Nothing To Look Forward To But The Past

Curated by Gregory McCartney

Date 01.12.2020 - 30.04.2021
Venue Online at
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This year TULCA is marking its 18th year and has invited three alumni curators Sarah Searson, Gregory McCartney and Helen Carey to examine our challenging and irreplaceable world, working with Irish and European artists in Galway and other locations.

Stuart Cairns
Nadege Meriau

Essays by:
Prof. Lorna Piatti-Farnell
Dr Dara Downey
Anna Walsh
Gail McConnell
Sharon Young

TULCA Festival of Visual Arts UnSelfing; is a programme of exhibitions, performances and encounters with visual art taking place in Galway and across Ireland throughout 2020 and into 2021.

The programme takes as its theme Irish-born writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch’s concept of ‘UnSelfing’; the idea that in order to find truth, it is necessary to seek outside of one’s self; to be attentive to the world, to be curious about the people, places and ideas that surround us.

The original Nothing To Look Forward To But The Past project proposal was of course written well before the Covid-19 Pandemic, but it somewhat eerily articulates the sudden change in everyday life and behaviour which the virus has caused to reassess. It was in a sense the sequel to (the also prophetic in light of recent events) ‘What Became of the People We used to Be?’ the title of Tulca 2012 and is a continuation of the Abridged obsession with actual and metaphorical viruses with recent issues have the titles Contagion and Relapse.

This (in light of the pandemic and lockdown) re-imagining of the project sees the exhibition and publication element move online to the Abridged website. The project commissions new work by Stuart Cairns, a Belfast-based artist who works with natural materials and found objects picked up on his ‘wanderings’ plus Nadege Meriau, a French, London-based artist whose experimental practice is principally photographic, but encompasses sculptural installations and video work. Best known for her use of organic matter – bread, chicken carcasses, honeycomb – her visceral and sensuous imagery both seduces and disorientates.

There will also be a series of essays exploring the situation we find ourselves in. The current pandemic will have a major effect on how we move forward in the future, if we are to move forward at all. Therefore, the project invites academics, poets and writers to explore various parts of the concept of personal and societal collapse:

Given that the virus supposedly jumped species resulting from someone eating wild animals, Professor Lorna Piatti-Farnell will discuss the morals and taboos of food in relation to body/horror and repulsion. Professor Piatti-Farnell is Director of the Popular Culture Research Centre in Aukland and President of the Gothic Society of Australia and New Zealand.

As we are fed numerous ‘alternative’ virus origin and cure theories, Professor Peter Knight from Manchester University will discuss the phenomena of conspiracy theories and the need for people to believe in something not matter how improbable that something is.

Dr Dara Downey from Trinity College will explore environmental collapse with reference to societal structural decay in particular that of the Golden Gate Bridge. Her article focuses on the depiction of the ruined Golden Gate Bridge as a symbol of an equally ruined futurity, a ruination that has already taken place. While William R. Gibson’s “The Gernsback Continuum” (1986) laments the loss of the ability to imagine a radically different future within postmodern culture, The Shannara Chronicles and Z Nation use this image to position twenty-first-century America as having no access to the future itself. While destroying the Statue of Liberty or the White House stands in for a lost revolutionary past on the East Coast, destroying the Golden Gate Bridge quite literally depicts an end to the westerly movement upon which the (environmentally damaging) doctrine of manifest destiny and expansionist projects in the Pacific depended.

Poet Anna Walsh will examine the current moment as one of isolation, multiple poverties, and terror, exploring how we engage with one another through art, community, and nature.
Gail McConnell writer and academic from Queens’s university Belfast, will explore the work of Stuart Cairns and Sharon Young, London based artist, will analyse the practise of Nadege Meriau.

There will also be a publication, with a print run of 200, featuring the above essays and artworks from the exhibition.

Nadege Mériau completed an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in 2011. She was shortlisted for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries and the Conran Award in 2011, nominated for the Arts Foundation Fellowship 2012, the Arles Prix Decouverte 2012 and the Prix Pictet 2014. Recent

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