|STAND FAST DICK AND JANE||
Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar, Dublin
Over the past few years the OutArt brief has become wider, initially exhibiting Irish gay and lesbian artists, expanding to international artists and non-gay artists with curatorial themes and decisions becoming more focused each year. The group open submission show has evolved into an invited format where works were selected through discussions with individual artists, galleries and institutions.
OutArt has never sought to prescribe. A curated show, however, does give a false sense of commonality, flawed maybe but hopefully discursive. We have tried to build on previous exhibitions this year by exploring a different terrain of queer art, that being a selection of American artists who came to prominence over the past twenty years through the era of identity politics. Now firmly established, they are dealing with a world where difference doesn't seem to matter any more, identity is not enough of a motive and politics in art is generally more archaic than anarchic.
Through discussions we asked if there was any merit in promulgating a particular aspect of the work of artists, queer or otherwise. Last summer we met artist Donald Moffett in Dublin at Richard Torchia and Patrick Murphy's show at the RHA. From this initial encounter the concept developed further through several meetings with artists in the US for an exhibition looking at the legacy of the gay activist period in the late 1980's. The minority politics which had come to the forefront through the AIDS crisis had created a new kind of queer identity and art. This is discussed later in the essay by Nayland Blake, one of the contributing artists to the show. He discusses from his own experience of the time how queer art has developed and changed over the years.
While approaching Project for the venue we came across 'Stand Fast Dick', the name of the rock formation on which Dublin's City Hall or Royal Exchange is build on. It runs under the River Liffey and down Essex Street where the Project building is located and was once visible as it rose out of the river providing an obstacle for ships which often proved fatal. This seemed like an interesting metaphor for what we were attempting to do - examine a striking historical moment which has been gradually embedded into the cultural matrix, once posing a threat but now acting as a foundation.
Once we started looking at artist's work another theme emerged. Many were looking to childhood and adolescence, exploring that period of awkwardness and uncertainty from an adult perspective, one that is able to cut through sentimentality and embrace the trauma, anxiety and violence of that time. 'Dick and Jane' the beloved and now controversial American children's book characters made an entry here. Their characters had changed each decade from the 1940's mirroring the social and cultural changes of the times but still upholding wholesome family values. They are loved for their instructional innocence and hated for their promotion of stereotypes and this combined with 'Stand Fast Dick' produced the metaphor which seemed appropriate.
Ireland, at this moment, also stands at an important point in its social and economic development. Many would argue that the greatest threat to social inclusion and integrity comes, not from traditional Conservatism, but from placing economic success over the sense of community. The 'Celtic Tiger' has within it the 'Pink Pound' which, at worst, presents us with an amoral, selfish generation and at best, the potential of an unpredictable and unstable future. The fortunes of the liberal agenda have always been closely tied to economic affluence. This will inevitably suffer when our cyclical boom proves to be short lived. But this is not what 'Stand fast Dick and Jane' seeks to resolve. The work in this exhibition is as engaging as many of the people who have influenced the changes within queer culture over the last thirty years on both sides of the Atlantic. These now allow us to take an open and critical overview of what has happened, where we stand now, and what possibilities exist in front of us, 'although past performance does not guarantee future success'.
Tom Keogh and Alan Phelan
|No Respect | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996|