Selected by Chris Fite-Wassilak
Sex lorries, retired-racehorse boyfriends, overbearing tigers found on hookup apps and roadside threesomes fill the stories that shape Irish artist Eimear Walshe’s surreal and razor-sharp writings, performances and videos. Such proclivities are raised to explore how everybody’s touch and thrust are already tangled in a web of legal and historical threads; how, for example, a housing problem is an intimacy problem. Or as Walshe puts it succinctly in their artist-talk-cum-history-lecture video The Land Question (2020): “Anyway, look, the way I see it, there’s one, and only one, land question: where the fuck am I supposed to have sex!?”
Walshe makes pointed use of Irish law and neglected aspects of the island’s land history, with an eye on gender and body politics, to make work that picks at the impasse upon which colonialist and capitalist desires have beached. Issues like Ireland’s current unaffordable rents and housing prices are linked to questions of national identity that arose from British rule. And yet: Walshe does it with a levity, timing and deadpan delivery that is fucking hilarious. In The Land Question Walshe narrates to camera in daytime-television-presenter mode, contemplating the legal and practical obstacles to having public, outdoor sex. This is accompanied by a history of Ireland’s nineteenth- century Land League, which attempted to reform land distribution away from large, private estates, told with stick puppets, snappy edits and humorous asides, all the while with sounds of cars whizzing by constantly in the background, as if delivered while changing a tyre on the side of a rural motorway. In their more recent video Land Cruiser (2022), a cruising hookup in a park elicits a quick history lesson and then a drive to try and find somewhere indoors to get busy. After an encounter with the aforementioned tiger – who at first offers a bed, but then begins to demand proof of address, star sign and tax status – the pair head out on what turns into an existential roadtrip, eventually setting to sea. All of this is narrated using subtitles over imagery of motorways and fields, the landscape they attempt to occupy and ultimately abandon. And maybe that, as a self- proclaimed ‘inheritor of the legacy of agrarian radicalism’, is Walshe’s broader, earnest question: how, in this current world, do we create a landscape within which we can express our desires, whatever they may be?
Eimear Walshe is an artist and writer from Longford, Ireland. Recent exhibitions of their work include EVA International, Limerick, 2020, Bodies of Knowledge, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2019, and GRETTA
with Roscommon Arts Centre, at King House Boyle, 2019.
Chris Fite-Wassilak is contributing editor of ArtReview.