Sarah Pierce: Scene of the Myth

24 Mar-3 Sep 2023

IMMA, Irish Museum Of Modern Art
Dublin 8 D08 FW31


IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) presents Scene of the Myth, a major solo exhibition by artist Sarah Pierce. Guest curated by Rike Frank and the European Kunsthalle, this expansive exhibition consists of performances, videos, large-scale installations, and archives.

Over recent years, Sarah Pierce has developed a concept she names the ‘community of the exhibition’ to describe how exhibitions have a particular ability to hold us, and works of art, in community. We enter the exhibition with others – other audiences, across generations, geographies and times. Scene of the Mythincludes artworks that bring to the fore this ongoing and discerning interest in community’s tenuous and unavowable bonds, whether it is the community of dementia in No Title (2017), the community of diaspora in Pathos of Distance (2015), or the community of translation in The Question Would Be The Answer To The Question, Are You Happy? (2009-12).

Sarah Pierce lives and works in Dublin, having relocated to Ireland from the US in 2000. Since 2003, Pierce has used the term The Metropolitan Complex to describe her project, characterised by forms of gathering and processes of research and presentation. This practice demonstrates a broad understanding of cultural work and a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art, and the potential for dissent and self-determination. Pierce works with installation, performance, archives, talks and papers; opening these up to the personal and the incidental in ways that challenge received histories and accepted forms. Her interests include radical pedagogies and student work, art historical legacies and figures such as El Lissitzky, August Rodin, and Eva Hesse, and theories of community and love founded in the works of Maurice Blanchot and Georges Bataille.

The patterns of making and thinking that have defined Pierce’s recent practice are explored through the 12 works that the curator, Rike Frank, has brought together. Born out of a fascination with the relationship between narratives that we reproduce and those we wish to leave behind, Scene of the Mythasks what it means to gather, reflect and act in community and the moments through which the narratives and conventions of a historical past are re-constituted in the present.

The title of the exhibition stems from one of Pierce’s essays in which the artist describes social infrastructures, such as academies and museums, as the sites where knowledges–both inherited and invented–play out. The scene of the myth is not an actual location; it is an occasion. The recurring themes in Pierce’s practice are: Institutes / Protests, Legacies / Exercises, and Communities / Migrations.

Scene of the Myth will also feature a significant selection of projects with students, who appear as performers, demonstrators, and interlocutors throughout the artist’s work. Examples include An Artwork in the Third Person (2009), a set of interviews made with the Dutch Art Institute; Campus (2011), a performance that mirrors communal acts such as teaching, learning, and political protest; and The Square (2017), an experimental ‘play without a script’ that uses Bertolt Brecht’s Lehrstück–or learning play–as a starting point. Pierce will involve student groups in the re-learning and re-staging of these and other key performance works at intervals throughout the exhibition at IMMA.