A Biennial in Ireland Shows What True Engagement with a Local Community Looks Like

Now in its 40th year, the EVA International, in Limerick, Ireland, is more transient than other biennials like it. Rather than opening all at once, its exhibitions, events, and interventions are taking place gradually, at different points throughout the show’s run, through late October. This removes the need to see it all at once—and also enables the show to more thoroughly dialogue with the city and its history.

Guest curator Sebastian Cichocki has themed his program, “The Gleaners Society,” around the notion of citizenship. It focuses on the practice of gleaning, a term that traditionally refers to the act of collecting surplus crops following a harvest and redistributing them to people in need. Gleaning was declared illegal by the British courts in 1788, and yet, as Cichocki writes in an accompanying text, it remained a strategy of survival and resourcefulness essential to those marginalized by the emerging forces of capitalism.

Cichocki did not train as a traditional curator, although he now serves as chief curator of Museum of Modern Art Warsaw. Instead, his background is in sociology and it is this experience that has clearly informed his EVA program, which looks at art’s relationship to society, bringing ideas about farming, feeding, and nurturing to the fore. The shows suggests that art can aid in supporting political opposition and can also expand ideas of alternate methods of queer survival, specifically by holding up rural ways of living as a form of protesting societal oppression. Below, a look at a few of the best works on view at this edition of the EVA International.