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Shrouded Spirits

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Shrouded Spirits - photograps by visual artist Betty Gannon
curated show, McGing's Bar, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland 2014

Shrouded Spirits was an exhibition of photographs by visual artist Betty Gannon. The photographs document the response by local shops that sell alcohol to the Irish Intoxicating Liquor Act, a law that requires that on Good Friday no person shall "sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor". The exhibition, in McGing's Bar in Westport, was opened on Holy Thursday (the day before Good Friday), but then closed on Good Friday itself (as was the premises, in accordance with the Act) before re-opening on the subsequent Saturday.

Feature article: The Mayo News, Tuesday, 15 April 2014:

ART: Good Friday’s great cover-up exposed

Westport artist Betty Gannon takes a wry but insightful look at the phenomenon of the Good Friday ‘cover-up’ of alcohol in her new exhibition of photographs, ‘Shrouded Spirits’, opening in McGing’s Bar, Westport, on Holy Thursday, April 17, at 7.30pm. Gannon’s images depict various Mayo emporia and their attempts to conceal their alcoholic products on Good Friday last year. The irony of exhibiting this show in a bar that will itself be closed on Good Friday in compliance with the Intoxicating Liquor Act of 1927 is not lost on the exhibition’s curator, fellow visual artist Ian Wieczorek.
“Betty spent last Good Friday documenting the ‘cover-up’, and the resulting images presented as a cohesive body of work. I couldn’t think of anywhere more appropriate than a bar in which to show it,” saidWieczorek.
The bar in question, McGing’s, is no stranger to visual art, and has housed a number of exhibitions over recent years.
“It’s great to find a bar manager like Anthony Finnegan so open to showing contemporary art in McGing’s,” Wieczorek added. “Westport is lucky to have such an open-minded and staunch supporter of the visual arts in a non-formal venue, and we’re really grateful for his generous support for this show.”
Betty Gannon graduated from GMIT in 2008, and has exhibited widely throughout Ireland, as well as in Northern Ireland, Germany, Canada, USA and Italy. This will be her eighth solo show.
The exhibition catalogue asserts that Gannon’s informal photo-documentation of the covering up of alcohol on Good Friday ‘quietly exposes the contradictory tensions of consumerism and prohibition, the result of a historical collusion of Church and State that persists into the present day’.
While it is noted that the exhibition is characterised by ‘humour and lightness of touch’, it remains thought-provoking:
“While the ‘forbidden’ alcoholic products are still physically present in the shops, on Good Friday they are rendered ‘inaccessible’ through a literal (though clearly transparent) makeshift physical concealment, an action that evokes a complicit air of mystery and secrecy. There is also an implication that the general public cannot – or should not – be trusted to comply with the Law if the alcoholic products remain in view.”

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