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I Am What I Am

3 min read

26/10/21

I Am What I Am

Drawing on themes of cultural diversity, social identity and the relationship between visual art and ideas of cultural, ethnic and economic divisions in society, Mayo County Council Arts Service, in partnership with Ballina Arts Centre, invited submissions from practising curators working in the context of cultural diversity.

The successful applicant to the award was Sinead Keogh. The award allowed them the time to develop new work, to research and develop new ideas and to work with the cultural and arts organisations and culturally diverse communities in Mayo.

Keogh is a curator and multimedia installation artist. They have worked for over seven years in implementing platforms for collaboration with those who are under-represented in society. Previous exhibitions include Pas de Deux with Diana Chambers, Ballina civic offices, 2020; Soul Noir Festival of the Dark Arts, Manor Laragh House, Maynooth, 2019; The Black Sea/If You Were Mine, Turin, Italy, 2017.

The award culminated in an exhibition entitled I Am What I Am and a series of events in Ballina Arts Centre from June 05th to July 31st

 I Am What I Am was a nuanced celebration of queer artists who work with gender, sexuality, identity and queer politics. The exhibition brought together artists from all backgrounds to unite in a diverse exploration of the visual language of queer art in Ireland today. I Am What I Am, predominantly features work rooted in identity politics, challenging models of gender norm and sexuality. It succeeded in providing positive alternative models of inclusive representation and agency where emerging local artists featured alongside nationally recognised institutions, effectively seeking to rebalance the inequalities.

Keogh describes their process as a means by which to understand the artist’s relationship to their work and to each other:

“‘The curatorial process was to engage, understand and listen to the vast array of cultural practitioners and members of the community involved in the programme, talk about their historical relationships with one another, the state and indeed their own relationship with art and to bring them all together with a sense of unity and to celebrate and enrich the lives of one another through the creative process of making and experiencing art. In order to effect societal, political and human change in a meaningful way; engagements must be kept with these minority communities on a regular basis. Although these awards and individual enterprises are a large step forward; structural change in board members, staff, artists and educational programmes are needed for long term development.”

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The full list of artists and contributors were:

Sara R Philips, Breda Lynch, Judith Finlay, Kevin Gaffney, Mayo Traveller Support Group, Irish Wheelchair Association, National Council for the Blind, Louise Walsh, Bassam Al – Sabah, Luke Faulkner, Esther Raquel Minsky, Seán Kissane, Austin Hearne, Emma Wolf – Haugh, Phelim Webb, William Keohane, John O’Brien, Isabella Oberlander, Cami, Garreth Carroll, Michael O’Boyle, Conor O’Grady, Origins Eile, Shota Kotake, Breda Burns, Bernie Masterson, Thomas Brawn, Roberta Murray and Pradeep Mahadeshwar, National Library of Ireland – Irish Queer Archive, National Museum of Ireland – Queer Culture Ireland, OutWest, Jenny Duffy, Kieran Gallagher, Róisin Murphy and Darren Collins.

View the full list of events and exhibition catalogue here.

This award was an initiative of Mayo County Councils Arts Service in partnership with Ballina Arts Centre and the Arts Council of Ireland with support from the Creative Ireland Programme.

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