Exhibition visit – Kate Nolan, Lacuna

This exhibition was held in the Gallery of Photography here in Dublin. Its great that we have a place like this, but sometimes it can be a little Irish focused. I understand why it is like that, no one else will show Irish works to this extent – and we only have a number of prestigious enough galleries to get the guys of note. I guess we need more focus on photography both nationally and internationally. Our photographers are doing well internationally, apparently so it will be interesting to see if more international photographers feature here.

Lacuna, is a photographic and audio/visual installation evoking contemporary experiences in the border village of Pettigo, County Donegal, Ireland. Flowing through the centre of the village the River Termon marks the physical border between County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland and County Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland. Three bridges span the river – and at places where it narrows, often, without realising, you can step across into another country.

Lacuna responds to the idea of the border as a ‘landless’ land or a cavity in understanding. Drawn to “in-between” places, artist Kate Nolan collaborated with the young people of Pettigo to explore the notion of the border as a place in flux. The exhibition weaves together still and moving images, recorded stories and a commissioned score by Gavin O’Brien to evoke the tangible and intangible, natural and constructed nature of the border.

Often I prefer my focus a little less land-locked, but this exhibition works really well. It has that Philip Larkin approach whereby a general effects us all problem is dealt with by focusing on the individuals and the details. There is obviously the serious danger of a new physical border between Ireland and the UK – due to Brexit – and the potential national threat that could carry – but she tackles this by showing the details – not the overarching political problem. Unlike when I was a kid, most kids in the border towns now, haven’t seen a physical border there – so they have pretty much been able to move across 2 countries without any problem – as an English kid can jump on a train and get off in Paris. That is all set to change. This is probably me, and led by the topic, but some of the images give that real impression of making a run for the border between East and West Germany – hiding in the forest, gaps in the trees seeing the birds who can cross borders without knowing they are there, jumping streams, and not knowing if you have made it or not. In a Brexiteer world of lies, hands-over-the ears pretence and chosen isolation, it was interesting to see a more sensual handling of the space and people it will effect.

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