There’s so much afoot at the Project Arts Centre this week with the launch of Dublin’s Gay Theatre Festival and 12 Points! that I’m not even sure where to begin. Having predominately worked on pieces that focus on the theatrical I almost forgot that my first love lies in the visual arts, indeed that’s how I began writing in the first place.
Sarah Browne’s Second Burial at Le Blanc provides the perfect excuse to redeem myself, and to rediscover the Visual Arts Gallery at the Project Arts Centre.
May 5th will see the opening of Browne’s latest work, an installation that ponders the social creation of custom and tradition. Browne’s work is constructed around the eradification of the French franc, pressing towards a deadline imposed by the Banque de France in February next year, by which it will no longer be recognised as a currency. Traders in Le Blanc, a small town in central France, are continuing to accept the franc as a viable payment, amassing the defunct currency and reimbursing its customers in euros. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to sit in on a meeting with the artist and the staff as she elaborated on the process behind her work, a rare glimpse that provided an insightful look into the conception and evolution of her ideas.
By literal terms alone, Browne’s subject matter instantly arouses curiosity. The expanse of what Browne has derived from her experiences at Le Blanc however is something far greater. It’s an intriguing piece that is enveloped in a much wider social context. The culmination of her work, the installation, the visual, the physical and the referenced reads like an anthropological expedition into the nature of social interaction and the creation of social history.
The focal point of Second Burial at Le Blanc is a film installation depicting a ceremonial procession through Le Blanc in which locals carry a ticker tape clock on a primitive stretcher from the new part of town to the old. The clock itself is a live device and replicates the stock tickers that would print ticker tape feeds of stock data. The clock itself is physically present in Browne’s installation and, enabled by wifi, it will continue to print live conversion data until it’s impending deadline. The familial of the distinct iconography associated with the ticker tape, coupled with the foreign detachment of cultural customs demand closer inspection. The social and historical value of economy, community and tradition form a collage of an impending future, for which it provokes you to draw your own conclusions.
In addition to this there will also be a specially created newspaper which will form part of the exhibit, On Hoarding, Accumulation and Gifting. This paper formed part of Browne’s artistic process as it was distributed amongst the locals prior to her filming. Outlined in both French and English, Browne traces key points, information and history and presents a ‘visual essay,’ a physical catalogue, a product that in itself emulates a socio-economical process. Like so much of this exhibition the paper operates on multiple levels; it signifies Browne’s methods of integrating into a community, projects a record of her work that provides narrative to a new audience and becomes a live participatory object within the installation.
There’s an amplified juxtaposition of past and present at work here. Browne’s installation is alive; the ticker is constantly updating, producing, expelling evidence of a purposeful movement, the film continually loops, the papers will be distributed through human particiapation. The installation is in flux, it becomes in itself a microcosm of a mode of production. Yet the individual components take on a historical significance, appearing to rest static as implied relics and signifying a soon to be departed culture, whilst the ceremony on screen projects a created past. Even the papers will eventually disappear, their purpose served.
Second Burial at Le Blanc highlights the creation, manufacture and disolution of custom and tradition within society, questions the basis of economic value and its societal role, and in turn pokes at our notions of an informed future. By inhabiting both the timescape of the past and that of a suggested ominous future, it obstinately pushes forward with the current pertinence of our own present.
Second Burial at Le blanc opens at the Project Arts Centre on May 5th, see here for further info.