© John Beattie
A collaboration between John Beattie, Andrew Beccone of the Reanimation Library New York, and the Centre for The Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland, 2016.
In April 2015, John Beattie was based in New York as an Apexart Fellow, an artist residency programme, which invites individuals to spend time exploring New York through Apexart’s alternative one-month intensive program. During the Fellowship, Beattie was introduced to the Reanimation Library, where he first met with its founder, Andrew Beccone. In September 2015, curator Sheena Barrett, Dublin City Gallery the LAB, commissioned Beattie to create new work for the Dublin City Council 2016 Exhibition Programme. Beattie was invited to explore the concept of visual commemoration in relation to the history of the 1916 Easter Rising drawing on significant events such as the National Gallery of Ireland’s 1966 exhibition Cuimhneachán 1916, which marked the Golden Jubilee of the Rising, as a source of critical analysis.Beattie’s work for this project has been produced with the assistance of Donal Maguire, ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art (CSIA) at the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI).
During the production of the work for this exhibition, Beattie approached Andrew Beccone, with a proposal to develop a method of collaboration between the Reanimation Library, New York, and the CSIA, Dublin. Together, Beattie and Beccone developed a framework with which to collaborate and generate ideas equally. Through a process of conversation with Maguire at the CSIA, Beattie researched material and selected four unique items from the National Gallery’s collection. These items: one book, two loose pages from an unpublished play, and a sketch, are all by the artist William Orpen and relate to themes of cultural identity, social and political visual narratives, and the role of the artist. Beattie photographed the items on location in the CSIA reading room and then sent the photographs to Beccone at the Reanimation Library. Through a further process of conversation with the artist, Beccone then selected four items from his library with which he formed personal and indirect connections with the items from Dublin. Beccone sent these items (four books) to Dublin to be incorporated into an artwork alongside the photographs that had been made in the CSIA.
Taking into consideration questions of access, ownership, authorship, and representation, Beattie & Beccone discussed aesthetic, practical, and functional principles around the presentation and display of the items as an artwork. A primary concern for Beccone was that the items could be handled and used by visitors to the gallery - the display functioning as would a public library resource. Beattie, on the other hand, sought to maintain the more formal principles and structure of the display. In this respect, his juxtaposition of these disparate objects aimed to stimulate the production of new narratives that could extend or even overwrite the existing historical, social, and political histories associated with them.
The Reanimation Library, an independent presence library, is both an artist project and a functioning research library with an emphasis on visual information. The books in the collection, simultaneously prosaic and peculiar, are relics of the rapidly receding 20th century. Chosen primarily for the images that they contain, they have been culled from thrift stores, rummage sales, flea markets, municipal dumps, library sales, give-away piles, and used bookstores. The library has been exhibited widely at venues including Vox Populi (Philadelphia), SPACE (London), High Desert Test Sites (Joshua Tree), Talcual (Mexico City), 98weeks (Beirut), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Queens Museum (New York), and Kunsthalle Osnabrück (Germany).
This exhibition was made possible through the generosity and support from individuals, organisations, and institutions, such as: Dublin City Council Commemorations Programme, Donal Maguire and Kathryn Milligan, ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; Sheena Barrett, the LAB Gallery, Dublin, supported by Dublin City Council; Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin; Apexart, New York, IVARO, Lisa Godson, Lisa Moran, Ronan McCrea, Jonathan Sammon, Kevin Hughes, Sean Beattie, David Joyce, Outside Publishing; Colin Browne, Film Equipment Limited Hire; and The Arts Council, Ireland.