The NEUTRAL theme at this year’s Tulca festival encompassed the idea of opposites; the busyness of modern life as opposed to the grassroots revival, or existing in a world of fast-paced technological advancements while trying to find some elusive solitude. Many of the works throughout the festival referenced this theme in a very obvious way, while others gave little more than a nod, merely hinting or leaving it open to suggestion.
A Collection of Seasons, Mark Garry’s piece in the Festival gallery, consisted of a series of wooden frames, hung at intervals, and threaded with coloured string and beads. It seemed a quiet piece, framing the other artist’s works around it as much as being self-contained. Yet, the piece created its own space, carved it out amongst the busyness of the festival gallery where a multitude of works were on display. On closer inspection, the frames held within them a narrative of the ravages of time over a condensed two week period. Over the course of the festival, the patterns within them slowly started to deconstruct. The strings began to sag, the beads moved position. If at first sight, you had passed them by, you would have no knowledge of the subtly intricate workings of such a piece as time passed. Perhaps the work was a little too subtle, a curious person might come back to see how it developed but might just as easily be distracted by the striking works with which it was juxtaposed. Or maybe the materials used; wood, beads, thread and ribbon, and the slow burn of a work such as this speak more about the culture of instant gratification in a fast changing world.
Elaine Leader’s ‘Untitled’ piece, on the other hand, was less than subtle in many ways. It could be heard throughout the gallery with its cartoon creak and groan. On entering through a white doorway, sensors set off a mechanism that caused the walls to close in. Almost, but not entirely, close in. It provoked the senses, causing panic or excitement. The startled yelps of viewers immersed within it became part of the soundtrack of the work itself. Yet, while the work had a theatrical aspect, it also had its own subtleties. The way it played with the ideas of space aligned itself beautifully with the Tulca brief. Without wishing to flog an analogy, the modern world and its myriad ways of keeping tabs on the world can seem a little claustrophobic. Leader’s piece playfully demonstrated the importance of space while not making it so obvious that it became tedious. If the definition of art is the creation of something that compels you to come back for a second look, then this piece, for me, set itself apart.