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Gemma Tipton Reviews The Way Things Go:An Homage
Featuring Caroline McCarthy

  • Tuesday 05 September 2017

Tue, Sep 5, 2017

Image: Caroline McCarthy, ‘Mansize’ at Butler Gallery

The Way Things Go: An Homage ★★★★
Butler Gallery, Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny

Some 30 years ago, two Swiss artists, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, set up an experiment in a warehouse. Using bits and pieces, including plastic water jugs, car tyres, wooden ramps and bin bags, they made the most brilliant chain-of-motion movie that veers from quirky and amusing to surprisingly suspenseful. Will the pendulum hit its mark? Will the fire burn out before it sets off the next reaction? It was remarkably influential, even to the point of inspiring a Honda commercial so closely that the artists took action against the ad agency.

Beyond that, and beyond the laugh-out-loud moments, of which there are many, the film also gets you thinking about action and consequences, simplicity and complexity, as well as celebrating improvisation and invention. No wonder artists love it. To acknowledge the film’s anniversary, the Butler commissioned six artists to make work in response, or as they put it: homage.

Existing pieces by Maggie Madden, Liam O’Callaghan and Isabel Nolan also feature in an intriguing, fun show that made me think there is hope, both for the art world, and for art in the world.

Liam O’Callaghan, Nevan Lahart and Hannah Fitz at ‘The Way Things Go’, Butler Gallery
Liam O’Callaghan, Nevan Lahart and Hannah Fitz at ‘The Way Things Go’, Butler Gallery 

Dublin-based Japanese artist Atushi Kaga’s specially constructed vestibule welcomes you to the show. It would be easy to walk past, despite its bright colours and plenty of glitter, as you’re already anxious to see what’s going on beyond. But stop and explore the little worlds of hope and despair, and the idea of the impossibility of love, even as we cling to it like a raft in the turbulent waters of life.

A stand out is Caroline McCarthy’s Mansize (2017). Reading the information panel, initially my heart sank: “a feature length video of tissues being plucked one by one from their box . . .” Imagine. But wait, here’s a masterclass in what art can do. Just as Picasso once wrote that “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”, art can also turn the dust of everyday life into something that sings. Watch in wonder as McCarthy’s film shows tissues becoming, briefly, epic sublime mountains, rising to snowy peaks before the imaginary land flattens, and the process begins again.

Liam O’Callaghan’s Hold Together (2008) is an improbably balanced, jury-rigged cascade of large industrial clamps, pliers, clothespegs and bulldog clips. It pulls off that nice beauty-from-grit thing, and also does a good line in reminding us of our place in the scheme of things, and the importance of holding on.

Isabel Nolan’s set of six black and white photographs The Provisory Rugadapted and documented for past, present and future (2014) gets a little lost. There’s a lot of referential detail in the subtitles for the images, and you kind of feel you need a bit of googling, or a very knowledgeable friend, to get the most out of it. Anyway, Fischli and Weiss’s video is right beside, to pull your attention away.

What else? Hannah Fitz, who was a star in Kerlin’s recent emerging talent show, shows great wit and proves she’s an artist to watch, while Nevan Lahart goes to town with a massive painting that could almost be a Hieronymus Bosch for the 21st century.

The Butler always handles installation and pacing perfectly. Does that matter? Yes it does. Here, Aideen Barry’s and so it goes (2017) is a perfect coda to an excellent ensemble. A mixture of drawing and animation, her work shows that there are indeed consequences, but there’s also endless busyness and effort: all of human endeavour, distilled on the wall.

  • Butler Gallery, Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny. Until October 15th. butlergallery.com
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The best art shows to spend time with this week

Gemma Tipton

Wed, Aug 16, 2017

The Way Things Go: An Homage

Butler Gallery, Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny, until October 15th 


You have to credit the Butler Gallery for their grammar. Of course it’s “An Homage”. It’s also a fascinating show. Back in 1987, Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, who may (or may not) have spent their childhoods playing the board game Mouse Trap, created a brilliant film in which a chain reaction, involving old tyres, soap, shoes, water and pyrotechnics unfolds in a warehouse. There’s tension, drama plus great fun. Alongside the film are works from artists including Aideen BarryNevan LahartHannah Fitz and Caroline McCarthy.

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