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Configurations of Materiality is a workshop, I curated with the artist Vanessa Donoso Lopez. Vanessa had been taking materials that she was working with in her studio to the pub. She asked her friends to come and join her, to roll clay in their hands and to chat together. This was useful for Donoso Lopez as the pub formed a social and convivial space to talk through ideas around displacement and identity. Intrinsic to these ideas were feelings of homesickness. Having spent equal times in both her birthplace of Barcelona, Spain and her day to day home in Dublin, Ireland. The act of bead making was both assuring and nostalgic which seemed to fit the work. Initially she began working with shop bought clay to make beads, rolled in the hand and pierced with a rod to create a hole for string or thread to pass through. Making clay beads is a comforting process, a simple repetitive motion. After being fired in a kiln, these beads were strung, then hung on the white wall of a gallery. Other beads were piled high on little shelves until almost spilling over, like a point of departure, overwhelm or brimming with possibility. In making these clay beads collectively the physicality of the process gave the artist time and space, to engage with the haptic in order to think about and reflect on her work. For the workshop at The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) I invited Vanessa to bring this process into a gallery space, a different type of social space. As the Project Spaces allow for the experimental, a process-based workshop linked in very affectively with some of the topics which statecraft explored. Such as ideas around the varying forms of what a contemporary artist residency looks like. Learning from Joseph Beuys & Dorothy Walker’s Free International University Model, formally located at the IMMA site and the existing residency archive at IMMA. Visitors also engaged with written texts about ‘the domestic’ by postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida. For the workshop I thought about constructing a L shaped seating structure within the exhibition space. Inviting Vanessa to come with her work, to sit and make. The L shape allowed me to offer support, by sitting close to the artist whilst drawing her gestural forms as a form of note taking. I also learnt more about Vanessa’s practice during this time as she talked with visitors and invited them to make beads together. The workshop situated within the Project Spaces provided a platform to talk with visitors about the museum, its history and the subjects which statecraft addressed.


Configurations of Materiality was successful in breaking down boundaries, and useful as a meditative tool, which encouraged visitors to drop their guard and share their own stories. At this moment Vanessa had just started digging the earth to refine her own clay. This idea came to Vanessa while walking in the Wicklow hills. The really interesting thing was that Vanessa went on to dig the earth in Spain, making an exhibition called To swallow a ball at The Lab Gallery in Dublin where beads made from both countries were laid out on textile often found in museum display cabinets.  This material covered large sheets of wood displayed on the floor of the gallery, when viewed from the balcony above, the installation looked to me like a map, circuit or route.



Interweaving the histories of two entities – IMMA’s Residency Programme and the Free International University model advocated by Joseph Beuys & Dorothy Walker – students from the IADT Masters in Art and Research Collaboration (ARC) transformed the IMMA Project Spaces into an experimental public research-hub.


Configurations of Materiality, Vanessa Donoso Lopez, IMMA Project Spaces, 2016

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