Pluck@RHA Presents: Women, Artists and The Institution

Aideen Barry, Still from Enshrined, performative film, 2015. Copyright the artist

Pluck Projects are delighted to announce Pluck@RHA, a three year collaboration with the Royal Hibernian Academy as it approaches its 200th anniversary. Beginning with a conversation on Women, Artists and The Institution, this programme will consider the institution as a site of challenge, examining its inclusions and exclusions, how they shape what is considered to be art, and the ways in which these definitions have changed in our recent history.

For September 2020, we will be running the programme Women, Artists and The Institution

Feminist activism in the Irish art world has been a significant force since the 1980s when women artists mounted a challenge to the institutions that they felt had excluded them. Collectives such as the Women Artists’ Action Group argued that artists were not being recognized because of their gender by the museums and galleries that helped define Irish art in the popular imagination. Nearly forty years later, Abigail O’Brien, the first female president in the RHA’s almost 200 year history, reflected the ambitions of women’s artistic activism by foregrounding gender balance in her inaugural address. This echo is illustrative of the ways in which major institutions have absorbed activist demand into their own ways of thinking about themselves, leading them to instigate changes shaped by the challenges mounted against the establishment. In this series of seminars and screenings, Pluck Projects consider the legacies of the women’s movement in the Irish art world, and discuss not only the history of feminist challenge, but also how it has interacted with the interests and ambitions of artistic institutions.

The programme is as follows:

4 Sept 2020 18.00: 

Pluck Projects in conversation with Aideen Barry (ARHA), Pauline Cummins and Eithne Jordan (RHA).

This discussion will consider feminist practice, women’s artistic activism and the institution from the perspective of three key contemporary practitioners.

This event is free but you must register via eventbrite:

7th – 13th September

Online film screening: Pauline Cummins – Becoming Beloved (1995) and selection of recent works

14th – 20th September

Online film screening: Aideen Barry – Not to be Known or Named (2015) and Enshrined (2016)

24 September, 18:00:

Dr Fionna Barber and Dr Tina Kinsella will consider a longer history of feminism in Irish art practice and the institutional landscape.


Triskel Arts Centre, Cork

13 June, 8.45pm – 11.00pm

As part of our new collaboration with the Cork Midsummer Festival, we are proud to present this free evening of artists’ films on the theme of environmental disquiet. Exploring the anxious line between the natural world and our interventions within it, Burn/Out addresses our current global preoccupation with climate and environmental degradation, a preoccupation that has immediate urgency and relevance in Cork in the context of the OPW’s proposed flood prevention measures. The curated programme will bring together canonical work documenting 1970s land art, performance and body art with contemporary animation and new work by Cork-based artists, each addressing the increasingly fraught relationship between the self and environment.

Tickets are free and can be booked here

Wheelchair access and bathroom on site, Full access for visually impaired, guide dogs welcome.


Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson

1970, 35 min, colour, sound, 16 mm film on video

‘The film Spiral Jetty is a “portrait” of Smithson’s monumental earthwork of the same name at Rozel Point in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. Completed in April 1970, Spiral Jetty is an iconic earthwork and Smithson’s most renowned piece. At 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide, Smithson’s spiral of basalt rocks, mud, and salt crystals juts out from the shore and coils dramatically into luminous red water. The film documents the making of this earthwork, which has attained near-mythic status as it has disappeared and then re-emerged from the lake over the past decades. A voiceover by Smithson illuminates the ideas and processes that informed the evolution of the work, with allusions to prehistoric relics and radical notions of space, scale and landscape. Poetic and oddly hypnotic, the film includes stunning aerial footage of Smithson running along the length of the glowing spiral in what seems like an ecstatic ritual. The film Spiral Jetty, together with a series of photoworks taken during the construction of the earthwork, have become integral parts of the overall project’.

Camera: Robert Fiore, Nancy Holt, Robert Logan, Robert Smithson. Sound: Robert Fiore, Robert Logan. Editing: Barbara Jarris.


Untitled (Grass Breathing)

Ana Mendieta

1975, 3:08 min, colour, silent, Super8 mm film transferred to high definition digital media

            ‘I have been carrying out a dialogue between the landscape and the female body. Having been torn from my homeland (Cuba) during my adolescence, I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (Nature). My art is the way I re-establish the bonds that unite me to the Universe. It is a return to the maternal source.’

Ana Mendieta

During a 1974 visit to Mexico, Mendieta began to produce a series of works in which her own body is immersed or shrouded within the landscape. In Untitled (Grass Breathing), she is immersed in the grass-covered ground, from which she emerges. A mound in the middle of a recently re-sodded lawn suggests the presence of the artist underneath. Over the course of the film, Mendieta, underneath the sod, inhales and exhales, and the movement of her body causes the sod to rise and fall, at first slowly, then with increasing vigour, and then more slowly again until she comes to a position of rest.

Laura Wertheim Joseph, ‘Filmography’, in Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, ed. Pamela Johnson (Minneapolis: Katherine E. Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, 2015)


Burial Pyramid

Ana Mendieta

1974, 3.17 mins, colour, silent, Super8 mm film transferred to high definition digital media

Mendieta performed this work on the rocky hillside beside a stone stairway that leads to an ancient pyramidal tomb in Yágul, Mexico. Several of Mendieta’s fellow students from the fledgling Intermedia Group from the University of Iowa, led by Prof. Hans Breder, helped her to clear the ground of stones before the performance. After she lay down on the cleared terrain, these students buried her entire naked body, except for her face, under the stones. Over the course of the film, the camera remains fixed on Mendieta, submerged under the stones, as she inhales and exhales. As her breathing becomes more exerted, the stones begin to fall away to reveal her body beneath.

Laura Wertheim Joseph, ‘Filmography’, in Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, ed. Pamela Johnson (Minneapolis: Katherine E. Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, 2015)


Ocean Bird (Washup)

Ana Mendieta

1974, 4.09 mins, colour, silent, Super8 mm film transferred to high definition digital media

Over the course of this work, Hans Breder films Mendieta from different angles, her body covered in white feathers, as she floats on her back among gentle ocean waves. Like driftwood, the waves push her feather-covered body into the branches of a toppled tree and eventually onto the shore, where she lies in stillness, as the waves lap over her.

Laura Wertheim Joseph, ‘Filmography’, in Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, ed. Pamela Johnson (Minneapolis: Katherine E. Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, 2015)



Vivienne Dick

1985, 8 mins, colour, sound,

Rothach (1985) was filmed on 16mm in the Donegal countryside and is composed of a rhythmic series of pans across a barren rural landscape that recalls the setting for Michael Snow’s monumental work La Region Centrale. Unlike Snow’s rocky landscape, however, Rothach is filled with evidence of activity. Scenes of a child playing the fiddle are interspersed with shots of farm machinery and turf-cutting on the bog. Many of these images are strikingly picturesque and reminiscent of iconic Irish colour postcards. But the serenity of the location is gradually undercut, both by the soundtrack, which changes from a melody into a series of shifting electronic pulses, and by the uncanny presence of the same child in different locations. It soon becomes apparent that this landscape is highly constructed.
Maeve Connolly, ‘From no Wave to national cinema: the cultural landscape of Vivienne Dick’s early Films (1978-1985)’, National Cinema and Beyond, (Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2004)



Vivienne Dick

2013, 13.38 mins, colour, stereo

Augenblick is a meditation on age, and the evolution from a mythological to a human and then to a technologically centered world. The film features three actresses, a trinity of female ages, and quotes literary and philosophical sources from Rousseau to Noah Harari. Moving from The Age of Enlightenment into a digital world, what becomes of out relationship to each other and to the earth?



Atoosa Pour Hosseini

2018, 15 Minutes, Super8mm, colour, sound

Produced by Experimental Film Society & Funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Antler won the special award of The Unforseen – International Experimental Film Festival 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. Here is the jury’s response on the Antler’s award:

“A film of subtle poetics and expressive aesthetics achieved through the hypnotizing intertwining of archive and authorial footage, “Antler” erases the boundaries between fiction and documentary, introducing the viewer to a mysterious and, to a certain degree, fairy-tale-ish world of oneiric atmosphere. Formally seductive, and challenging to decipher, this “ecological fantasy” (for the lack of a more precise definition) transforms a botanical garden into a laboratory of evocative images and sounds, in a process that could be identified as alchemy.”




Vox Materia: performance by Vicky Langan

Thursday 15 November, 2018. Crawford Art Gallery.

Vicky Langan will present 3 performances in response to Alice Maher’s Vox Materia, in the library of the Crawford Art Gallery. Interacting physically with Vox Materia’s bronze elements and drawing on the ideas raised by the show, Langan will layer physical gesture with scraps of sound to create an intensely personal response to Maher’s work.

Artist’ Bio

Vicky Langan (b. 1986) is a Cork-based artist whose practice operates across several often overlapping fields, chiefly performance, sound, and film. Langan both embraces and projects vulnerability, offering an intimate territory loaded with personal symbolism and unguarded emotion. With a focus on the sounds of the body and its functions, involving contact-­miked skin, amplified breath and live electronic manipulation, Langan’s work sits between sound and performance art. Using simple raw materials such as domestic objects, hair and magnetic tape, she layers physical gestures and scraps of sound to create intensely personal imaginary landscapes. Mundane domesticity is explored as a temporal space where the material body and sensual inner worlds mesh. In opening herself emotionally, she creates warm yet discomforting rituals that at once embrace the viewer and remain resolutely private, exploring the limits of what can be shared between people and what must remain mysterious.

Free event. Book your place at

Extended deadline CFP: Conference: Re-Framing the 90s: Historicising late 20th century Irish Practice, 2-3 November, Cork.


2-3 November 2018, Cork.

Reframing the ‘90s seeks to reassess the ways in which Irish art of the 1990s has been understood. Organised to coincide with Alice Maher’s exhibition of new work Vox Materia at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, we use this opportunity to look back at the emergence of a generation of practitioners that redefined Irish art.  The 1990s saw an expansion of sculptural practice informed by international postmodernisms, the rise of installation art, a return to figuration influenced by feminism, and a revisitation of the natural world that had dominated Irish art up until that point. Diverging consciously from assessments that homogenise art North and South of the border, as well as within the Republic, this conference instead positions Irish art practice as heterogeneous and deeply connected to wider international aesthetic debates. We seek to establish a better sense of the variations within Irish art, the trends that have yet to be given concerted scholarly attention and to better understand the varied topography of the art world during the 1990s. We seek to establish a better sense of the variations within Irish art, the trends that have yet to be given concerted scholarly attention and to better understand the varied topography of the art world during the 1990s.

This conference aims to reconfigure dominant readings of Irish art history that privilege the monograph or survey. Following the scholarly ground established by criticism such as Fionna Barber’s important text Art in Ireland Since 1910, Peter Shortt’s extensive study on Rosc, and Aine Phillips’ discipline-defining Performance Art in Ireland, we seek to dedicate similar considered attention to the emergent practices of the 1990s. Key questions for this conference focus on: understanding this period historically, thinking through the influence of the political and social landscape of 1990s Ireland, considering the ways in which the international art world was both influential and increasingly accessible, and examining the role played by artists’ groups, collectives and networks within and without the island of Ireland. We also aim to consider those artists and artistic groups that have as yet not received significant critical attention including Pat Looby, Danny McCarthy, Pauline Cummins , to name a few.

Papers could consider any topic relating to this reassessment. Examples might include:

  • Developments in Irish art during the 1990s
  • Social and political histories and their influence on artistic practice.
  • Artists groups, networks and collectives.
  • Neglected and overlooked movements and practices.
  • The influence of the Troubles and dialogues between North and South.
  • Diasporic practices: connections between Ireland and elsewhere.
  • The Biennialisation of the art world and its influence on Irish practice.
  • Continuities and divergences from traditions established in Irish art: the landscape, the rural/urban divide, painting and painterly practice, reimagining important Irish art historical tendencies such as the Celtic Revival, social realism, religious imagery.
  • The proliferation of unconventional materials or media; tactile, embodied, repellent, physical, corporeal and associated themes including animal nature, fetishism, female desire and sensuality.

Papers should be thirty minutes in length. Please send abstracts of 300 words in length and a short bio (50 words) to on the 10 September 2018

This conference is organised by Pluck Projects – Sarah Kelleher (University College Cork) and Dr Rachel Warriner (City and Guilds of London Art School) – curators of Vox Materia by Alice Maher at the Source Arts Centre, Thurles (March 29 – May 5) and the Crawford Art Gallery (September 7 – November 17).

Alice Maher: Vox Materia

Vox Hybrida Alice Maher 2018.jpg

Pluck Projects are delighted to announce Vox Materia by Alice Maher at the Source Arts Centre, Thurles, Tipperary, opening on the 29th March, 2018.

Vox Materia comprises a multi-part installation of sculpture and works on paper. Stemming from Maher’s consideration of a 12th Century mermaid carving at nearby Kilcooley Abbey, this show meditates on voice and silence. The mermaid is a hybrid creature that transgresses boundaries between human and animal, and is often associated with traumatic loss of voice. Maher deploys the mermaid not as a motif, but as an ambiguous and powerful conceptual tool to explore ideas of language, embodiment, agency, and autonomy. The artist begins by adopting and documenting contorted postures; creating strained silhouettes that gesture towards a language of the body in extremis. Vox Materia exploits the tactile, contingent qualities of wood relief print and watercolour to articulate amoebic, inter-elementary forms while a series of hand-held sculptural forms create new material and corporeal vocabularies.

Alice Maher is one of Ireland’s leading artists who has produced iconic work in film, drawing, sculpture, and installation. Since her first major solo exhibition in the Douglas Hyde Gallery in 1994 and her representation of Ireland at the Sao Paolo Bienniale in the same year, she has held major shows in IMMA, the RHA, The David Nolan Gallery, New York, the Brighton and Hove Museums and Purdy Hicks, London among many others. Her work is held in Irish and international collections including the Neuberger Museum, New York, the Hammond Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MoMA, New York, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the British Museum, London and the Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris. She is a member of Aosdána.

The exhibition at the Source Arts Centre  will be followed by its installation at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork later this year. These locations are not only important cultural sites in themselves, but also are significant to the artist. Maher is a Tipperary native; she was born there in 1956 and grew up in a rural part of the county in Kilmoyler, near Bansha. In her 20s Maher enrolled in night classes in what was then the Crawford Municipal College of Art, studying drawing in the upstairs rooms which will host the exhibition of her work later this year. She enrolled full time in the undergraduate course from 1981 until 1985 marking the start of her career as an artist. Therefore, the resonances of this exhibition are not only thematic but also biographical and professional.

Vox Materia runs at the Source Arts Centre until the 5th May, 2018 and will move to the Crawford Art Gallery in September 2018.

The work in this exhibition has been made possible through funding from Tipperary County Council and Creative Ireland Program and was commissioned by Brendan Maher at the Source Arts Centre, Thurles. It is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue which includes essays by the curators and by artist and writer Dr Austin McQuinn.



Architecture/Sculpture: Work by Graduates of Cork Centre for Architectural Education


Preview: January 31, 18:00, Boole Library, UCC.
To be opened by Dr Sabine Kriebel, History of Art, UCC and Jason O’Shaughnessy, Cork Centre for Architectural Education.

PLUCK PROJECTS are pleased to announce their forthcoming show Architecture/Sculpture at the Boole Library, UCC. Working with Jason O’Shaughnessy and Dr Eve Olney along with their Master of Architecture (MArch) Graduates from Cork Centre for Architectural Education (UCC/CIT), Pluck will showcase a selection of models and constructions, originally made as part of larger designs for proposed buildings.  By removing them from their context, this show instead asks the viewer to consider the affinities between model and sculptural object.  Abstract forms manifest graduates’ inventive designs, implying the atmosphere and impression of a concept, rather than the more conventional tendency of directly illustrating plans.

The work from which these models are taken was conceived in response to the brief Athens_Endless [C]ity in 2015/2016, undertaken as part of the M.Arch program. This innovative course asks students to interrogate ideas about the built environment, creating responses that consider buildings as social spaces that are lived, impacting communities and introducing new concepts into society. From this theoretical framing, exciting prospects are envisaged that address social and political questions, challenging the ways in which we are directed to live by conventional spaces, and proposing alternatives that positively impact those who inhabit them. The graduates of this programme are given the tools needed to contribute to some of Ireland’s most celebrated architectural firms, with alumni working for some of the most renowned architectural practices in Ireland and abroad. Graduates from the Programme are multiple award winners, and have recently won the inaugural “RIAI Scott Tallon Walker Student Excellence Award” in Architecture, the “RIAI Thesis Writing Prize”, the IDI “Sustainable Design Award” for Architecture”, and the European Association for Architectural Education Prize (EAAE) Prize for Innovation in Architecture”.

In Architecture/Sculpture, Pluck celebrate the conceptual drive of the M.Arch programme, foregrounding the creativity of graduates, their ability to mediate between critical discourse and their attention to form and structure. With these intriguing objects; some that explicitly reference building and some that explore more abstract concepts of texture or shape;  an often neglected aspect of how our built environment is conceived comes to the fore. Architecture/Sculpture presents viewers with objects that act as architectural sketches, putting the ideas behind buildings on show.

With work by Gillian O’Keeffe, Chloe Kerins, Habban Ali, Claire Quinn, Stephen Hannon  and Danielle O’Sullivan, and Catriona Courtney.

With thanks to Crónán Ó Doibhlin, Head of Research Collections and Communications, Boole Library, University College Cork.

Gaolbreak: Angela Fulcher


January 28 – February 25, Mon-Fri 09:00 – 17:00.

Preview: January 27, 18.00. Catalogue launch and drinks reception.

In November 1923, prisoners held at Cork City Women’s Gaol launched an escape attempt. Tying together bed sheets to construct a rope ladder, the prisoners descended from the walls of the prison and made their bid for freedom. In Gaolbreak, Cork-based artist Angela Fulcher draws on this history to create a large scale fabric installation in the atrium of Cork City Hall. Knotted lengths of bedding fall from the building’s balconies, obliquely referencing this story of revolt in recognition of Ireland’s Decade of Commemorations. Fulcher brings to bear her fascination with the world of consumer-driven textile design, using contemporary items from low-cost suppliers like Michael Guineys and Penneys. Using sometimes kitsch, heavily patterned material, Fulcher looks beyond the garish to consider prospective connections between everyday devalued materials and their extraordinary potentials.

This project builds on Fulcher’s substantial body of work which has led to growing recognition of her practice. Paying close attention to the details and qualities of materials and surfaces, Fulcher explores the contexts and philosophies associated found materials. Her intelligent and subtle subversions touch on the histories and politics of manufacturing, fashion and obsolescence, the vagaries of taste and the realm of traditional feminine making. Fulcher takes a unique approach to sculpture. Her recent practice has involved creating large-scale, temporary textile sculptures that engage their environment: Sun Stopping at VISUAL, Carlow (2016) reflected on its site, creating striking interventions outside the gallery; Vermiculated Render Quoins to Ground Floor (2016) at the Engage Festival Bandon echoed the patterns on the Allin centre’s walls, translating them into textile sculptures of heavily patterned upholstery fabric and red pleather. Creating surprising, intelligent and witty works of art, Fulcher scrutinizes our everyday environment, picking out derided artefacts in order to consider their implications.

Curated by Pluck Projects

Catalogue with essay by Prof. Jessica Hemmings, Professor of Crafts & Vice-Prefekt of Research at the Academy of Design & Crafts (HDK), University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Funded by Cork City Council. Angela  Fulcher is a recipient of the Next Generation Bursary Award 2016, a special initiative of the Arts Council and the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme, in recognition of the role of artists in the events of 1916.

Public launch opening remarks from Catherine Fehily

Thanks to fire safety regulations, New Work from Glasgow got to have not one launch but two. We’ve been really lucky with our support for this exhibition and have been greatly encouraged by Catherine Fehily, new head of the Crawford College of Art and Design.Catherine’s engaged and thoughtful comments were a fantastic endorsement of New Work from Glasgow. As such we were very pleased that she agreed to allow us to reproduce them below.

(Not ten things I like about this show, but five things I love about it)

I love what’s happening here because:

  1. It didn’t need to happen – nobody asked for it, commissioned it, ordered it or paid for it.  It wasn’t part of anybody’s job – it happened, or rather it was made to happen, simply because two people thought it should happen.  It is, in that sense, a great example of the generosity of the curatorial act.  Rachel and Sarah (Pluck) found something that they thought was exciting and decided to share it with the rest of us.  They didn’t impose a pre-determined theoretical thematic on the work they selected but simply responded – openly, intuitively and with pleasure, to what they were seeing and experiencing when they chose the works and artists to be represented here.
  2. It’s full of magic – once the process had begun, they carried on in the same vein – open-minded, responsive to opportunities, resourceful, creative, patient and tenacious in the pursuit of something that it seems, was never quite pinned down or defined.  This lightness of touch, this confidence in their own instincts and trust in the qualities they sensed in the work they had chosen allowed for the intervention of serendipity at every stage.  The venue, for example, this building, with its dramatic echoes of past use and its beguiling spaces, offered the possibility of accumulated references and meanings through the juxtaposition of artworks with the signs, structures and surfaces of the building.
  3. It’s sumptuous – when I asked Rachel and Sarah how they had chosen the works they told me that they had responded mainly to formal qualities – light, colour, material, and so on, and to work that played in the spaces between the physical and virtual worlds, rather than to any overt content or concept.  I came to the conclusion, looking at the exhibition, that they’re actually a pair of raving formalists and I’m delighted by that because I thought formalism had gone out of fashion.
  4. It’s utterly contemporary, which means that as an audience, we don’t quite know how to approach it – it’s new.  The work resonates with references to other things, but again there’s a lightness of touch, a playfulness that seems to position us, the audience, in a very pleasurable, if not a comfortable, place.  The work is seductive enough, beautiful enough, to invite us in and once in, we can join in the play, adding our own layers of association – all we have to do is to relax, to be open to what we see and hear and to see what happens – the work is thought-provoking, but subtly, gently, never stridently so.  
  5. It’s welcoming – there seems to be an absence of judgement here.  Will Kendrick’s orchid, anthurium and yucca may be kitsch but in here, they are allowed to be themselves – the whole question of taste is sidestepped and they become as endearing, in their way, as Christabel Geary’s uncanny rubbery or feathery creatures that squat on the floor nearby, or Sara Moustafa’s glistening tarmac and bright yellow no-parking line that hang enigmatically from the ceiling.  Ross Birrell’s elegy to the burned down Mackintosh buildings provokes a poignant, emotional echo in our sense of the building in which we now stand and James McCann’s visceral film and performance span the realms of the intensely physical and the spectacularly virtual. Meanwhile, much more quietly, in what I’ve come to think of as the corridor of ghosts and apparitions, Paul Deslandes responds to the “Multidisciplinary Teaching Laboratory” by populating it with enigmatic equations, vaguely fleshy manifestations and boxed-in spectres and further on, Heather Lander’s hypnotic, ethereal light manifestations scintillate as gloriously as the Aurora Borealis or some other celestial kaleidoscope, whether or not anyone is watching.

Finally, the fact that we can enjoy all of these connections, echoes, synergies and juxtapositions brings me back to the curators and to all of that (often invisible) work that so generously provides us with this intensely rewarding experience.  Here, the role of the curator is as critical and every bit as creative as that of the individual artist we are more likely to celebrate.  I’ve witnessed the transformation of this amazing space from a collection of messy, neglected, unloved and unused rooms to this delightful site of intense sensory, emotional and intellectual experience and I know how much thought, work and sensitivity have gone into that process.  So I’d like to say a very warm thank you and offer many congratulations to all of the artists and especially to Rachel Warriner and Sarah Kelleher – whose names don’t appear in the catalogue – for bringing this delightful spectacle from the real capital of Scotland to the real capital of Ireland.

Catherine Fehily

Preview opening remarks from Fiona Kearney

We were delighted by Fiona Kearney’s opening remarks at the UCC launch of New Work from Glasgow. We have been hugely encouraged by Fiona throughout this project and her support, professional, material and emotional has been incredible. Her opening speech was so generous that we wanted to share it and she has very kindly agreed to let us reproduce it here.

Earlier in the summer, I had an enthusiastic email from a colleague of mine in Buildings and Estates, Michael O’Sullivan, about a proposal he had received from Pluck Projects to present an exhibition in the Windle Building, the old Anatomy Theatre, which is currently under development by architects O’Donnell and Tuomey as a new student hub for the university.

Cork City Council had wisely invested in the curatorial vision of Rachel Warriner and Sarah Kelleher, who were expanding on their previous presentations at the Wandesford Quay Gallery and the Land of Zero project at the Crawford Gallery. So from the outset, I am pleased to see that both UCC and the council recognised the ambition of Pluck Projects as a really significant creative presence in our city. 

As someone who previously curated an off-site festival for Triskel Arts Centre, I remember the giddy courage that comes with working beyond designated art spaces and it is not for nothing that Pluck projects earns its name. Pluck, of course, also means to strike a chord, and in this case, one that stretches from Cork to Glasgow and back again.

In selecting the artists for this exhibition, Rachel and Sarah, have created extraordinary synergies with the scientific and anatomical history of this building. In describing their approach to the exhibition, the word visceral seems to reoccur. It is more than appropriate given that we are in the former dissection room of the university, which is one of the earliest academic gathering places of observation and understanding. Where learning happens beyond text, and through visual attention, material substance and symbolic forms.

Collectively, then I recognise the resonance of this work as something to be first felt and experienced, of conjuring an education from our bodies that happens in this space, and which perhaps, is only slowly and subsequently articulated in language. And of course, each individual artist deserves opening remarks of their own:

Sara Moustafa’s extraordinary flayed sculpture,

Ross Birrell’s elegant and elegiac film

Christabel Geary’s mesmerising dimensional drawings,

Will Kendrick’s strident and whirling spectrum of digital and physical forms,

James McCann’s pulsating, collage and challenge of identity,

Paul Deslandes thoughtful abstraction of scientific illustration

Heather Lander’s exquisite, perceptual projections,

and fortunately, Pluck have been as intrepid in their recording of the exhibition, producing a catalogue with a fascinating, language-bursting essay by Sarah Hayden, and a reflection on each of the artistic practices included in the show.

My admiration for Rachel and Sarah is curatorial, educational and personal. It is challenging to make an exhibition on this scale with limited resources, and to do so with such thoughtfulness, care and critical attention – for me the key attributes of the curator – is a tremendous achievement. 

Pluck have created a memory for this place that will last far beyond the run of the exhibition but I encourage you all to return over the coming 2 weeks, and to join me know in congratulation the curators and the artists on the opening of this spectacular new show.

Fiona Kearney