Profile: Stag & Deer

Stag & Deer is a Cork, Ireland-based guerilla gallery exhibition project for contemporary visual art, especially photography. Founders Pamela Condell and Pádraig Spillane answered questions for us about the group.

fototazo: What is the backstory on how Stag & Deer formed?

Stag & Deer: We knew each other as acquaintances and then both signed up for photography lectures at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery here in Cork during the later half of 2009. Through a mutual love for lens-based work; appreciation of each other's photographic practice and wishing to have our own show outside of the gallery remit; we decided to begin investigating the potential within slack spaces [unused spaces] for art presentation.

We had our first show in November 2010 and things have just kept expanding since. We hope that ultimately our identity (through slack spaces) will continue to distinguish us in the future.

f: Tell us about the history of the guerrilla gallery idea.

S&D: The guerilla gallery idea is one that gathers from many different places. As an idea and practice it is not new but it is one that has impact and room for inventive interpretation. There are different concerns and items that inform the use of guerilla galleries. For example, the context of a slack space can become a one off; a durational combination of place and photographic work. The use of space creates a different dialogue for the work and for the site. Also, the use of guerilla galleries creates a platform for visibility for emerging or early career artists. These are the two central items that propel us as exhibition-makers using the guerrilla gallery model. We draw on different sites, work and the context created through both to create something, hopefully vibrant, to allow a different way of encountering photographic work.

f: What is the photographic exhibition world like in Cork - and in Ireland generally? Does your employing the guerilla gallery idea there reflect a lack of other spaces locally?

S&D: Photographic exhibitions in Cork and in Ireland are moving forward. To be purely descriptive of it, there is the Gallery of Photography in Dublin and the now annual PhotoIreland Festival. Large institutions like the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Lewis Glucksman Gallery have shown quite large shows dealing with contemporary photography while other galleries like the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, Co. Cork have strong photographic programming. The general trend for photography shows in Ireland has been of creating greater interest and feeding this by exhibiting bigger international names and thematic shows or private collections.

As purveyors of the guerrilla gallery model, we try to bring something, for want of a better term, more "grassroots' on a local and national level. We have based our exhibitions on emerging artists, recent graduates from national art colleges (Maeve O’Neill, IADT) while at the same time showcasing what is in our view, promising emerging international artists in Ireland (Karen Miranda-Rivandeneria, Dante Busquets, Goran Galic and Gian-Reto Gredig). It is vital for a "scene" to explain its own way forward while looking to the outside. In essence, the energy that we offer is to exhibit and to create opportunities for early careers lens-based artists that might be not available from larger institutions or commercial galleries.

We also hope to instill a sense of adventure through this strategy, we hope to open up the passion we have for a national conversation concerning the photographic image and art presentation.

f: What are the projects that you have worked on so far?

S&D: To date, we have worked with established galleries, festivals and independent spaces through the slack space mode. These particular projects have included our own shows solely flagged under the Stag & Deer banner within the program of festivals such as All My Lovin’, PhotoIreland and ArtTrail. This has provided us with exterior support while bringing our own exhibition-making / curatorial voice.

All of our shows have been held in unused / peripheral spaces; shop storerooms, warehouses, empty mansions and an old nail bar in a Georgian arcade.

f: Talk us through how an exhibition comes together, from concept and selecting participating artists to closing the exhibition.

S&D: Usually we work with a general theme and boil that down through time and effort. We tend to open dialogue around where our own interest is currently positioned; while paying careful attention to what’s happening on a national and international field. It’s interesting to see what’s coming to the forefront and to consider what trends are emerging in photography / figure if they relate to our own position etc.

For Home as part of PhotoIreland 2011, the theme was domestic space. So we needed to go on a quest for work surrounding this by having an open submission call out. We had 226 submissions from across the globe which we concentrated down to two. Whilst doing this we kept our eyes open looking for a space or site that would marry with the work. It was a very tough process. Eventually with the help of PhotoIreland, we found a dilapidated Georgian house in Dublin city centre, full of residue from previous occupiers and tenets. The work combined well with the site, and for all intents and purposes, it became a site specific installation.

f: How does the guerilla gallery concept change the dynamic between artist and the curation world?

S&D: Well, first off we don’t see ourselves technically as curators per say. We see ourselves as exhibition-makers. That is just a technical thing. We care for the work but only for a limited time, i.e. for the run of an exhibition. We do not have the resources for a permanent collection or anything like that. We care for the work in reference to making or working within a context for an exhibition

We’re not sure if it creates a very big difference. The dynamic between curator / exhibition-maker and artist is one of relationship; fluid and hopefully compatible. With all the artists we work with we hope to keep the relationship up after an exhibition ends. Our interest in them or their work is not just for the event of a particular show and we hope to work again with them on some future project.

f: Do guerilla galleries broaden the expressive potential for bodies of work by allowing them to operate in contexts that go beyond the white cube?

S&D: Yes, but only to some. Some work can extend to display in different spaces and generate dialogue well or create an exciting tension. Some need the white cube.

f: Are there many other groups in Ireland or elsewhere working with guerilla galleries?

S&D: Guerilla Exhibition in Dublin has had a series of offsite events by having flash events on hoardings showcasing new works. Also, ArtTrail works with slack spaces in Cork.

f: What is next for Stag & Deer?

S&D: This October we are planning a large photographic event, here in Cork City, called THERE THERE.

The basic thematic framework for THERE THERE is otherness and the possible re-connections and interpretations of the world we are immersed in. As exhibition-makers, we are fascinated with the communicative power that photographic images hold and the contextualisation of different photographic / lens-based works from different parts of the globe in an Irish situation.

As global citizens, we all are deep in socially-constructed signs loaded with commercial and political connotations, with other humane signs going and remaining unnoticed, i.e. how we relate to each other and the gifts that happen in living. THERE THERE will be a space that is open for imaginative re-positionings and crucially one of wonder that allows the familiar and unfamiliar to weave together. The ambition behind THERE THERE will be to open up a gap or break for us as situated beings to re-imagine our place with each other and our surroundings.

THERE THERE will be an event connecting established galleries with slack spaces through interventions and photographic presentation.

During the summer we will be announcing further details regarding the overall event. Presently, we are preparing to announce the details of our open submission show as part of THERE THERE.

Please check our website for details regarding submissions in the coming week.