The year 2020 presented us all with many unexpected challenges, and we certainly are happy to see the back of it. The Arts sector has certainly suffered a blow as heavy as during the economic crisis a decade ago. It has been a testing time for artists, cultural professionals, and organisations, as much as for art seekers and culture vultures, with full programmes being cancelled and venues closing their doors indefinitely.
However, this past year, PhotoIreland continued with its very own proactive and creative approach, adapting to these new circumstances and generating opportunities; we satisfied our programme supplying a variety of cultural projects, and came out with excellent results, fulfilling its motto of ‘cultivating, supporting, rewarding, and showcasing contemporary visual arts practices’.
This post offers readers a recap on most of our 2020 projects divided as follows:
Our very first event of the year saw PhotoIreland hosting the annual Parallel Platform Curatorship event, bringing to Dublin 50 international artists, curators, and other arts professionals from 27 different countries, as well as inviting guests from around Ireland to join the events. During the Curatorship, participants worked together to develop 6 exhibitions to be presented by selected member organisations across Europe throughout the year. We planned the event meticulously to ensure everyone had a productive time, but also time to unwind, relax, and network. We provided a comfortable and well-equipped space by merging The Library Project and TBG+S Studio 6, who kindly supported the event. Extending the work of the project, and adding value to the event, guests were invited to join an extraordinary cultural programme of studio and gallery visits and one-on-one meetings to connect with the Irish arts network. All in all, it was a very productive event, one to remember, and the closing party wasn’t bad either!
The exhibitions, which normally take place in selected members’ countries had to migrate online, with each curator and artist groups tackling the challenge with creative and critical approaches. You can look back on these on the Parallel website.
FUTURES Photography Platform
As part of the annual presentation of European talent, in March PhotoIreland announced the 5 Irish artists selected to join the platform in 2020: Becks Butler, Garry Loughlin, Mark McGuinness, Shia Conlon, and Vera Ryklova. They participated in the PhotoIreland Festival 2020 programme, and their works were presented to local audiences at The Library Project in October.
The FUTURES programme moved its main Autumn event online, proposing a month long series of activities. Running 5-31 October, the Futures Digital Festival: Reset was presented with a series of events called The Assembly, The Conversations, The Open Mic, and The Studio Visits and with online exhibitions — The Expo, showcasing all the 2020 FUTURES artists and RESET, curated by Salvatore Vitale, which included new work from Garry Loughlin.
As part of FUTURES, we hosted throughout the year a series of online mentorship sessions with three excellent artists: Teresa Eng, Eva Kreuger, Marta J. Bogdanska. We really look forward to follow their progression over the coming years.
Presented as part of St. Patrick’s Festival cultural city trail in 2020, and to mark the first decade of PhotoIreland, The Library Project brought together 100 Views of Contemporary Ireland, a collection of photographs in the form of postcards by 100 contemporary photographers from Ireland. While the installation was never seen by the public, the collection of postcards has become very popular and are traveling around the world, spreading the good names of Photography from Ireland.
You can find out the full list of artists and browse the collection on The Library Project website.
Consolidating the work done over the last decade in support of artists, last March we opened a new section online to offer a set of free and paid services for individuals. Designed in support of artists and art professional’s practices, these include one and four-hour Professional Development Modules, free consultations for anyone looking to apply to the Arts Council COVID support, free consultations for those submitting to book awards, among others. The new services have proven to be popular, in particular the Professional Development Programme (PDP), a mentorship we have been testing in diverse ways for the last years, now available as a two-level programme of 6 months each, aiming at the consolidation of artists practices. The PDP is open to a maximum of 4 individuals every year, and is already booked out for 2021.
One of the main challenges in 2020 came in March as the first lockdown was announced. Over the following weeks and months, the programme had to be reshaped numerous times, transforming the plans for a PhotoIreland Festival programme to take place 8-19 July. While the rush to online and the use of services such as Zoom soon became a standard, we did take the opportunity to further acquire new skills in aid of the professional delivery of live audiovisual feeds. In addition, we capitalised on our experience in print to deliver content, and took the opportunity to advance the expected launch of OVER Journal to the summer — something that has been incredibly beneficial.
To deliver the festival programme, we worked with guest Digital Curators Jon Uriarte (The Photographers’ Gallery) and Marco de Mutiis (Fotomuseum Winterthur) for a Screen Walk around Irish artist Conor McGarrigle’s practice, and collaborated with Fotomuseum Winterthur looking at Google Arts & Culture Project with artists Geraldine Juárez and Mario Santamaría. Berlin based artist Anna Ehrenstein launched the festival with “On Decolonising Lens based Practices”, a performance broadcasted live, followed by an interesting conversation around the work.
We presented further content from the festival offline, within the pages of OVER Journal, a new publication by PhotoIreland. Inside OVER, we featured three artists selected from the year’s festival open call: Francesca Catastini, Hiro Tanaka, and Theo Ellison. In addition, we presented works by Irish FUTURES Artists 2020 Becks Butler, Garry Loughlin, Mark McGuinness, Shia Conlon, and Vera Ryklova. The documentation of the festival is available at 2020.photoireland.org
As PhotoIreland works towards a very special edition in 2022, looking at the History and practice of Photography in Ireland, we have released a call for public participation that already is yielding very interesting results. Find out more about PhotoIreland Festival 2022 and the Museum of Contemporary Photography of Ireland.
Conceived over the last years through the Critical Academy research and informed by our experience as booksellers as much as avid readers, the model for a new publication had been maturing slowly in our projects cellar. Last July, we found the right time and space to deliver it and OVER Journal was finally born, in the midst of a pandemic, as part of PhotoIreland Festival 2020. Having secured partial crowdfunding early on in the year, the publication came to support the festival materials with its first issue, adding a new and unique voice to the publishing market.
The first issue includes texts by Aidan Kelly-Murphy, Alison Nordström, Amelie Schüle, Anna Ehrenstein, Benedetta Casagrande, Duncan Wooldridge, Erik Vroons, Gloria Oyarzabal, Jörg Colberg, Julia Gelezova, Natasha Christia, and Yining He. It features artists Becks Butler, David Farrell, Eva Kreuger, Francesca Catastini, Garry Loughlin, Guerrilla Girls, Heather Agyepong, Hiro Tanaka, Mark McGuinness, Shia Conlon, Teresa Eng, Theo Ellison, Vera Ryklova, and Yvette Monahan. It is a promising start that already got great reviews and feedback by those who read it. It is not then per chance that just two months after its launch we secured a global distribution through White Circ, also known as Boutique Mags — get in touch with them if you are interested in stocking the magazine.
During the summer, as issue 1 was being launched, we worked hard defining the forthcoming issues, assembling a great team of collaborators from all continents. We shared all the information with the Arts Council of Ireland as we looked to secure funds. Mid December, we learnt the great news that we had been granted substantial financial support to publish issue 2 and 3 in 2021. All these achievements, from July to Christmas!
As with all our projects, open participation and transparency is at the core. For OVER Journal, we have devised a friendly call for materials that allows artists and contributors to submit whenever they consider their work is ready, and not just when the deadline comes. If you are interested in contributing to this publication, read the documentation regarding the triple call for papers, articles and works at overjournal.org
Meanwhile, we are working on a new online presence that will provide the appropriate platform from which to deliver conversations around complex contemporary issues and practices, host discussions, as much as preparing contents for on and offline publication.
Bringing it to a total of 41 to date, in 2020 we produced 16 new TLP Editions, with works by artists selected including Steven Nestor, Dylan Davies, Charlotta Hammar, Niamh Smith, Joe Marner, Hugh Quigley, Faolán Carey, Aoife Herrity, Richard Gosnold, and the 4 Inspirational Arts Photography Award finalists Sibéal Riordan, Izabela Szczutkowska, Sebastian F Mahon, and Jialin Long. In addition, a special selection of works for A New Normal, presenting Aisling McCoy, Alexandre Delmar, Andrew Rankin, Billy Woods, Camilla Ferrari, Darragh Kerrigan, Dominic O’Brien, Elise Fisher, Elizabeth Rooney, Emilia Rigaud, Kate Schneider, Kerim Aytac, Kety Duran, Leon Gallagher, Lucy Rehill, Monika Dubinkaite, Myles Shelly, Nestan Abdushelishvili, Niamh Smith, Paddy Kiernan, Róisın White, Tristan Hutchinson, Ugo Woatzi, and Verity Adriana, accompanied with poetry by Malaki, was produced in collaboration with District Magazine and Junior.
Despite the uncertainty regarding the possibility of opening the space to visitors, HALFTONE Print Fair managed to gather the interest of many artists and ran from 29 October to 22 November, later extended to 6 December. The fair presented 200 works from over 85 contemporary artists at The Library Project, raising over €8,000 for the participant artists and some of the works heading to the OPW National Collection! You can browse the works at 2020.halftone.ie
HALFTONE brought for second year a special focus on books with the event called Tsundoku that ran 5 November to 6 December, bringing to Ireland books from the Kassel Dummy Award and Australia & New Zealand Photo Book Award.
Other Projects and Events
The year began with our presence at the Icelandic Photo Festival (16-19 January), where we presented a selection of Irish photobooks and met local artists and art professionals. It was followed in February by the launch of PhotoIreland’s 2020 programme at The Library Project, with a special presentation by Dan and Justine from Perimeter Books, all the way from Melbourne.
The Inspirational Arts Photography Award 2020 finalists were presented in July. They were Sibéal Riordan, Izabela Szczutkowska, Sebastian F Mahon, and Jialin Long, and their graduate projects were published as TLP Editions, as the exhibition couldn’t happen this year.
Michael Dooney, of the Subtext & Discourse podcast, interviewed PhotoIreland Director Ángel Luis González, in an episode published on 24th September. Listen back to this and other episodes. González was also interviewed by the Irish Times regarding the pressure on small retailers during the lockdown. He joined the PHOTO-MATCH portfolio reviews organised by the Krakow Photomonth and Fotofestiwal teams, the Landskrona Portfolio Reviews, participated in PhotoVISA’s talk on photography festivals (23 Oct) alongside other guest professionals, and was jury at the Copenhagen Photo Festival 2020 and the Australia & New Zealand Photobook Award. PhotoIreland was also invited to participate in the Creative Ireland Programme & Dublin City Council Diversity Commissions providing our nominations for the programme.
The Library Project joined Irish Book Week organised by the Booksellers Association in October, and PhotoIreland participated in the Dublin Art Book Fair (23 Nov-6 Dec) organised by the Temple Bar Gallery + Studios with a selection of publications: OVER Journal, TLP Editions, and the Parallel Catalogue thing, aura, metadata. A poem on making. The last event of the year at The Library Project was RAZE (10-24 Dec), an installation by composer Rory Pierce with the kind support of the Arts Council, Music.
In terms of the organisation, July saw a new Board of Directors for PhotoIreland taking shape, with our continued endeavour towards best practice. We prepared and submitted our first Creative Europe application as leaders, and were featured in Creative Europe Ireland Culture Office’s publication Across Borders – Across the Board. We worked on the new Strategic Plan for The Library Project with the support of the Local Enterprise Board, who also supported the design of a new website for the bookshop. We opened two new positions, Full Time Retail Assistant and Digital Services Assistant for the PhotoIreland Collection, and the candidates have been interviewed and selected.
This year, PhotoIreland received the Arts Council’s Commissions Award to present new work during PhotoIreland Festival 2021, as well as support from the Dublin City Art Office Project Grant. We also received the Arts Council Visual Arts Project support towards the next two issues of OVER Journal, and the Capacity Building Support Scheme towards exciting new developments at The Library Project and the PhotoIreland Collection. In addition, we received personal Visual Arts Bursaries for Julia Gelezova’s research on Ireland’s relationship with food, an element of which will be presented during PhotoIreland Festival 2021, and Ángel Luis González’ research on the History and practice of Photography in Ireland.
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