Alastair MacKinven: Assault on Lismore Castle’s Fourth Wall. 1 September – 7 October 2012

Alastair MacKinven: Assault on Lismore Castle’s Fourth Wall

1st September – 7th October 2012

Lismore Castle Arts: St Carthage Hall


Opening reception Saturday 1 September, 5.30 - 7.30 pm

Alastair MacKinven in conversation with Director Eamonn Maxwell at 5pm


Assault on Lismore Castle’s Fourth Wall

I quite literally have been given the keys to the castle: Lismore Castle, Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland. I was invited to work here as an artist in residence, I am the first artist in residence at Lismore Castle Arts. I live and work in London, where I keep a studio. On being asked to make a show in situ I started trying to come up with ideas. Where do you start when you don’t know what to do? I will not give it the grand name of ‘research’ it is something different… it is typing “Lismore Ireland” into Google. Out come superficial facts available to all, for example Lismore Ireland is twinned with Lismore New Southwales, etc, etc. From this I found Robert Boyle’s wish list of 24 problems he wanted to see solved, I then thought I would come up with 24 things to do in Lismore in reference to R. Boyle who was born in Lismore Castle!!! I quickly came up with 23 ideas but the last remained elusive, until it came and the 24th idea was, “To drop the 24 ideas and any mention of R. Boyle because don’t you remember you hate referential art and work that is dependent on other things, even though to make reference-free art is probably impossible.”

Pheew, what a load off my mind, now I don’t have to pretend I know anything about R. Boyle or even mention him in anything that will be made available to the public. Instead I brought nothing to Lismore from London except an old idea, a new idea, and a half-formed idea. On arrival I found an old roll of chroma-key backdrop, asked the gallery to buy me one hundred rolls of toilet paper, bought a can of Elnet hairspray and built a potato bazooka. ASIDE: I grew up in Canada, I don’t think you get a proper education in Canada, maybe not even in all of North America, not compared to the JAGS girls and the Harrow boys. But I did learn how to build a bazooka that fires potatoes, how to toilet paper trees and build bombs using only match heads and ping-pong balls. Of course being in Lismore Castle, Lismore, County Waterford Ireland the potato is, pardon the pun, a loaded image. Yes I must apologise for this, I wrote a list of things to avoid in this show, they were: potatoes, T.R.O.U.B.L.E.S. and Thin Lizzy. I assure you there is no Thin Lizzy in the show. Like I said and am the first to admit, my formal education is ropey and tackling the heavy issues would be reproachable and, more than reference-heavy art, I really hate the tourist artist who touches on real things that have real meaning to the people of the community, then goes home. Like the angel of the north or, as I call it, “Rich southern artist gets paid to make a monument to the non-existent industry in depressed North in the material of that industry that is to represent the pride and resilience of the people made unemployed then goes home to his studio in London”. Trying to come to some understanding of these works (firing the potato gun at the walls of the castle and toilet papering a tree) it became clear that it is just attaching something to something else: a potato to a wall, toilet paper to a tree; it is collage, which I believe is all that is left in art making. It is also jouissance, transgressing the limits of enjoyment and taking great pleasure in it. Jouissance has no use value and exists for its own sake and that is a good enough definition of art to me and makes me think I learnt something growing up in Western Canada.

Alastair MacKinven





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