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Broad Art Museum hosts exhibit for the centenary of Easter Rising

November 9, 2016
Students who are acting as performance artists look into mirrors during Forecast of the Next Century, an Irish art exhibition at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on Nov. 5, 2016.
Students who are acting as performance artists look into mirrors during Forecast of the Next Century, an Irish art exhibition at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on Nov. 5, 2016. —
Photo by Victor DiRita | and Victor DiRita The State News

The Easter Rising was a rebellion by Irish nationalists against British rule with the hope of establishing an independent nation. Though the uprising lasted only six days, it changed Ireland’s course for the 20th century.

The year 1916 is now viewed as a watershed year in Irish history. To mark its centenary, in 2016, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum and the Lewis Glucksman Gallery at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, worked together to create “2116: Forecast of the Next Century.”

Participants in the Easter Rising had a vision for the future of Ireland, according to the exhibit’s description, and “2116” invites artists and audiences to envision their own version of Ireland’s future.

The theme of the collection presented some problems for curators. The events of 1916 continue to have great political significance, which could have been difficult to navigate.

“It’s a problematic thing for us as well,” Lewis Glucksman Gallery senior curator Chris Clarke said.

Curators wanted to avoid works that could be considered Irish nationalist propaganda, and at the same time find a way to make the events of 1916 contemporary.

The 2116 theme balanced the impact of the historical moment of 1916 with artists’ hopes and fears for the future of Ireland.

Although the exhibit focuses on Ireland, Broad curator Caitlín Doherty believes it will resonate with American audiences.

Doherty, who moved to the U.S. from Ireland, found that many Americans feel connected to Ireland already.

“People are so delighted to talk about all things Irish here,” Doherty said. “I was just blown away by it.”

Some of the works in the exhibit consider Irish experiences of migration, a key element of Ireland’s past and present.

“Iteration III,” a work by artist Eleanor Duffin, consists of a plastic orchid, which is slowly calcified by water dripping from two plastic bags.

Duffin, who recently moved from Ireland to Antwerp, Belgium, noticed that many of her neighbors owned orchids, and she felt the flowers were out of place on display in Belgian windows. The orchids have, in a way, migrated out of their original locations.

“We have this history of migration over hundreds of years,” Duffin said.

Duffin chose to leave Ireland because of the nation’s suffering economy, but her national identity has been strengthened while living in Belgium, she said.

Living in Antwerp around people from many cultures helped Duffin distinguish what it means to her to be Irish.

”I think I feel more Irish being abroad than I do in Ireland,” Duffin said. “I think Irish people just love to have fun.”

One particularly striking part of “2116” is the performance art by Amanda Coogan. Coogan performed her piece at the Broad during the opening of the exhibit, along with 20 MSU students. Dressed in orange robes, the students walked through the museum backwards guided only by small mirrors.

Most of the MSU students were selected from the Department of Theatre, but journalism sophomore D’Vonne Williams secured her spot in the piece through her involvement with MSU Orchesis, a dance team.

Performance art is a lot like dancing, Williams said.

“It’s the way you place the mirrors, your posture,” she said.

Coogan was pleased with the students who worked with her.

“They brought such beautiful presence,” she said.

Although Coogan encouraged audiences to find their own meaning in her work, her performance at the Broad appealed to her for its danger.

“I just love that it’s dangerous,” she said.

Performers face a small amount of physical danger moving backward throughout the gallery, Coogan said. There is also a sort of danger in the “double vision” of looking to the past and the future at the same time.

“Performance art in its very nature is wrapped up in time anyways,” Clarke said. “It’s all about the now, it’s all about the present.”

“2116: Forecast of the Next Century” will be on display at the Broad Museum through April 2, 2017. The exhibit concerns itself with past, present, future and the ways we grapple with the uncertainty we face moving forward.

”Human beings aren’t tidy, history isn’t tidy,” Coogan said. “The future isn’t going to be tidy.”

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