Printed on two fringed satin banners hanging from the ceiling that greet visitors coming in the door at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology’s Fine Art Degree Show are portraits of Siobh McGrane’s self-proclaimed “gender bending” persona Kevin K. BooM!! A messianic Kevin K BooM!! gazes heavenwards with outstretched arms, surrounded by a soft glow. FREE STATE playfully explores identity, and McGrane’s costumed alter ego combines visual characteristics of male and female. Flowing scripts– the type that decorate trade union banners – containing slogans such as “Identity Is Our Strongest Currency”, “Use Our Hands”, and “Be An Agent Of Change” frame the images and address a collective mass; an ‘us’; a ‘we’, inviting the embracement of the creation of a new ‘other’.
The familiarity of the old-fashioned banner format is offset by the quality of the portraits, which carry all the hallmarks of contemporary, heavily digitally enhanced images. FREE STATE exists in an inaccessible space –out of reach, the banners not really objects but free-floating icons.
When I enquire after a rolled up banner propped up in the corner I am told that the artist performed as Kevin K. BooM!! during the exhibition’s opening night. To hear about Kevin K. BooM!!’s actuality in this way, through word of mouth alone, is surprisingly refreshing; it simply sidesteps the difficulties arising from the representation of such events, leaving me with just an imagined vision of the event and this character in action.
The creation of Kevin K. BooM!! considers everyday truths: that we possess and constantly mediate various actual and virtual personas, and that these traits are deeply imbedded in us. Paired with the delicate intimacy of the work 6 Characters in Search of an Author, a careful, pastel-coloured painting on board, of a slightly battered copy of Luigi Pirandello’s absurdist 1920 metaplay of the same title that explores the relationships between characters and their authors, FREE STATE provides an interesting start for this artist’s exploration of the representation of multiple identities.