Solo show, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland. Oct 21-Jan 14, 2023
A solo exhibition of new fabric and film work. Rehearsals was developed and inspired by the environs, architecture and people of Kilkenny; past and present. Bound into this collective history is the biography of McGuinness whose paternal family have been involved in the political life of the city for three generations. This legacy of political engagement fuels the work.
McGuinness has established a practice that supports individuals and communities in using their voices to question systems of power and to ‘act out’ within them through public, performative interventions. With collaboration and diversity at its heart McGuinness has worked over a six-month period with school children at St. John’s Senior school and with members of Equinox theatre Ensemble, both based in Kilkenny. McGuinness forged new relationships, the bedrock of her practice, and developed two new film works with them.
In ‘Priory’ the artist uses the ruin of Callan Augustinian Priory to stage rehearsals, creating a multi-layered, filmic, almost hologrammatic atmosphere. A transmutation of energies occurs, boundaries collapse and unexpected connections occur. An official makes a speech only to be disrupted by his audience. The passive audience become active participants; all energies, material or immaterial, combine in riotous colour only for the carpet to ultimately get rolled up as the shadow of the building shifts and ‘reality’ returns.
In ‘Schoolyard’ we observe a group of children haphazardly make a ‘scene’ in 10 minutes. Nobody is in charge, yet there is a symbiosis; something occurs from nothing, that holds the weight of the world. Calamity, catastrophe and comedy intermingle—a biblical scene unfolds holding the resonance of a religious past still permeating the imaginations of children. Individual portraits speak to the chaos, ‘we are born for this’ one girl shouts through a megaphone in Ukrainian. The films communicate with each other, one from the religious ruin, the other from a schoolyard, testing and ultimately transcending the boundaries of their institutional contexts. These ‘rehearsals of readiness’ conjure up tableaux of absurd preparedness where collapse and chaos, ritual and emergency, coalesce in energetic acts of collective momentum.
New freeform, large-scale, fabric assemblages loom in the gallery, hosting collaged fabric elements from an evolving, material archive of the artist’s expanded practice. The artist sees these assemblages as collective cumulations, that she can touch, rip, paint, stitch, unpick, fold away. A series of wearable silk works hang throughout the gallery featuring decontextualized elements: a statue missing her head, an altar missing its church, their object-ness dissolving against a chroma green backdrop. Costumes and works on paper hang as prompts into the performative process. The diverse elements in the exhibition are bound by a soundscape, a pianist idly practises a melody as we continue to act out within the chaos of our times.