“We travel to not only see new places … but to see ourselves as something other, to shed our skins of deeply engrained habits…And what do we find at that magical destination? Our old selves, no doubt”
(Private Territory by Rolandus Rasauskas)
While I may not have discovered a new self on my travels this month, I have certainly discovered new possibilities and formations in my work while on residency here at AIR Krems. The time has flown by and I can’t believe I’m leaving for home on Saturday.
I spent most of last week preparing my new solo exhibition in Baden Bei Wien. It took three days of certainty and uncertainty, clarity and befuddlement, calm and nerves, but it was installed, on time, with the help of Cornelia König, the director of Kunstverein Galerie, Baden who offered a clear and objective eye when needed. Her warmth, good cheer and hospitality – especially our evenings of conversation over a glass of local wine – helped me forget those pre-show nerves.
The exhibition, Hortus Conclusus, opened on Saturday, 24 November (and has been extended to the end of February) to a warm reception of curiosity, delight and enthusiasm. After the opening speech by Alexandra Hennig, the curator of AIR Krems, I was able to relax and enjoy the evening.
Remember the performing dog I mentioned in my last blog? Well, two more turned up to see my work! Safely under the leash of their owner, they got very excited indeed by the `birdsong` soundscape and howled and scraped around the audio system. I hope they didn’t forget to sign the visitor’s book on the way out!
All too soon, my residency is nearing its end with just a few days left to work, enjoy the environs of Krems and take in a last couple of exhibitions. A recurring theme in the work I’ve seen here is life before and after the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’- themes of migration, memory, narrative, often reflecting on the relations of politics and power from both a state and individual point of view. Many of the artists who work here and come on residencies, hail from countries of the former Eastern Bloc and appear to have been embraced and absorbed into the art scene of Vienna and Lower Austria. I find the work intriguing and very pertinent not just to my own practice but also to my experience as an emigré from the UK to Ireland.
My residency at AIR Krems has been an exciting, fulfilling and productive experience. The programme provided time, space and all-important funding to reflect on my art practice, consolidate an artistic project in progress and develop new ideas. The experience was made all the more memorable by the contact I had with the other resident artists and the warm and generous support of the administrative and curatorial staff at Krems. It also provided me with the opportunity of a solo show in Austria. I leave here feeling renewed and re-energized in my art practice. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better than that.
Finally, a few words of thanks and appreciation to all those who helped me with the residency but most especially to: John Mc Hugh at Custom House Studios, Westport, who initiated the residency; Cornelia König, at Kunstverein Galerie, Baden, for her encouragement over the past few months; Alexandra Hennig, Curator, AIR Krems for her kind and insightful words in opening my exhibition; Sabine Gueldenfusz, AIR Krems coordinator and provider of ladders, fuses, printing facilities but most especially for her invaluable support and chocolate cake; Culture Ireland for a travel award; The Model in Sligo for giving me the space for this blog series; and, of course, my family and friends who have texted, emailed, phoned, posted me goodies to remind me of home – and made me feel less guilty for deserting the cats.