Costumes, textiles, and crafts are recurring themes of the biennial, and find their most theatrical expression in a dank turret of King John’s Castle, Limerick’s 13th-century Anglo-Norman heart of colonialism. For Water Image, Petit and Smooth (2015), Vietnamese artist Võ Trân Châu tracked down surviving members of the Nguyen royal family, the country’s last dynasty, and asked each for a piece of clothing. From the cloth, she produced an imperial gown resembling a patchwork technicolor dreamcoat, which is suspended over a reflective pond. It’s a visually arresting expression of the way that identity and status is dependent as much upon costume—the way we present ourselves to the world—as genetic or cultural lineage.
Cleeve’s Condensed Milk Factory—a sprawling industrial complex that once burnished the local air with the smell of toffee—provides the spectacular setting for an engaging mix of performances, moving image works, and installations. The inclusion of Ulrike Ottinger’s The Conquest of the Happy Islands – A Colonial Opera (1984), sets a dreamlike, transgressive tone which is only sporadically taken up by other works in the show, the majority of which are more explicit in their political and pedagogic intentions. For all the theatrical potential of the space, much of the most compelling work was realized on a more intimate scale, notably the video installations by Ican Ramageli, the Senegalese duo Journal Rappé, Larry Achiampong, and David Blandy.