Mark Dion | Against The Current

19 November 2015 – 13 February 2016

Curated with Mary Conlon

Ormston House, Limerick &
Irish Museum of Modern Art

The River Shannon is named after Sinann – celtic goddess, slayer of sea monsters. The many variations of her story highlight the importance of Ireland’s largest river as a vital resource and an integral part of our landscape and culture. Harnessing the River’s power through hydro-electric stations transformed the economic and social life of the country. Ecological disruptions resulting from river engineering reveal, however, a disturbance that parallels the development of modern Ireland.

Against The Current is a poetic indictment of what we might call progress. Following a research residency in Limerick, Mark Dion presents a new body of work about the depletion of wild species in Ireland’s rivers. Cut into several sections, the eponymous sculpture of a severed eel indexes the cuttings of the River Shannon by modern engineering. The large-scale sculpture, The Salmon of Knowledge Returns, hovers above a topography of curiosities and treasures, debris and detritus. The salmon is both the custodian and surveyor of those things we have cast into the flow of the river and cast off in the rush of progress. Both the depleting salmon population and the need for an eel management system are direct results of the blocking of pathways by which wildlife migrate and along which the water, sediments and nutrients required for their survival travel.

An optimism is expressed through Dion’s sculptures and drawings. Mythologically, the salmon is the embodiment of the wisdom of the arts. Its persistence in swimming against the current points towards the role of the arts as a counterpoint – challenging ineffectual environmentalism and questioning progress. Unlike the mortal Sinann who was overwhelmed by the magical waters, perhaps via Dion’s works, we can again draw wisdom from our rivers with a minfulness of our impact on the many lives – animal and human – woven together in their currents.

This is the first Irish exhibition of internationally renowned artist, Mark Dion (USA). Against The Current is a body of new work following a research residency in Limerick and a production residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2015.

Realized with the support of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Review by Joan Fowler

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Listen to Mark Dion’s lecture at the Irish Museum of Modern Art: