Trade School, production still
I Know Why Women Cry at Weddings, 2019,
performance and sound installation
The Land Question: Where the fuck am I supposed to have sex?, 2020, video
Pro ile Eimear Walshe Gwen Burlington on the Longford-based Irish artist, writer and educator’s interrogation of sexual politics, queer rights, normative structures of power and historical revisionism. Wearing a white dress shirt with hair slicked back and standing in front of a leafy hedgerow in their parent’s rural back garden, Irish artist Eimear Walshe outlines the three necessary conditions for having sex exclusively outdoors: decriminalisation, good faith and viable logistics. This scene marks the opening to the single-channel video work The Land Question: Where the fuck am I supposed to have sex?, 2020, commissioned for the somewhat ill-fated irst phase of the 39th EVA International, Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art, held in Limerick and forced to shut its physical venues because of another Covid-19 lockdown (although Walshe’s video was planned to be also distributed online). Walshe takes a characteristically punkish and lippant role, overturning the sense of the work being a resource of information. But there is also more to their practice than weighing up sexual logistics. Working across sculpture, writing, performance, installation and research, their work is underpinned by queer and feminist trajectories of thought, incorporating beguiling contradictions that are playful and o en deadpan; exploring Ireland’s historically complex relationship with sexuality, marriage and land – three things that Walshe demonstrates as being inextricably linked.
Standing in various rural spaces, such as beside a cattle ield, the side of a road or in an empty ield, Walshe takes us deep into Ireland’s history of the Land Wars (brie ly, agitation on behalf of tenant farmers by the Land League leading to the initiation of the Land Commission in 1881 and subsequent redistribution of land through various Land Acts published into the 20th century). Walshe uses humorous visual examples of key igures, such as paper cut-outs of Lord Leitrim, Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell, as well as the famous racehorse, Shergar, who plays Walshe’s ‘boyfriend’. Walshe highlights the Land League’s objectives of the three ‘F’s – fair rent, ixity of tenure and freedom of sale – during an unprecedented moment of radical reform which has still not been realised in contemporary Ireland. Walshe cradles a cardboard cut-out of Ireland and, while their voice-over explains these moments in history, they perform exaggerated faces ranging from disinterest to indignance. Walshe makes the case that the colonisation of land and housing has a direct effect on the ‘libidinal economy’. Standing close to the camera, they assert: ‘As a matrilineal inheritor of the legacy of agrarian radicalism, I deeply resent the contemporary notion of trickle-down sexual morality from the urban context to that of the rural.’
Walshe’s interest in the overlapping politics of sex and colonialism, examined with humour that reveals contradiction, drives the coming two video instalments for EVA next year. The irst, titled Trade School, due for completion in 2021, explores con licts between respectability and sexuality through its main character, a TD (Irish equivalent of an MP) named ‘Puppy’, who is taken on a journey of self-discovery through in idelity and sexual scandal (the video will be distributed on a USB stick by EVA). The trilogy will conclude with Land Cruiser, also due in 2021, which follows a couple on a road-trip across
Art Monthly no. 442, December 2020 – January 2021
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