Much of our recent work has been specifically focused on democratizing the production and consumption of contemporary art. Floating Worlds first exhibition, ‘Reading Room’ at Sligo Art Gallery, set the template for much of their future work and aimed to be “be a new kind of exhibition – one where you can pick up the art works and look at them”, The three room exhibition comprised a ‘reading room’, with shelves built around the walls and sofas and a table, were visitors could walk in off the street into the gallery and take artists books off the shelves to look at them.The fact that you could handle the works made it a very unconventional sort of show. It was designed to put the democratic impulse that underpins the whole philosophy of Floating World centre stage.The second room comprised objects/artifacts which link to the books each artist had included painting, prints, photography, sculpture and video, reversed the conventional hierarchy of art production by setting out traditional art objects such as paintings prints sculptures as an index to the books. The third and final room in the gallery was a making room containing detail explanation of techniques where visitors could make their own artists books using materials provided.
Our next major project was the ‘Book House’ in Cavan, which was a temporary publishing house for the public to make their own books and Floating World’s show at Enniskillen Castle Museum, which combined artists book works made by the public, with objects from the Museums social history collection.
In 2012 we were commissioned as part of ‘Happy Days’ the first International Samuel Beckett Festival in Enniskillen, to create the artists book Beckett Bucket. It was based on four days of interaction with members of the public seeking their insights, anecdotes and knowledge about Samuel Beckett and then transcribing these as text and drawing in real time, creating an artists book as a performance. Beckett Bucket is now in many important public collections and was selected for the International Artist Book Prize in Sheffield in 2013 and ‘RUKssian’ and international exhibition of artists books held in Moscow in 2014.
Recent exhibitions include Opening up the Book, in Sheffield, U.K., and Unfolding the Archive held in 2015 at the NCAD Gallery, Dublin and the F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio, Banbridge.
Unfolding the Archive set out to investigate the archives at The National Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL) and explore the richness of the archive as a starting point for the creation of new artworks. Floating World’s artists developed new narratives in response to objects in the archive which are both local and international in their resonance. Each artist approached the archive from a purely personal and individual standpoint and in a manner that reflected their concerns and interests. These ranged from purely visual investigations, to highly conceptual interpretations of the archive as a multilayered and shifting source of information and meaning.
Floating World continues to explore new ideas for using artists books to create collaborative works with members of the public and developing new ways of making and showing them so that they reach the widest possible audience. At the same time we are continuing to develop works of our invited contributing artists.