IMMA’s new eco art festival is a dynamic celebration of people, place, and planet.
“You know, we have a green cube here as well as a white cube.”
When Annie Fletcher was appointed Director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in 2018, sustainability was at the forefront of her mind. “I sat down with the teams here and saw there was a real concern about environmental change. A member of our visual engagement team said to me, ‘you know, we have a green cube here as well as a white cube’. I thought that was very beautiful.”
This ‘green cube’ refers to the 48 acres of land that make up IMMA, nestled in the heart of Dublin 8 in the historical grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. “The courtyard is an incredible place,” Annie tells me. “It’s amazing to think that it’s been here since 1690, originally built for the soldiers of empires. It’s very historical.” The iconic location became home to IMMA in 1991, which explains the beautiful sculptures that live on the hospital grounds.
Over 21, 22 and 23 October 2022, IMMA’s grounds will become the home for Earth Rising, a vibrant eco art festival. Over the three days, artists, architects, storytellers, biologists, performers, designers, musicians and filmmakers will combine inspiring artistic inventions and civic exploration of creativity. The stacked programme will see workshops, talks and events taking place across the IMMA campus, as well as food stalls and live music.
“I was trying to develop this ‘green cube’ concept with a programme that speaks more to climate change,” notes Annie. “I was very interested in the idea that architects, designers and artists might have something to say about how we can design ourselves out of the climate crisis and this great challenge we all have.”
Annie tells me that, when planning Earth Rising, they reached out to a variety of experts across art, festivals, climate change and other disciplines. “I became aware that there is a huge amount of citizen activity out there in communities and artists collectives. There are lots of people doing things [about sustainability] in Ireland.”
The lineup for the weekend brings together 70 eco artists, practitioners and activists from across the island of Ireland. “It’s about creating community, and the artists are as much a part of the community as the public.”
Central to the lineup is Built To Disappear, a project sponsored by Lioncor and designed by Reddy Architecture + Urbanism. The project takes the form of an eco pavilion, called Éirigh, located in the IMMA Courtyard. The structure was constructed using willow stems, a sustainable material that is indigenous to Ireland, which can be locally grown and biodegrades back into the environment.
Carolyn Strauss from Lioncor says that the pavilion is a “symbol for change.” She tells me that the name Éirigh is an Irish word, meaning ‘to rise.’ “It’s a sign for us all to wake up and face the climate crisis,” she tells me. “To get up and act – individually and collectively – to help our planet. It feels suitable to use an Irish word because it really roots it here.”
The aim of the pavilion is to act as a meeting space and a physical representation of the goals and themes of the festival. It is both a piece of contemporary art and a testament to the boundless potential of environmentally conscious design. Across the festival weekend, the public will be encouraged to interact with the pavilion, explore it, and use it as a space to meet, contemplate, and gather.
Earth Rising feels aptly timed considering the current conversations surrounding sustainability and climate change. On 7 October, the Irish Green Building Council launched their ‘Building A Zero Carbon Ireland’ Roadmap, which Carolyn from Lioncor notes as a positive step towards developing a more sustainable way of working for the construction and design sectors.
“We work in the built environment, which is a significant contributor to Co2 emissions,” she tells me, “so it made perfect sense to participate in the [Earth Rising] project”. She tells me that they were extremely excited by the possibilities of the project when they were approached by IMMA. The teams from Lioncor and Reddy Architecture + Urbanism collaborated closely on the brief, working through numerous prototypes before landing on the willow pavilion.
It is promising to see individuals across industries working together on a piece that looks at art, design, and architecture through the lens of sustainability, and it is hoped that Earth Rising will open the door to similar conversations in the future.
Annie echoes this hopeful sentiment when discussing her work at IMMA. “As a museum, a huge amount of energy is spent on running a building, and museums have not always been concerned with thinking environmentally.”
When trying to envision a greener future for the museum, she said: “the first way to do that is to listen to what people are doing and saying. I wanted this to be a citizens assembly of people coming together and for the museum to really listen to these issues.”
Earth Rising will take place across 21, 22 and 23 October.
Tickets are free and available at imma.ie/whats-on/earth-rising
Words by Kerry Mahony
Image Credits: Annie Fletcher by Fergal Phillips
Homebeat 2021 at IMMA by Molly Keane