8
Tonight was the opening of the 'Beyond the Studio' conference at Hugh Lane Gallery. My friend Ryan O'Connor from New York, who is in the second year of his Master's at Goldsmith's College in London, came over for the conference. The introductory conversation between Daniel Buren and Jens Hoffman is not that hot. Buren wrote a 1971 essay which informed the exhibition 'The Studio' at Hugh Lane, the exhibition to which this conference is an accompaniment. He has coloured the windows of the gallery as his contribution to the show.
Friday, February 9
The morning session of the conference, held at NCAD, is great; Thomas Demand gives a great presentation on the theme of the studio, under the title 'The Studio: metaphor or miracle'. Iwona Blazwick, curator of the Whitechapel in London, also gives a good presentation along the theme, with some overlapping material.
At lunch time Ryan and I meet Els Roelandt, Brussel-based co-editor of A Prior magazine. It has an article in it by Armin Medosch called 'Society in Ad Hoc mode: Decentralised, self-organising mobile' which connects well to my research.
Claire Doherty can't make it as the afternoon speaker, due to illness, so we hear from the artist Lonnie van Brummelen about her and Siebren de Haan's projects Grossraum, which investigated three sensitive border-zones in Europe, and Monument of Sugar, which involved importing sugar from Nigeria as part of a critique of European agricultural subsidies - subtitled 'How to use artistic means to elude trade barriers'...
The man who popped up in the background of the photo between me and Ryan is Dennis McNulty, an electronic musician friend with an interesting practise who was also attending the conference.
Tuesday, February 13
Meeting with my supervisor. I did a little writing that examined the projects 'GWEI', and Brinco shoes. I saw Hans Ubermorgan speak in Jo'burg when he was there for a show at Premises Gallery.
In my meeting today I drew a ven diagram of the intersection of three circles titled 'art', 'technology' and 'activism' - the focus of my research is at these intersections. Linda pointed me to a really cool MIT project involving wireless routers on vehicles, like trucks and motorbikes, so that a truck can drive round rural areas picking up electronic mail once a day. An intriguing cross between old and new technology. It reminds me of the Taxi Tunes project in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where they are recording shows onto cassettes for distribution and play on taxis and buses, while they wait for a radio broadcast license.
Wednesday, February 14
Valentine's Day! I went to what was billed as the 'underground alternative to Valentine's Day' - Sacred Selections at Christchurch Cathedral (http://templebargallery.com/2007Programme/0701lostin2.htm). Classic happy hardcore tracks performed on a church organ. I liked it - just the experience of listening to the vast church organ in the grand cathedral was good. And intriguing connections between the ecstacy of religion and the Ecstacy of dance culture. Mixed reactions from people there as to its success, though it was a full house, turning people away at the end. It was the work of the artist Matt Stokes.
Went afterwards to some kind of opening party of the Fringe festival. Not quite sure what was up with that, because the Fringe should only be opening in September. But there was an open bar, so who's complaining? There was an art exhibition in the space, some nice work. What if the world... stylee. The exhibition was titled 'Don't cry - work!', curated by Padraic E.Moore. I particularly liked some of the work by one of the older artists on the show, Robert Hawkins. The catalogue informs me that Basquiat 'died in bed under one of Hawkin's paintings'. I see... I liked his use of sampled material - one small piece was a diagram of a centrifuge torn from the side of a Dyson vacuum-cleaner box, onto which he'd drawn a wraith emerging from the vortex.
Friday, February 16
Went to my second party by the Kaboogie crew downstairs at Kennedy's round the corner from Trinity. I saw an old ad for Kennedy's reproduced in a student magazine here - it's been a student jol for 100 years or something. But not quite like this I think: this was 'punk vs breakcore II' with Drumcorps (death$$ucker/cockrockdisco), prince Kong, The Banker, Adebisi Shank and Exploded Face. I'm not quite sure who I saw performing, but it was hard drum 'n' bass with live metal electric guitar over it. Video footage of Teen Wolf turned into split-second kaleidoscopic strobing visuals. It was great, but at some point my friend and I turned to each and said 'We have to get out of here'. Total overload. Good scene though. The last time I remember seeing live electric guitar and dance music was daylight on the trance floor at the Safari Camp party with Jorge wielding the axe. Raise your hands everyone who was there. I was wearing black hotpants and a t-shirt tan.
Wednesday, February 21
I've been doing a little work on my vuvuzela art-work, Jubilee. I'm finding out where to get the bits and pieces I need, and reassembling the work. It's going to be on a show in Amsterdam in March at a space called East 66. James Beckett is curating the show, called 'Sirens', which 'traces the development of the siren from an instrument for analysis to the role of auditory alert'. My piece will be alongside work by Andre Avalas, Mark Bain, Alec Finlay and Chris Watson, Raviv Ganchrow, and Max Neuhaus.
Tomorrow morning I leave for Edinburgh. I'm meeting Dan Scott, a friend from New York, over there. Dan Scott's an activist involved in a project to develop an online system to streamline decision making and administration for activist groups. He's going to a family event in a castle and taking me along. He's just staying for the weekend, and then I'm heading for Dundee and Glasgow to meet up with my friends from Ganghut, who I met while in Melbourne for the Nextwave Festival. They've got a great gig working in a village in the north of Scotland, preparing for an annual sculpture festival and working with the local community.
I'll be back in Dublin on the March 3.
Lots of love to all my friends in South Africa, I miss you!
Listened to while writing this:
DJ Shadow (The Outsider)
Courtesy of Ric of the Kaboogie Crew