Meet Eoin Dara, our new Head of Exhibitions

25 April 2017

We were delighted to welcome Eoin Dara, our new Head of Exhibitions, to our team at the start of April. Eoin will curate the exhibitions at DCA and head up the exhibitions team. We had a chat with him to let you know more about what he's been up to in the years preceding his new role, and what he's looking forward to about being in Dundee.

Hello Eoin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you've worked before coming to join us at DCA?

Yes! It would be so easy to answer this question with a dull curatorial biography, but I’ll try to avoid that and try my hardest to come across as a real human being. I’m from Ireland originally, born and bred in Belfast, and apart from a 5-year stint here in Scotland studying and working in Edinburgh, that’s where I've been for most of my life.

"I’ll try to avoid that and try my hardest to come across as a real human being"

My first curatorial projects were developed whilst working at Catalyst Arts in Belfast. Catalyst is a brilliant artist-led space, similar in structure to Generator Projects here in Dundee. A two year directorship there is almost like an ad hoc, radical curatorial training programme - full of energy and a healthy amount of haphazardry which comes as a result of the institution being artistically and curatorially re-born every couple of years with a new committee of directors taking the reins. It’s a space that has always made room for genuine experimentation, where there’s the exciting capacity for failure – something that I think is so important, given the now seemingly constant drive towards the professionalisation of every facet of the art world.

More recently, specifically for the past 5 years, I’ve been working as part of the curatorial team at the MAC - a magnificent cross-artform space in the city with three beautiful galleries and two theatre spaces. Whilst there I worked on commissioning new projects from some of the most exciting artists working in Ireland and the UK, as well as developing exhibitions by international artists, bringing artworks and ideas from all over the world to Ireland for the first time. Undoubtedly my largest undertaking at the MAC was staging a major exhibition of work by Cuban-born American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres. This was a project developed over a number of years, working closely with the foundation that represent the artist’s work and collaborating with museums, galleries, lenders from all over the world to see how this incredible artistic practice developed in the US in the 1980s and 90s could unfold in new ways in Northern Ireland. I could go on about Gonzalez-Torres forever. I won’t, but I’m mentioning him because discovering his work whilst at university was really the catalyst for me wanting to become a curator, and the ways in which he so beautifully and generously transformed any space he ever worked in (whether it was a pristine white cube gallery or a billboard by the side of a road) continues to inform my curatorial practice on pretty much every level.

I also continue to work as one fifth of the curatorial collective Household, developing artistic projects and research programmes that invite people to rethink the ways in which they view and interact with art in city spaces.

What was it about Dundee that attracted you to move your life to the city?

Dundee and Belfast are not so different in many ways – they are both small cities, they both thrive in their respective northern positions above much larger metropolitan areas, and, most importantly, they’ve always punched well above their weight in terms of artistic production. It’s exactly this type of city I want to work in, where there has been brilliant cultural activity bubbling away for years that is finally getting more recognition and more visibility both nationally and internationally.

"they’ve always punched well above their weight in terms of artistic production"

Generally speaking, I’m much happier in the margins or on the edge of things. It’s riskier, and requires more work and resolve, but give me that any day over complacent contentment elsewhere. Sarah Schulman, an incredible writer who is another constant touchstone for me in terms of how I think about working (and living) in cities, talks about the pleasure of uncomfortability - that we should enjoy and value being uncomfortable, because that’s what forces us to ask difficult questions, and to challenge accepted norms around us. Pressure makes diamonds and all that.

You're now Head of Exhibitions here, what are you most looking forward to about the role so far?

That’s a tough one to answer without rhyming off so many of the exciting aspects of this job, but I think what I’m probably most looking forward to is getting the chance to work alongside and collaborate with the wider team here at DCA. There’s just so much going on in this building, from the brilliant film programme in the Cinema to the incredible work going on downstairs in the Print Studio, as well as the Learning programme of engagement projects that offer up so many wonderful ways into the projects that we’re developing for the city.

Basically, I can’t wait to contribute to all of this work by heading up the already excellent exhibitions team here in the galleries, further building on the reputation that DCA has cultivated over the past 18 years as one of the most important contemporary art spaces in Scotland.

What’s on your art radar for the next few months?

First and foremost - Dundee is on my radar. In the short time I’ve been here I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the wonderfully diverse and supportive artistic community on my doorstep, and I can’t wait to learn more about, and most importantly, contribute to it now that I’m a permanent resident of the city. I also plan on making lots of visits to other parts of Scotland very soon to start to tap into wider conversations about contemporary art in the country more broadly.

"First and foremost - Dundee is on my radar."

Looking internationally, the next couple of months are also very busy - there’s the Venice Biennale launching in May which is always an interesting barometer for contemporary art the world over (I’m particularly excited about Jesse Jones’ Irish Pavilion and Rachel Maclean’s project for Scotland - I’ve a feeling those two shows are going to be just brilliant), and then documenta 14 and Skulptur Projekte Münster in Germany in June, two other important global exhibition projects that take place once every 5 and 10 years respectively.

"once we have a few things confirmed over the next couple of weeks you won’t be able to shut me up."

And then apart from all that, I’m throwing myself head first into the gallery programme here at DCA, working on Clare Woods’ stunning exhibition with us that will be launching in June, and making plans for Kelly Richardson’s show which we are developing for September.

I’ve also just had the pleasure of bringing two new artists up to Dundee for a site visit over the past week with a view to two exciting new commissions for the spaces at the end of this year which will take us into 2018. I’m not blabbing any further on these projects just yet, but once we have a few things confirmed over the next couple of weeks you won’t be able to shut me up.

Thanks for chatting to us Eoin. We're glad you picked Dundee and we're looking foward to seeing you get stuck in! To keep updated with what's going on in our Exhibitions programme, sign up to our email updates or have a read of our current Exhibitions Brochure here

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