|Worlds within words, Kate McElroy, Uillinn|
Gallery tours were always a highlight of my job. It never ceased to surprise me how insightful people are when responding to art. People’s natural ability to decipher work and create meaning from what they see was immensely inspiring for me.
The second summer of my time at Uillinn was my first studio residency there. I was undertaking a Masters in Art and Process in MTU Crawford, and our studios were temporarily shut so the residency at Uillinn was of huge significance. Public engagement being the main aspect of my job and an integral part in my art practice, I decided to do tours of an exhibition of my own work. I became very interested in the Visual thinking strategies method and used this as the foundation of my tours. I wanted to turn the usual tour dynamic on its head and have the visitor’s viewpoint as the centrepoint. Perception and how each individual interprets and creates meaning uniquely has always fascinated me.
Visitors could book tours one on one or in small groups and they proved to be fertile ground for conversation and meaning making. People commented on how nice it was to be asked instead of told. These tours ended up being very formative for how I conducted tours in the time that followed. I tried to focus on the visitors' experience and draw out from them their own insights in an open and non-judgmental manner. There can be apprehension for people when talking about art, people are often afraid of getting it ‘wrong’. I find it important that the open-ended nature of art is emphasized, and it is within its ambiguity that much of its significance lies.
Researching and creating dynamic workshops and creative responses to the exhibitions was also an aspect I reveled in. Nose diving deep into the work to try and scope the artist's motives, methods and thematics was always a pleasure. One such example was The Interactive Museum of languages exhibition by Tomasz Madajczak and the Mother Tongues Festival. The aim of the show was to encourage curiosity in languages for young people with Tomasz building beautifully crafted, interactive works. For my part, I researched words that exist in other languages but not in English.
Again, I was interested in the idea of perception, could alternative words and concepts open up new ways of seeing or thinking about the world? The word that sparked this interest was kobade: a word I came across in As we have always done by indigenous scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. It means a link in a chain – ‘a link between generations, between nations, between states of being, between individuals’. This concept Kobade invites awareness of our interconnectedness throughout time and space. One child’s comment to the project which included a gallery tour, workshop, classroom visit and exhibition of their work was.
‘I never knew that there were words missing in the English language. This project made me realize that.’ -Tara, Primary school participant
|Kate McElroy and Sérgio Leitão, Uillinn|
Being an artist is something that was really nurtured in my time here and being given the freedom to allow my personality and interests sprout in my approach to working methodologies is something I am truly grateful for. The thing I will remember most from my time at Uillinn is the warm feeling I get every time I am in the building and that is because of the sincere, encouraging, and loving approach of the whole team at Uillinn. I can’t imagine a more supportive unit to have been a part of and it is a unique aspect of Uilllinn that many of the people who spend time here comment on. It is with the most heart full thanks and appreciation that I transition from this position, but its nurturance will stay as a constant scaffold in my life.
I am not the only one who finds it difficult to leave Uillinn and an online platform I set up during Covid lockdowns called Uillinn Coffee meetup for people related to Uillinn to keep connected will continue. The rhizomatic nature of Uillinn with hyphae all over the world continues to keep growing and quietly nourishing, an impalpable undergrid system permeating across space. Kobade in the making.
|Brian Fay, Gaelscoil Dr Uí Shuillabhain, exhibition tour 2023|
Kate McElroy, Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre https://www.westcorkartscentre.com/kate-mcelroy1
Kate McElroy's Website https://www.katemcelroy.com/
Interview with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, The White Review https://www.thewhitereview.org/feature/interview-with-leanne-betasamosake-simpson/