Across the month of September in 2020, Pluck Projects held a series of online events, originally due to take place as a one day seminar in November, which moved online in light of the pandemic. This series is the first part of a three year collaboration between Pluck Projects and the RHA at a moment when the RHA moves towards its 200th anniversary. If you missed it, you can now watch back on the live recordings of the online conversations below.
Pluck Projects is a curatorial collaboration founded by art historians Sarah Kelleher and Rachel Warriner that champions innovative work and seeks to reassess the histories of contemporary Irish art. Pluck@RHA considers the institution as a site of challenge, examining its inclusions and exclusions, how they shape what is considered to be art, and the ways in which these definitions have changed in our recent history.
September 2020’s series of events looked at women, artists and the institution, focusing on RHA and looking outwards. Feminist activism in the Irish art world has been a significant force since the 1980s when women artists mounted a challenge to the institutions that they felt had excluded them. Collectives such as the Women Artists’ Action Group argued that artists were not being recognized because of their gender by the museums and galleries that helped define Irish art in the popular imagination. Nearly forty years later, Abigail O’Brien, the first female president in the RHA’s almost 200 year history, reflected the ambitions of women’s artistic activism by foregrounding gender balance in her inaugural address. This echo is illustrative of the ways in which major institutions have absorbed activist demand into their own ways of thinking about themselves, leading them to instigate changes shaped by the challenges mounted against the establishment. In this series of seminars and screenings, Pluck Projects considered the legacies of the women’s movement in the Irish art world, and discussed not only the history of feminist challenge, but also how it has interacted with the interests and ambitions of artistic institutions.
The month began with a panel discussion with Pluck Projects and Aideen Barry ARHA, Pauline Cummins and Eithne Jordan RHA. The following two weeks, films by Pauline Cummins, Becoming Beloved, 1995 and Performances, and Aideen Barry, Not to be Known or Named, 2015 and Enshrined, 2016 were screened on RHA’s website. The month closed with a conversation with Pluck and Dr. Tina Kinsella and Dr. Fionna Barber, considering a longer history of feminism in Irish art practice and the institutional landscape.
Below, you will find video recordings where you can watch back on these conversations and a link to questionnaire responses by artists, both within the RHA and without, gathered by Pluck Projects.
Pluck Projects in conversation with Aideen Barry ARHA, Pauline Cummins and Eithne Jordan RHA.
In this opening conversation of Pluck @ RHA’s programme 2020, Aideen Barry ARHA, Pauline Cummins and Eithne Jordan RHA with Pluck Projects, considered feminist practice, women’s artistic activism and the institution from the perspective of these three key contemporary practitioners.
Aideen Barry ARHA is a visual artist whose work has been widely exhibited in solo and group exhibitions and commissions in Ireland and internationally. Significant projects include: residencies and exhibitions at IMMA, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2016, The Headlands Centre for the Arts, San Francisco, 2011, Matucana 100 in Chile, Louise T. Blouin Gallery, UK, 2007, among others. In 2019, she showed in a two person show with Alice Maher RHA curated by Dr. Tina Kinsella, Fair is foul & Foul is Fair, at the Katzen Center at the American University Museum in Washington DC. Barry is currently working on a commission for Kaunas 2022 the European Capital of Culture in Lithuania and the Bunting commission for her piece Oblivion for the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Music Network. She has upcoming projects at the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg in South Africa this month, and will show solo next year and 2022 at LCGA, Centre Culturel Irlandais, the Canada Council in Paris, and other projects at the Easy Wing Doha in Qatar, ArtBA in Buenos Aires in Argentina and Artissima Art Fair with her Gallery in November 2020. She is an elected member of Aosdána and was recently elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy.
Pauline Cummins’ performance and video work examines the human condition from a feminist perspective. She likes to collaborate with artists and communities in public sites and situations.
A retrospective of her video work, Between One and Another, was held in CCI Paris 2012 where she and artist Sandra Vida performed, Sweeping Changes,in response to the Ryan Report on Institutional Abuse in Ireland. She has worked within prisons as a visiting artist and was the founding chairperson of the Women ́s Artist Action Group, (WAAG).
Her performance as The Duchess of Leinster and as Lord Edward Fitzgerald, was part of These Immovable Walls-performing Power Dublin Castle, 2014. She was one of 16 selected visual art performers in Future Histories, 2016 at the historic Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Her early multimedia work Inis tOirr, 1985 was a central installation in GAZE, IMMA, 2019 and was also shown in Elliptical Affinities, Highlanes Gallery and in Limerick City Gallery, 2020. She has performed internationally and her work is in the permanent collection of The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.
Eithne Jordan RHA was born in Dublin where she studied at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology. She was awarded a DAAD scholarship in 1984 to study at the Hochschule der Künste in West Berlin, where she subsequently lived for several years. Since 1990 she has worked between Languedoc in the south of France and Ireland. Her work focuses on the contemporary city, looking at places such as Paris, Rotterdam, Madrid, Vienna, and Dublin. A member of Aosdana and the Royal Hibernian Academy, she is one of Ireland’s leading figurative painters. In 2018 she was elected Keeper at the RHA.
Recent solo shows include 2017: Tableau, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane; When Walking, Butler Gallery Kilkenny; 2012: Street, RHA, Dublin; Small Worlds, The Mac, Belfast; 2011: Street Stills, Assab One, Milan.
Pluck @ RHA Presents: Dr Fionna Barber and Dr Tina Kinsella In Conversation
In this final conversation of Pluck @ RHA’s programme 2020, Dr Fionna Barber and Dr Tina Kinsella with Pluck Projects, discussed the history of women’s relationships to institutions in Ireland. They examined how the recognition of women artists working in Ireland has changed over the last four decades, how our understanding of the importance of gender as a factor for discussing artists’ practice has evolved, what the status of the term ‘woman artist’ is now, and what the next steps might be for critical engagements with feminist art.
Dr Fionna Barber is Reader in Art History in the Manchester School of Art and Research Degrees Co-ordinator for Art / Visual Culture. Her research interests are contemporary and twentieth century Irish visual culture, feminist art history, contemporary women’s painting and a range of issues in twentieth century modernism including nation, memory and identity and gender performativity and embodiment. She recently curated Elliptical Affinities: Irish Women Artists and the Politics of the Body 1985-present exhibition curated for Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, Ireland 16 November 2019 – 26 January 2020
Dr Tina Kinsella is Head of Department of Design + Visual Arts in IADT, Research Fellow at the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Trinity College Dublin, and Fellow at the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media (GradCAM). She has published widely in the fields of contemporary art practice, visual culture, aesthetics, performance studies, philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthropology and legal studies. She is currently working on a monograph on contemporary female artists’ relationship to, and interrogation of, surrealism.
Pluck @ RHA Women, Artists and the Institution – Questionnaire
Earlier this year, we circulated a questionnaire among artists at different career stages, both Members of the RHA and those not involved with the institution, asking them about their experiences of working as a woman working in the arts in Ireland. Our survey asked respondents about the key events that shaped their artistic trajectories and about the support networks both formal and informal that supported their practices, as a way of helping to preserve the history of exhibitions, networks and works that have been important to women artists working in Ireland. The survey was not designed to be a completed document, but the beginning of an open-ended resource for researchers, students and those interested in Irish art history. To that end, we would be delighted to receive further responses so that this resource can continue to grow and evolve.
Image: Aideen Barry ARHA, still from Enshrined, performative film, 2015, Image courtesy of the artist.