Gareth Kennedy: The Uncomfortable Science – Act II

Gareth Kennedy, mask: Volkskunstmuseum Director Josef Ringler (1893-1973) carved by Florian Siegl, 2016; photo: Gareth Kennedy.

In Fall-Winter 2016, on the initiative of, and in cooperation with Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen, the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum will be showing the exhibition The Uncomfortable Science – Act II by Irish artist Gareth Kennedy.

German-speaking Southern Tyrol, annexed by Italy after World War One, became a source of friction for ideologically driven research during the period of fascism and National Socialism: with both Italian geographers and Austrian folklorists presenting the “roots” of culture and population from their differing points of view. Cultural contacts in the old region bridging north and south were interpreted one-sidedly or deliberately ignored, and the historical was twisted or reconstructed ideologically. It is a difficult, emotional and politically sensitive chapter of local history – a chapter leading from Ettore Tolomei, director of the Commissariato Lingua e Cultura per l’Alto Adige to the Cultural Commission of “NS-Ancestral Heritage”, and ultimately to the history of the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum; and it still prompts debate among scientists to the present day. However, such debates are an integral component of Gareth Kennedy’s artistic concept. He commissioned traditional wood-carvers to produce masks with the faces of key protagonists from that period and will be presenting these masks together with rarely or never shown original documents in the Gothic chambers, from Southern Tyrol, in the Museum of Folk Art. The project aims to trigger thought about the invention of traditions and the instrumentalizing of folk culture.

Gareth Kennedy’s work explores the social agency of the handcrafted in the 21st century and generates ‚communities of interest‘ around the production and performance of new material cultures. Deploying an anthropological approach as an operational aesthetic these works draw on the particular social, cultural and economic histories of a location. His practice to date includes public art work, educational projects, exhibitions, residencies and collaborations. Kennedy also works collaboratively with the artist Sarah Browne as Kennedy Browne. They represented Ireland with their solo and collaborative practices at the 2009 Venice Biennale.


Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum
Universitätsstraße 2
6020 Innsbruck