Dublin: Offside and Offsite Live at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane

Abigail Reynolds: Mount Fear East London , installation shot, Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane; courtesy Pallas

Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane undertook an ambitious and laudable program during its closure for renovations. As part of this program, Christina Kennedy, Head of Exhibitions, invited the Pallas Studios team, Mark Cullen and Brian Duggan, to curate Offside and Offsite Live . The exhibition was located both in the Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square and in two locations in the city.

The overall view of the exhibition and its surrounding events provided a coherent, and at times frenzied, view of a very particular aesthetic in contemporary practice. Working in an un-prescribed manner, the curators ignored boundaries between creative endeavours and placed faith in an ambitious grouping of over thirty-five artists / groups to deliver authentic artworks and projects according to their own agendas.

Throughout the gallery space were Mark Cullen's Temporary portable reservoirs . Viral in their insinuation, the works afforded an awkward negotiation of a path through the galleries. The evocative name, the scale, and the simple construction seemed to portray scale models for some environmental project that is as yet unrealized.

Abigail Reynolds' Mount fear was the highlight of the main gallery exhibition. Working with the Metropolitan Police in London, Reynolds created a factual fantasy landscape by topographically plotting individual incidents of violent crime over one year. A more than nodding reference to German Romanticism provided it with a frightening beauty. The reference to urbanism continued with Cristophe Neumann's remarkably constructed yet disappointingly dull Beautiful city.

The theme of commentary continued in Brendan Earley's impressive wall drawing, The art centre . Resonant of artists such as Marjetica Potrc, the image showed the appropriation of a derelict modernist art space by street-culture. Likewise, Adriette Myburgh's Part process provided images of 'psychogeographies' built up of cultural symbols and signs and presented in multi-layered arrangement. This was in direct contrast to Alex McCullagh's Frontiers photographs. These moody images offered no new insight and join an already well-filled genre of banal depictions of nightscapes.

Composite photograph of images from Offside performance night ( from left to right : Ofcourseicantrio, James Higgs, Departures 247 and Fergus Byrne); courtesy Pallas

Andreas Gefeller's photographs, Plattenbau 1 and Plattenbau 2 , sought to utilise new technology to create 'possible' and 'impossible' viewpoints. Although technically interesting, the work lacked any particular depth. Another positioning of viewpoints came with Brian Duggan's Another one . Entering an enclosed chamber the odd angle of the video portrayed an anonymous Duggan climbing and descending a tree, with a strong level of voyeuristic expectation and tension accompanied by unedited grunts and expletives.

Rich Streitmatter-Tran and Bui The Trung Nam's The loudest sound provided a study in social commentary, partially weakened by an over-simplistic installation of oil drums, commenting on Vietnamese victims of dioxin defoliation campaigns and referencing Guantánamo Bay. In direct comparison, the Thatcherite overtones of Nathaniel Mellors' Hateball installation, film, video, and mixed media sculpture offered an idea of political struggle and strong moments of miasma, unfortunately made almost inaudible by the constant chatter of the gallery attendants. This feeling continued in Clive Murphy's What about me? The low-tech hand-made nature of this work provided a pathos-filled notion of self-awareness. Opposite to this, Albano Afonso's Paintings of light drew references from Botticelli's Adam and Eve . The use of electronics gave an extra layer of tension to the intimacy of the first lovers. This was also well played with Rhona Byrne's uncomplicated Affinity, a love heart formed from boxing gloves.

Taking the theme of popular culture, Botox 'n harmony by Netherlands-based group Antistrot used their zine practice to create a wall-drawing of cartoon-style imagery. Similarly, Tie - Fighters , two large-scale steel-and-cardboard sculptures by Nina McGowan, offered impressive scale. McGowan's references to cultural icons claimed to humorously comment on the promises of the Space age and large-scale objects of the 1970s. However, these utilisations of pop-culture objects, and Tie-fighter 's sci-fi theme, appeared jaded and vacuous in a twenty-first century context. Equally, Anna Boyle' Public people was a much-played-out attempt at some form of automated drawing.

Paul O'Neill's A topology of synthetic pleasure moulded itself to the Georgian architecture. However, the over-theatrical font moved the integrity of its content to something more reminiscent of a 1980s-song-lyric listing of lifestyle nouns and verbs with no reason for the viewer to negotiate or interpret any apparent meaning. This over-theatrically worked in the favour of Mark Titchner's large, brightly coloured, wall-mounted works WE WANT ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS OF TOMORROW, WE WANT YOUR CONTRIBUTION, and WE WANT TO MAKE DREAMS A REALITY. Based around found words, typographical devices and declarative symbolism, these works were impressive for both scale and their Gilbert and George manner of appropriation.

Antistrot: wall drawing, Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane; courtesy Pallas

Placed in locations outside of the gallery were two works by Garrett Phelan and Niamh McCann. Phelan's drawing project GOD ONLY KNOWS , at Dublin City Council Civic offices, was a completion of a three-piece 'formation of opinion' project. This third and final part exploded onto the glass corridors and balconies. The transparency of the surfaces allowed for three-dimensional viewing and provided a fascinating glimpse into Phelan's observations. In Excise Walk, IFSC, Niamh McCann showed NIC CISSALC . This work provided a very strong dialogue about community and memory, and was particularly poignant in an area where capitalism marginalizes local memory.

Pallas and co-curator Fergus Byrne also undertook an evening of live performance in response to the classical architecture of the Hugh Lane and the context of the current exhibition Offside . From the seventeen artists / groups that took part, the activities of Paul Murnaghan, Róisín Lewis, Michael McLoughlin, Toirse and James King stood out.

Murnaghan canvassed the audience to spend an amount of time with his work to provide names for 10 grainy Rorschach-style digital projections in an interesting dialogue about language, observation and perception. Lewis and McLoughlin provided possibly the strangest performance of the evening as they engrossed themselves in a Fluxian action searching for and seeking to represent the vanishing point of the long gallery corridor. The sudden closure by attendants of the area gave this entertaining action even more poignancy by its lack of visible conclusion. A bizarre addition to the evening was Derry-based King. King contorted both himself and language in a series of shouts, screeches and interpolation which were redolent of psychiatric-ward rambles. The entire evening ended with an almost surgically lit club performance in the Georgian hall by Toirse, which provided the audience with an opportunity for analysis of this particular genre of music...and proved popular with enthusiastic audience members.

This form of exhibition seeks to turn the mundane into something fresh and intriguing. In this case any resolution was deliberately missing. This turned the exhibition into a welcome observation of and perhaps a deliberate self-parody of relational aesthetics.

Noel Kelly is Deputy Director and Curator for Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin, and a Senior Partner with the Art Projects Network.

Offside and Offsite Live at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, July - September 2005

Article reproduced from CIRCA 113, Autumn Issue 2005, pp. 77-79