Living Canvas at Wilton Park presents the biggest outdoor screen for contemporary art in Europe on the banks of the Grand Canal. We profile some of the artists appearing, as part of its constantly evolving programme, in a special supplement in our current edition.
“I’m very interested in where art can meet the public, not where the public go to meet art”
When it comes to socially engaged art, artist Aideen Barry is scaling it up all the time. She’s starting 2022 with the premiere of Klostės, her debut stop motion film in Kaunas, Lithuania, the European Capital of Culture where she’s worked with 1000 citizens on its creation and is about to meet a hero of hers – the South African acclaimed artist William Kentridge – at the opening.
Closer to home, her work on OBLIVION/SEACHMALLTACHT/ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔭᐅᔪᓐᓃᖅᑐᑦ is another labour of collaborative love. The multimedia performance, moving image and sound installation is born out of a response to a request by the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Music Network to mark the Bunting Archives, named after Edward Bunting who may have single-handedly saved a pivotal part of our heritage. “What I found fascinating is that he was a 19-year-old who took it upon himself to write down the 66 lilts and airs of the last 11 remaining harpists in 1792 at the Belfast Harp festival. I thought this intervention by such a young person was extraordinary and saved our indigenous culture.” The harp was recently inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2019. Barry explains how the “Greta Thunberg effect” of youth activism and interventions formed the thinking behind the project and its explorations of the “socio-political space where folk music can be a kind of weapon.” To this extend she enlisted three key artists in her explorations – Aisling Lyons, a contemporary harpist, Margaret O’Connor, a fashion designer and RIIT, an Inuit electronica pop singer, as well as multiple other contributors.
One of the appealing aspects of the IPUT Living Canvas project for Barry is its placement in the public realm. “I’m very interested in where art can meet the public, not where the public go to meet art, so for me I thought this is such an interesting place because there’s an audience of thousands, in effect, every day. I love the idea that it removes these prohibitions that often exist about people going into gallery spaces, where people feel ‘I don’t know about art and I don’t want to feel stupid so I don’t want to go into a gallery.’ This disarms the public to engage with it on a number of different levels whether it is the colour or the shape or the activity or if they scan it and catch the ravey part they can have a dance on the canal – I love that there’s loads off of different access points.”
Barry hails the “democracy of collaboration” which allows her work to “flip into these in-between spaces where it can exist in pop culture or literature or the dance floor.” Oblivion is an “evolving monster” that is currently being pressed into vinyl and remixed for the dance floor before embarking on a tour to Paris, Holland and North America, morphing along the way. It’ll also do a tour of the Artic Circle visiting Pangnirtung where RIIT is from.
See Aideen’s work on the big screen at Wilton Park, 3pm-10pm.
Aideen will be in conversation and showing her work as part of Totally Dublin Live, at Spiegeltent Beag, Clarke Square, Collins Barracks on Sunday March 20 at 3pm, as part of the St Patrick’s Festival. Tickets are free via stpatickfestival.com