EVA International 2016

Various venues, Limerick, Ireland

With more than 50 participating artists, this year’s EVA International nominally responded to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising – the failed revolution that nevertheless set the pattern for the politics and ideologies of the future Irish Republic. Titled ‘Still (The) Barbarians’, it is one of a vast number of commemorative events and exhibitions around the country that are at their best when they ignore knee-jerk romanticization of past martyrs and, instead, explore how we deal with our histories, the imperatives for contemporary revolution and what the future might hold.

In EVA’s largest venue, the semi-dilapidated former Cleeve’s Condensed Milk factory, the many hours of video work make for an initially daunting prospect. However, Cameroon-born, Senegal-based curator Koyo Kouoh is an excellent exhibition-maker and has paced things well. Highlights here include Jeremy Hutchison’s Fabrications (2013–16), an installation exploring the history of Palestine through a semi-fictionalized account of indigo mining, which culminates in the hauntingly evocative image of a once-dazzlingly blue land drained of all its colour.


Jeremy Hutchison, Fabrications, 2013, installation view at EVA International, 2016, Courtesy: the artist and EVA International; photograph: Miriam O'Connor

Jeremy Hutchison, Fabrications, 2013, installation view at EVA International, 2016, Courtesy: the artist and EVA International; photograph: Miriam O'Connor

Equally compelling, in an entirely different way, Jonathan Cummins’s trio of films – When I Leave These Landings (2004–09), Go Home (2010–13) and Out the Road (2012–16) – is a durational project following the thoughts and lives of four anti-Good Friday Agreement political prisoners and their families. Presenting the humanity of those it might be more usual to demonize, Cummins implies, in the subtlest of ways, that the only future in a divided land lies in the hope of understanding the mindset of those cast as ‘other’.

Alice Maher’s Cassandra’s Necklace(2) (2016), a reworking of her 2012 film, roots the conversation back in the mists of a more mythological, ancient time, giving rise to the idea that conflict, brutality and our baser drives and desires are elemental. Amanda Rice’s The Site Where a Future Never Took Place (2015) adds a note of beauty, albeit in a quietly disturbing way, as her camera pans an abandoned space, leaving us with the sense that nothing good can have happened there.


Alice Maher, Cassandra's Necklace (2), 2016), HD film still. Courtesy: the artist and EVA International; photograph: courtesy Vivienne Dick

Alice Maher, Cassandra's Necklace(2), 2016, HD film still. Courtesy: the artist and EVA International; photograph: courtesy Vivienne Dick

Dorothy Hunter’s Unassigned Monuments One through Six (2013) is ostensibly based on monuments and their passing (think of the toppled statue in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias, 1818). What we see are elegant, Aleana Egan-esque steel, wood and jesmonite structures that demonstrate how objects, however subtle, inflect and charge the space around them.

Most satisfying of all at this venue is a trio of installations: Tom Flanagan and Megs Morley’s A History of Stone, Origin and Myth (2016), Criodhna Costello’s Murmuration (2014) and Alfredo Jaar’s The Cloud (2015). Two videos looking at water, stone and air – accompanied by Jaar’s dramatically lit hanging sculpture of a dark storm cloud – both shake and stir.


Criodhna Costello, Murmuration, 2014, HD video still. Courtesy: the artist, Dyson Gallery, London, and EVA International

Criodhna Costello, Murmuration, 2014, HD video still. Courtesy: the artist, Dyson Gallery, London, and EVA International

In comparison, Liam Gillick’s And then … (2016), a ‘spoken word film festival’ taking place every Thursday of the biennial at Mother Macs pub, may seem a little off-message. Yet, behind the amusingly abstract descriptions of film plots lies the central idea that art’s currency is metaphor, which is often a vehicle for greater truths than can be conveyed by narrative. 

Over at the biennial’s other main venue, the Limerick City Gallery of Art, Kouoh’s exploration of Ireland as Britain’s first colonial experiment splinters – under the contextualizing weight of current warfare, migration and refugees – into a compelling series of conversations about the legacies of colonization and its contemporary cousin, globalization. Ireland may be marking a century since revolution but – as works including Philip Aguirre y Ogtegui’s Cabinet Mare Nostrum (2016) and Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor’s Le monde et les choses (The World and Things, 2014) and Le monde et la dette (The World and Debt, 2016) suggest – power imbalances and injustices continue to haunt us all.

Gemma Tipton is a writer and critic based in Ireland.

Issue 180

First published in Issue 180

Jun - Aug 2016

Most Read

Q. What is art for? A. To tell us where we are.
The work of filmmaker James N. Kienitz Wilkins on the occasion of his inclusion in the 2017 Whitney Biennial film...
Trisha Brown has died, aged 80; two new appointments at London’s ICA; controversy at the Whitney
A round-up of the best shows to see in the city ahead of this week’s Art Basel Hong Kong
How should the artistic community respond when an art space, explicitly or implicitly, associates itself with right-...
Charlie Fox on a new translation of Hervé Guibert's chronicle of love, lust and drug-addled longing
Three highlights from the New York festival promoting emerging filmmakers
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
A report and the highlights from a show themed around fluidity, flux, botany and the subterranean
From growing protests over the gentrification of Boyle Heights to Schimmel leaving Hauser & Wirth, the latest from...
kurimanzutto, Mexico City, Mexico
Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland
The body is a troubled thing ...
Sir Howard Hodgkin dies aged 84; finalists for Berlin’s Preis der Nationalgalerie 2017 announced

From the Women's Strike to a march that cancels itself out: what to read this weekend
The most interesting works in the IFFR’s Short Film section all grappled with questions of truth, honesty and...
With the reissue of their eponymous debut album, revisiting the career of legendary Berlin art project / punk band Die...
Galeria Jaqueline Martins, São Paulo, Brazil 

Tramway, Glasgow, UK
A work by self-taught artist Martín Ramírez
Munich’s Haus der Kunst embroiled in Scientology scandal; Martín Ramírez to inaugurate the new ICA LA
If politics today obsesses over the policing of borders, art in France is enacting multiple crossings
A new video installation from Richard Mosse investigates the refugee crisis
Gustav Metzger has died aged 90; director of the Met resigns
What draws us to certain stories, and why do we retell them? 
It’s time that the extraordinary life and work of Anya Berger was acknowledged

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

Nov - Dec 2016

frieze magazine

Jan - Feb 2017

frieze magazine

March 2017