The ‘subterranean make out’ constitutes approximately 90% of college make outs, usually synonymous with dance floor make outs—however to qualify as a subterranean make out the tonsil hockey session must take place beneath ground level. eg basement dance party, subways, storm shelter, nuclear fall out shelter, crater/canyon, in-ground pool, submarines, wells. []

In 2010, Bea McMahon triggered what would become a personal interest and questioning of what it means for an artist to make artworks ‘off-site’. Friends and art publics were invited to a field that was located just off a motorway in Killinacarraig, Co. Wicklow. McMahon summarises the schedule:

The event took place at dusk on the 26th of July 2010. The full moon rose at half past nine. Euniece Borland and 7 of her peers stood in eight elliptical holes excavated by Elliott O’Brien with his JCB. She was clad in a customised pattern by textile designer Pamela Quinn. The long axes of the holes ranged in size from 20 meters to 1 meter across. The holes when filmed from a rotating tripod at 180rpm formed an earth animation. Also a Nexstar Celestron telescope with on board GPS tracking was there to capture the launch. Luckily, the night was clear. The results of this field event were presented at Mermaid Arts Centre between Monday 11th October and Sun 17th October 2010. 

McMahon’s literal marking of territory and acts of demarcation by passive Wicca ritual was a peacock display of modern witchcraft, not concerned with the social mores of the day, but an embedded subjective reflection on the self, family and friends. Albeit in a very beautiful and poetic manner, what the resulting film Field demonstrated in the gallery was how ‘off-site’ art events are for the initiated, not the public at large (in no way am I advocating general public inclusiveness, as was the case of French artist Pierre Huyghe’s Streamside Day (2003).

Huyghe was interested in “creating a ritual that the people in the town would actually celebrate because it’s based on what they share.” Although McMahon’s event and film is an example of preordained documentation conducting the event, in my view her film approximates the creative poetry of Huyghe’s Streamside Day, minus the perceived importance of site-specificity and context that off-site art works proclaim as their purpose for existing: ‘context’ is the first word you learn in art college. It is a cold and hard fact that art in general generates poetry within its own ecosystem, with or without the gaze of the reluctant public.

Further afield in time and space, the artist-run Basic Space Dublin did a little bit of artistic digging themselves in November of 2011 in the group show Underground.

Basic Space is situated behind the concert and events venue Vicar Street in Dublin city—across the road from the National College of Art & Design (NCAD). Without the economic recession these artist-run spaces would never exist.Vacant property owners are beginning to learn the benefits of occupying artists, including the reduction of the rates or the removal of derelict property penalties. This is why there is an influx of landlords jumping on the art appreciation bandwagon.

The collective of students who found and run Basic Space study at the art college, and because NCAD has “helped” them out with insurance, the clause in the contract is that the artists who can show there have to be registered with NCAD. But that is where the institutional connections end. After experiencing the opening of their group show it is clear that Basic Space is what NCAD Gallery should be but never could due to departmental land grabbing.

‘Underground’, 10 – 13 November, 2011

Courtesy of Basic Space, Dublin

Photo (right): Matthew Thompson.




Historical Cases of the Subterranean Kind


10 – 13 November, 2011, Basic Space, Dublin.

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