On Dec. 01, The Model celebrated the opening of our new major contemporary art exhibition with a spectacular array of events. Turbulence is a major exhibition that explores the way in which contemporary artists are responding to the refugee crisis today. The exhibition features work by artists Rossella Biscotti, Elaine Hoey, Gulsun Karamustafa, Naiza Khan, Eoin McHugh, Cengiz Tekin, Sarah Wood and Jack Butler Yeats.
Given the concept behind Turbulence, it seemed only fitting that Sligo Global Kitchen would kick off the opening by doing what S.G.K. does best; serving up a variety of mouth-watering tapas. A crèche facilitated by Model volunteers Binta Sow, Fatma Dogan and Niamh Gowran was set up in the education room. Those of us who had been to Sligo Global Kitchen at The Model before were aware of its ever-growing audience. By 4pm, the atrium was filled to the brim. Such was the crowd that the queue snaked passed the café and lead straight through to the bottom of the staircase. The S.G.K. crew on hand; Nkeka Cummings, Funmi Oluwadara and Sara Batiglag handled the gathering with grace and patience.
By 4.30pm, our patience was rewarded and everyone was seated. One of the many reasons why SGK has enjoyed success since it’s inception has been the unity that is shared over a meal. Indeed, there was unity among us, what with strangers sitting with strangers and enjoying some homemade food with a glass of wine, but there was also an unmistakable spirit of solidarity.
To officiate the opening, actor & writer Donal O’ Kelly took to the balcony and preformed a specially created performance piece in response to the ideas behind Turbulence. He later said that he was “Honoured to be part of the opening event of such an important exhibition as Turbulence, and to try to amplify the voices of those deliberately silenced and isolated among us, such as refugees and asylum-seekers in Direct Provision.”
Following Donal O’ Kelly’s enigmatic performance S.G.K.’s project coordinator, Mabel Chah sung an original song entitled ‘burning coal,’ that left the entire artrium silent. When the performances had come to a close, Turbulence was officially opened to the public with a speech from The Model’s chairperson, Dr. Bláithín Gallagher.
Elaine Hoey’s VR piece ‘The Weight of Water’ caused a particular stir. This piece, which uses virtual reality technology puts the partcipant in the position of a refugee in a boat, suffering through the infamously treacherous journey to Europe. Yvonne Eames, who attended the exhibition, told us why she found this piece particularly moving. “I’m a solicitor and I work with refugees at the legal aid board,’ said Mrs. Eames. ‘I thought Elaine Hoey’s ‘The Weight of Water’, was very evocative. It wasn’t brash, it was simplistic and that helped insulate the experience. I hope that this powerful piece will go on to create real change in how we view and treat refugees in Irish society.”
Sprawling across the entirety of The Model upper galleries, Turbulence is not only a mammoth exhibition in it’s size, but also in it’s concept. Within the exhibition, mass movement is explored from the perspective of some of contemporay arts most interesting artists. The refugee crisis effects us all, from old to young, which is why we thought we’d ask one of the youngest visitor’s of the opening, what she thought of it all. Annie Spearman, who attended the exhibition at the ripe age of 17, had this to say on the matter. “The exhibition was really engaging and complex but it still managed to make the refugee crisis relatable to me” said Annie, “The opening was really good; Mabel’s song was beautiful. It made me cry!”