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


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