Photo: Deirdre Power
www.eva.ie // @mattpa_ker
Do you have a favourite art work of all time?
Not really. There’s been various things, artworks, art practices, that I’ve encountered at various points in time that have really made a difference. One of things I like about working in contemporary art is that it’s constantly evolving its relevance to broader social and political concerns; it’s difficult to have all-time favourites when it doesn’t stand still. Having said that, there are always things that linger: Joanna Billing’s video I’m Lost Without Your Rhythm, various iterations of Lawrence Weiner’s text work Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky (for anybody), and the photography programme of the Farm Security Administration in late '30s America — these are a few things that I continue to find very affecting, even in the memory of them.
What is your daily routine as an artist/curator?
So much of the work of a curator or as a Director of an arts organisation is about developing and maintaining relations with artists, partner organisations and colleagues. That, in itself, can vary wildly depending on the nature of the project and the people in the conversation of course. At EVA, we work around the calendar year to culminate a biennial exhibition programme, so there are particular periods of intensity and phases where my role is less orientated to the office, and more toward the studio or the exhibition venue. Like a lot of people that work in the arts, there’s a bit of a non-separation between work and personal life, but with the birth of my son Stanley (now 20 months) I try and keep a couple hours of the evening free for time with him as well as at least one day of the weekend. It’s done me some good in more ways than one.
What would you say is the biggest challenge as an artist/curator?
There are different challenges at different stages of a career or path of practice. For curators working within institutions or organisations I think the challenge is to continually refresh the methodology of curatorial work and to think beyond the ‘exhibition’ as a kind of horizon-line of possibility. The bigger and broader challenge is also how art develops an appropriate and effective public response to the cultural divisions that have been caused by Brexit, Trump, and popular nationalisms elsewhere.
Who has been of great influence to you in your field?
Curating continues to take its lead from artists as well as from other curatorial and institutional models internationally. I’ve been very inspired by institutions like the The Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and The Showroom in London in the way that they’ve so clearly and publicly aligned themselves with a political philosophy. I’m not sure that these examples necessarily reflect in the work I do very obviously, but they’re very important to me none the less. I also take influence from my friend and former colleague at CCA in Derry, Sara Greavu. She is always the first to spot the bad power relations of any given situation and has done some fantastic work on the ground in Derry over the years that lands somewhere between art and activism.
What is the best piece of advice you would give an emerging artist/curator?
I’m reluctant to give advice because I do believe that it’s important to navigate your own relationship to the things that you want to be part of. The idea and notion of the ‘art world’ is often unhelpful and false, so I would encourage emerging artists and curators not to be too enamoured by it.
What has the support from the Arts Council meant to your practice?
It’s almost impossible to imagine EVA without the support from the Arts Council, it’s been fundamental. Support from the Arts Council has allowed EVA to develop as an organisation and given us the opportunity to develop ambitious projects with artists that wouldn’t have otherwise got off the ground.
Tell us about what your project.
The 38th EVA International opened in April 2018 and continued for 12 weeks. It featured 56 artists from 27 countries, whose works were presented across five venues in Limerick and an additional venue at the Project Spaces of IMMA, Dublin. We achieved an audience of over 105,000 (the largest ever audience in the history of EVA) and were able to support significant new commissions by Irish artists such as Adrian Duncan and Feargal Ward, The Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment, John Rainey, and Sam Keogh.
What are you doing next? Would you be seeking funding in the future?
We’re looking forward to launching our new programme framework for the 39th EVA International, taking place in 2020. We’re also looking forward to launching a new commissions initiative, as part of our bid to distinguish ourselves as Ireland’s most significant commissioning platform for contemporary art in Ireland.