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Mikala Dwyer Curated by Tessa Giblin

Introduction 1 we are stardust (billion year old carbon) we are golden 4 Just Maybe Something: on Mikala Dwyer’s Panto Collapsar 10 All that glisters 18 List of Works 26 Biographies 28

Commissioned for a solo exhibition at Project Arts Centre in 2012, Mikala Dwyer’s Panto Collapsar embarked on a six-venue tour of Ireland over the following year. Invested with what the artist calls ‘animating forces’, the exhibition included impressions drawn from Ireland, the known and unknown meaning of stones, places of worship, symbolic offerings, as well as superstitious things, religious memories and scientific observations. Mikala Dwyer worked in communication with artist Ruth E. Lyons to produce a new cornered wall painting for each venue and its individual context. Thus the embracing arms of the vibrant and potentially menacing corner evolved and expanded, creating pockets of warmth, reflection, almost psychedelia as the artists schemed up new ways to evoke the celebratory, ritualistic scene that had evolved from W. B. Yeats’s occult-inspired watercolours, witnessed in Dublin’s National Library exhibition two years earlier. It was a tour that maintained its energy throughout the long journey, thanks in great part to the magnificent work in each venue by Ruth E. Lyons, the support and management of Niamh O’Donnell and Kate Heffernan, and the warmth and enthusiasm with



which the venue partners embraced and welcomed it: our many thanks to the teams of Wexford Arts Centre, Riverbank Arts Centre, Mermaid Arts Centre, West Cork Arts Centre, Droichead Arts Centre and of course Project Arts Centre. We are very grateful to the Arts Council of Ireland which granted a touring award to make this journey happen, and the Australia Council for the Arts which further supported the tour, allowing Mikala Dwyer to join the final leg and develop new work along the way. But most of all, we are deeply grateful to the artist Mikala Dwyer, who has inspired our belief in the freshness of sculptural forms, shown audiences around the country that to step up to the threshold of contemporary art is to believe in something fantastical, confronting and historically intelligent, and created a community of arts centres which have all embraced the panto, the playful, the emblematic and the provocative, that found birth in Ireland’s rich historical context.



Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2013, Riverbank Arts Centre. Project Arts Centre on Tour

we are stardust (billion year old carbon) we are golden Mikala Dwyer’s objects and materials are invested with such potential, that when the accumulations come together they can resemble anything from a gathering or theatre set to the detritus of a black-magic ritual séance. In making the new commission for Project Arts Centre, the artist was guided in many different directions, but in the end the decisions were not entirely Dwyer’s alone. There were materials to be listened to: did they want to be worked, transformed, moulded, coloured or destroyed? There was scaffolding or a baseline to consider: was it to be a tinny looking structure or a large booming mass? And there were others to consult: the clairvoyant who could provide insight into what a sculpture wants to be; the musician whose simple lyrics might have been a key or a distraction; the poet, whose occultist practices had been discovered through paintings and drawings; and the artist’s assistant – a helper, a muse, and an artist herself.

Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2014, Mermaid Arts Centre. Detail showing Open Corner, wall painting. Project Arts Centre on Tour


…at least playgrounds for an alien species, or for some fantastic mutation of the human race. They’re fun, and funny, if in an unnatural and unearthly way. This is a world inspired by the sort of wicked humour that prompts poltergeists to hurl crockery across dining rooms or suspend furniture in mid-air. Hovering above a circle formation of objects resting on and around golden plinths, was a sky filled with shimmering silver shapes, threatening to descend upon the skinny golden shapes that rise from the ground beneath it. The O shaped balloons held up a floating silver canopy, creating at once a cloud and a cave, that for the sacred time of the exhibition was a place protected by natural forces – dark, light, cosmic, and comical. In a room filled with totems, binary forms and objects reminiscent of early civilisation, another myth is brought to mind:


Panto Collapsar, the title of the exhibition, leads us to believe that the engine at the centre of our existence (the metaphorical star) is likely to collapse into a black hole in an action of buffoonery, mimicry and with audience participation. The sense of the exhibition certainly remembered the hysterical splendour that the annual panto has come to promise. Every good pantomime needs a semblance of storyline, which Dwyer’s installation offered, if obliquely. There were traces of gold sensing throughout, allusions to facts and fictions surrounding gold and its geological, mythological, or newly reported extra-terrestrial origins (supposedly introduced by meteorite impacts some 4 billion years ago). From the bottles of Bushmill’s Gold, the packets of Marlboro Gold, gold pigment, a golden spirit level, a golden sun and a found gold painting, Panto Collapsar might thus be called a micro-economic folktale. The elements built and grown in the artist’s garden of unearthly delights are essentially a community and, as such, are totally dependent upon each other. When Dwyer brings objects, artefacts and materials together in group formation, it is as though she’s asking them to speak together of the future and of the unknown, as the artist puts it: to “shore themselves up against everything they’ve lost”. This resonates in Dwyer’s exhibitions, revealing a sense of togetherness and communication amongst the individual pieces that are set up as though in conversation with each other; content with their own company, a close-knit community of objects that the spectator observes from the outside. This world, shaped by beautifully modelled things and sculpturally organised spaces, is also something of a playground, or, as Edward Colless writes of Dwyer’s work:

In the New Zealand Māori story of origin, at the beginning of time there was emptiness. There was no light and no darkness. Nothing existed. Māori call this Te Kore (the Nothingness). Ranginui, the God of the Sky and Papatūānuku, Goddess of the Earth appeared in this nothingness, and while locked in a firm embrace bore many children. Desiring their freedom and to feel the force of the sun, the children wrenched the sky father and earth mother apart, led by Tane, God of the Forests, who propped up the sky with his towering wooden poles. Mikala Dwyer is one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists, whose work has influenced generations of younger artists in the South Pacific. Her work is playfully mischievous while being deadly precise in its activation of form, and consistently presses at the limits of the potentiality of things; to be more, other than, or contradictory to what we might expect. She is also expert at harnessing or investing essential energy matter around objects, leaving you feeling as though you’re in the presence of something mystical, which has temporarily come together before falling apart again. To ritualise, and to create a community of forms through her circular groupings, Dwyer sees the potential to give soul back to things that are dead. Tessa Giblin, Curator of Visual Arts, Project Arts Centre



Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2013, Wexford Arts Centre. Project Arts Centre on Tour

Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2012, installation view. Mylar, silver foil balloons, wood, metal, clay, plastic, plaster, paint, fabrics, found objects, Project Arts Centre


Just Maybe Something: on Mikala Dwyer’s Panto Collapsar

At the edge of the circle, there might be a moment of hesitation, a second or two of sudden, irrational uncertainty. On the threshold of this portentously demarcated space (a series of pillars variously adorned with handmade and found objects, which serve as peculiar marker points of a loosely enclosing circumference) you might pause to consider whether or not to enter – to ask whether it’s appropriate, or perhaps wise, to cross the implied boundary. You might wonder what special significance has been granted to this elaborately separated and decorated zone. You might even sense, in the selection of (possibly) totemic objects and the configuration of (potentially) charged symbols, evocations of the spiritual or the sacred: you might intuit suggestions that the complex staging of this scenario relates to some unidentifiable, surely unsettling, ritual purpose.

Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, Ballina Arts Centre. Detail showing The Collapzars, 2012, various fabrics, gold paint, plastics, plaster. Project Arts Centre on Tour, 2013


You might… But you might also stand at the edge of this apparently mysterious and orderly arrangement of things (an assembly of objects which forms the mise-en-scène of Mikala Dwyer’s ongoing, ever-altering artwork The Additions and Subtractions) and instead contemplate an eccentric, junky disorder. Rather than seeing a unified, formal space, conceivably designed to maximise mystical resonance or symbolic potency (alluding, perhaps, to a specific type of outlandish occult ceremony) the irregular, unpolished characteristics of this strange enclosure could have a distracting – and defining – impact. For despite the imposing theatrical presence of this sculptural circle, much of what it contains on this occasion, as a main feature of the exhibition Panto Collapsar, looks purposefully incomplete, unresolved or precarious. Its pillars are slender gallery plinths that support a miscellany of odd objects, many of which are roughly crafted one-of-a-kind clay ornaments: lumpy painted blobs packed with multiple copper coins; bulbous over-sized baubles dangling from coloured threads; or bundles of imprecisely rendered clay rings – clusters of small circles proliferating within the larger, grander circle of display. But there is also little that is standardised about this system of display. In more than one case indeed, the standard practical principle of the plinth is inverted, with groups of unlikely objects – a set of drinking glasses, four unopened bottles of Bushmills whiskey – being put to absurd use as vulnerable supports for heavy pedestals. Moreover, each member in Mikala Dwyer’s family of plinths has its own idiosyncratic personality: each is a different height, each is distinctly accessorised.

Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2012, installation view showing The Silvering. Mylar, silver foil balloons, helium, Project Arts Centre


And yet all, despite the evident effort, could be dressed with just a touch more refinement at this esoteric gathering. There is a notable lack of decorum and propriety. More than one, as already noted, keeps bottles of booze close at hand; another has packs of cigarettes taped crudely to its side. Though some plinths are painted in shades of sombre brown or lustrous gold, the respective seriousness or splendour suggested by these colour choices is lost in the up-close encounter with the surfaces of these support structures. Instead of solidity and uniformity of finish, wide smears and swirling strokes of uneven paint are visible – there is a kind of carefree expressiveness, or a wilful laxity, in the paint’s application. The achieved effect, overall, is of an underlying subjective unruliness within this objective lay-out. Dwyer has established a ‘spirit’ of determined untidiness, or desired imperfection, in the creation of this evocatively ritualistic scene. The Additions and Subtractions combines organisational discipline with inventive chaos. Speculative allusions to regulated modes of ceremony clash with a manifest attitude of committed, highly considered half-heartedness. Something is proposed and at the same time undermined. Something is added, something is taken away. We could describe this incessant push-andpull as the basis of a necessary artistic tension, or as a style of mischievous play. But Dwyer might also be said to have drawn us into her long-term process of endless artistic circling. She is first of all propelled towards a vague possibility of out-of-the-ordinary discovery, towards revelatory otherworldly experience. Gradually, she is then forced to veer away in a new direction, drawn towards the powerful gravity of material actuality, towards empirical fact. Yet somehow, a degree of mystery continually re-asserts itself in the effort to apprehend the actual – and so her art swerves back once more towards the search for an elusive, deeper knowledge of our awkward, resistant reality. Dwyer sets up situations in which she seems to be ever ‘orbiting’ something that cannot quite be approached. She has spoken of how her interest in forms of occult ritual arises from the manner in which “they articulate or frame voids”, and what might emerge from contact with these voids, she confesses, “keeps me on edge – they offer the poetic possibility that just maybe something will appear.”1 The ideal circle that is central to such “organising systems” is valued as “a tight form of geometry, a completely closed system – a psychic fortress that can hold together disparate thoughts and objects.”2 Her own sculptural circles however, seem more open, made from broken lines with multiple points of entry. They are far more ‘provisional’ as spaces than the reference to geometry might imply. In Dwyer’s work, circles become “holding patterns”;3 zones of possibility, but also of delay – of simultaneous anticipation and frustration.

In the introduction to Kant After Duchamp, Thierry de Duve writes of art as having “perhaps… no other generality than to signify that meaning is possible.”4 Considered as a set of distinctive “symbolic exchanges”, de Duve describes art as “nothing but the empty square that sets them in motion.”5 Swap “square” for “circle” as an “organizing system” and a neat correspondence opens up with Mikala Dwyer’s spaces of “poetic possibility”. For de Duve - who at the opening of his book chooses to reflect on the construct of art as if he were “from outer space”6 – it is of fundamental importance to note that the “autonomous place” granted to art by (at least some) human societies is a sphere of culture that is pitched “with magic and religion on one side and science on the other.”7 Art is understood to inhabit a designated (though indeterminate) locus “at the intersection of magical action and scientific knowledge”.8 And within this space, de Duve argues, “artistic making attributes a symbolic power to the things it names, at times gathering together, at times dispersing, human communities.”9 Hesitating at the threshold of Dwyer’s Additions and Subtractions, or moving around the shifting edges of an installation such as The Silvering (2012) – a hovering, shimmering constellation of circular, silver foil balloons – is to experience a moment when, in terms comparable to those applied by de Duve, we might recognise art itself as a threshold zone. (De Duve writes of art as “marking one of the thresholds where humans withdraw from their natural condition and where their universe sets itself to signifying.”10) De Duve’s alien observer would no doubt take note of Dwyer’s tendency to envisage ambiguous realms between the rational and the irrational. He would surely pick up on the way she designs strange situations that point both towards and away from reality. He might enjoy, for instance, the way The Silvering seems to suggest an aspirational loftiness (as the inflated, shining circles float upwards, escaping earthly bonds) and an acceptance of physical laws and limits – as then, over time, the balloons begin to deflate, sinking steadily back towards solid ground. (There’s a knowing nod too, of course, to the casual, commercially-attuned airiness of Warhol’s Silver Clouds). In any case, faced with these dual, contradictory messages, such an observer might – like the rest of us – hesitate about how to ‘perform’ or ‘understand’. But if the presentation of paradox is a conceptual priority for Dwyer, it is important to stress the wild, wonderful ludicrousness with which she brings extreme opposites together. Let’s ourselves take note, for instance, of how much is packed into the title Panto Collapsar. Here the theatrical genre of pantomime – a highly coded type of ‘low’ comedy, one that regularly turns towards its audience for fourth-wall-breaking, call-and-response participation


– is paired with something that exists outside of our human experience, well beyond our capacity for potential contact. This is a ‘collapsar’, a collapsed star, a black hole – a point in space of unimaginable density and destructive force. Something, indeed, that can barely be detected, but that reveals itself through its influence on surrounding systems. Something, just maybe, that could only ever be circled, but never entered. What happens, then, when Dwyer forces these radically unlike concepts to collide? Are we asked to imagine a variety of pantomime’s light-hearted, fairy-story entertainment that has taken on the unbearable internal dynamics of a massive, imploded stellar object? Or, should we comprehend the final collapse of a vast heavenly body as an occasion of commonplace comedy? Dying stars have, of course, a definite if distant relevance to our eventual human fate. But Dwyer puts forward the head-spinning proposition that this future could be described as a kind of ordinary, predictable comedy. Such cosmological catastrophe is too much for human consciousness, and human comedy, to grasp, but Dwyer nevertheless seems to call out, panto-style,“Look out, it’s behind you!”

Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2012, detail of The Additions and Subtractions. Clay, copper coins, wooden plinth. Project Arts Centre

Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2013, West Cork Arts Centre. Project Arts Centre on Tour

Vladimir Nabokov wrote admiringly of how Nikolai Gogol’s stories have a way of giving one “the sensation of something ludicrous and at the same time stellar, lurking constantly around the corner.”11 It was a delightful, telling accident in Nabokov’s view that “the difference between the comic side of things, and their cosmic side, depends upon one sibilant…”12 Mikala Dwyer’s art seems similarly intent on encouraging close association between the comic and the cosmic, much as it plays on the improbability of this relationship. The connections and disconnections of her work could force from us a slightly nervous form of laughter, but in their tendency to highlight paradox, they may also trigger unfamiliar forms of thinking (a premise perhaps akin to Alain Badiou’s argument that philosophy takes place in situations of radical incommensurability between opposing ideas13). In the various parts of Panto Collapsar we can, here and there, see implied connections to real-life issues. When staged in Ireland at Project Arts Centre, the lurid gold paint and excessive adornment of Additions and


Subtractions seemed to have unavoidable associations with the desperate downturn in the national and global economy: here conspicuous ‘wealth’ was rendered pathetically, chaotically ridiculous. But Dwyer also disconnects us from these recognisable concerns. Gold for her is the central, obsessive focus of alchemy (a practice and belief-system that, like art as De Duve sees it, sits somewhere between magic and science); and at the same time, crucially, it is a precious metal that has its material origins in the intense heat of exploding stars. It is a substance that functions as a marker of economic shifts in human societies, and it has associations with much that lies beyond immediate, organised, observable human reality. If there are stories about the modern world within Panto Collapsar, they are composed in a manner that both anxiously complicates our relation to the world and frustrates our expectations of stories. Jörg Heiser has written of how contemporary art is often thought to be “the sort of culture that could tell us a story about a better life, or at least about better home decoration.”14 But its real power, he says, is to be “nothing but a black hole – nothing but embarrassing pauses, comic stumbling blocks, silent intermezzos.”15 As we might similarly discover with Mikala Dwyer’s compelling ‘voids’, if we don’t turn away dissatisfied “or flee into feigned approval” at the disconcerting event horizon of art, then just maybe, Heiser suggests, “something happens.”16 Declan Long

1 Mikala Dwyer, ‘500 Words’, artforum. com, 15th March 2012, http:// 2 ibid. 3 ibid. 4 Thierry de Duve, Kant After Duchamp, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1996, pp.5-6. 5 ibid, p.6. 6 ibid, p.3. 7 ibid, p.5. 8 ibid, p.5. 9 ibid, p.5.

10 De Duve, Kant After Duchamp, p.5. 11 Vladimir Nabokov, Nikolai Gogol, London, Penguin Classics, 2011 (first published by New Directions, 1944), p.120. 12 ibid, p.120. 13 see Alain Badiou & Slavoj Zizek, Philosophy in the Present, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009. 14 Jorg Heiser, All of a Sudden: Things that Matter in Contemporary Art, Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2008, p. 16. 15 ibid, p.16. 16 ibid, p.16.

All that glisters Kate Heffernan with Mikala Dwyer May 2014

Material had been on our minds since we met that morning. On the walk to Tara Street Station, we discussed the Ór collection at the National Museum, wondered how many torcs and chalices might still be out there, bobbing in peat. As we waited on the grey platform, we talked about the vast variance in lustre from one can of metallic spray paint to another, about how hard it is to hem lamé. Mikala is sitting opposite me, clutching her DART train ticket and a silver purse made from dozens and dozens of drink-can ring-pulls she bought at a market in Sydney. It’s May, and we’re rattletrapping our way to Bray, for the closing event of Panto Collapsar at Mermaid Arts Centre. It’s the last venue on an 18-month, six-venue national tour, and it’s two years since the show first opened at Project Arts Centre. The train has just emerged from the leafy back gardens of Sydney Parade, the mirrory coast appearing from nowhere, as if up until this moment we had forgotten that Dublin is a city on the sea. In the newly illuminated carriage, Mikala’s shingled purse glistens like an unearthed artefact. It’s hard to separate Mikala Dwyer from ideas of precious metals, even if her chosen materials are what she deems more prosaic: lumps of air-dry clay painted gold, sheets of reflective film from garden centre propagators, oversized foil party balloons. What exactly is it about silver and gold? “I’d love to work with the actual stuff. But I have to make a sort of panto of it. You know, because I can’t afford the real thing.” When we get to Mermaid, the first thing that greets us is The Silvering, glinting at us through the first floor window, a sub-ceiling of surprised O’s pressed against the glass. “Oh hello! That’s a good height,” Mikala says as we walk up the path. This heliumed artwork is a living, breathing thing. The differing levels of heat, moisture, air pressure and bodies present on some days in some galleries made it hover inches above the floor, on other days in other galleries hug the ceiling. Over the past year and a half conversations and correspondence between Niamh O’Donnell, Mikala, install artist Ruth E. Lyons and I often hinged on this question: “How does The Silvering hang today?” Inside, Mikala, Niamh and I stand to one side as a group of preschoolers animate the gallery. They’re here to engage with the exhibition through Discovery Box, a series of tools and games developed for the tour by Susan Montgomery at West Cork Arts Centre. One moment they are


January 2015

It’s eight months since Panto Collapsar was carefully deinstalled at Mermaid – its contents bubble-wrapped, packed, redistributed – and its material is still on my mind. It’s winter and icy, and Mikala is back in Ireland, on residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. She and her partner David, a musician, have invited me to dinner at The Flanker Building, IMMA’s communal residence. With hands still red in my pockets, I ask the question that’s been burning since May. If you could afford real silver or gold, would you really want to use it? “No.” Mikala’s answer comes quicker and more resolutely than I expect, and I think about it all through dinner. As David clears the table I ask her again. “The thing about gold is that it’s just too earnest,” she says, “it’s almost too stable, too loaded.” In my own work as a theatre–maker and theatre–goer, I’ve thought about this question of realness on stage a lot, how the slick real thing can leave me colder than the crude fake prop. I ask her if it’s perhaps because the real thing has the ability to exclude us from the imaginative possibility of anything becoming anything, because it keeps its audience out. “I think that’s it. It’s not in any state of becoming. It’s already become. There’s a level of resistance.” Mikala’s chosen materials are much less resistant. “I think through the material. As soon as I come up with an idea, I have to have some kind of matter in my hands. The notes I take are physical lumps of stuff. A sort of thinking through the body and the material, inhabiting the ideas. It’s visceral and physical and not cerebral. Things like spirit levels or bottles of whiskey clumped with claggy clay, they are sort of soft targets because they can transform.” In Panto Collapsar, nothing is what it is. “There’s a magic moment when you’re making. When a thing turns from one thing into another. And you can really miss that moment. You’re blind to it. Because what you’re


cloaked and masked and weaving through the space, imagining themselves as Collapzars from an alien planet with The Silvering billowing above their heads. The next they are cross-legged on the floor again, a small circle of unfettered energy next to the controlled liveliness of Additions and Subtractions. A gasp ripples through the group as Susan reveals a tub of gold sequins. Mikala catches the eye of Niamh and I and smiles. It seems no one can resist gold’s magpie charm.

doing might seem good, you go too far. You say to yourself, “Hey, that looks like art!” and you put the actual art in the bin.” I ask her how she recognises that moment, that real point of transformation. “I don’t,” she says. “I pray and trust and hope that it happens. It’s a moment where something gains a life of its own. It’s the animation of it. And I’m not always in control of that. I have to wait for the audience.” Our conversations about art and theatre have returned over and over to this question of audience. How early on does she think about them? “Same as you, from the beginning. I’m always thinking about where the bodies are.” “Alive or dead!” David adds, and we laugh. “The way the work can be inhabited needs to be thought about the whole way through,” Mikala continues. “And then the audience come in, and they have a decision to make. Because there’s a threshold, they have to decide whether to cross or not. This is what transforms it into something alive. Suddenly there’s a field there that wasn’t there before, that is not there when it’s just me alone with the material. It needs that performative interaction.” Panto Collapsar craves life. Open Corner’s geometric embrace beckons us in. The invisible force between the bodies in the room and The Silvering will it to move, to rise, to sink, to ripple, to billow. The Collapzars ooze with the lively residue of a performance that may have taken place just before we stepped in. There’s the sense that something momentous has just happened about which we may never know, and yet – poised on their costume hooks – they propel us to continue it. “I often think installations are quite close to performance, because there’s an activity that finishes just before the opening. I work within that time frame and then leave. So there’s that sense that it’s still alive. It’s like a fetish object that still has that proximity to body, it’s still carrying a charge.” To stand on the fringes of Additions and Subtractions is to feel this animation tingle in your fingers, in the balls of your feet. In each place this stonehengey circle was installed on tour, there was the same urge by audiences to enter the space, to cross its threshold, to enter into dialogue with its elements, to find out more. And yet there was an equal uncertainty, a resolve to circumvent rather than enter in, a fear of stepping into a forbidden sphere. This push-and-pull feeling on the cusp is where the liveliness of Mikala’s work is located. Like her interest in the occult – the “oogy boogy side of things” – her circles frame a void, the space we enter in the hope and faith that something will appear. It is our collective faith in this nothingness that transforms material into ethereal, maker into alchemist, spectator into sorcerer.



Mikala’s circles are a high assembly of imperfect objects found and made (“I’ve always thought we are sort of modellers or carvers. I’m a modeller. I’d love to be a carver. But I’ve never really been interested in reduction!”) The assembled contents of the circle are solid and fragile, resolute and precarious – where pinch-pot ashtrays become holy relics, five cent coins become sovereigns. “They’re such an unruly family of objects. Tidy and messy and incomplete.” I ask Mikala if this incompleteness is important. “Yes, I think so. The unfinished is a way of evoking transformation, inviting people in. They don’t have to be resolved, they shouldn’t be, because they’re alive. They’re like humans, they’re contradictory. They don’t do what they’re told to do. And they’re really badly made. Some of them are ugly – I mean really ugly! Only a mother would love them! But together, in that tight geometrical form, they become quite a powerful thing.” Bottles of syrupy whiskey with cumulus-cloud headpieces made of clay. The glowing orb of a standard bayonet bulb. A shining spiritlevel sword-in-the-stone. Stacked soft-packets of Marlboro Gold. The recognisable products and Mikala’s “soft targets” effervesce in their togetherness, transformed by alchemy, by their position in the circle, and by our willing suspension of disbelief. And yet their materiality is strong, the puns on gold and spirits playing impishly with an audience’s empiricism, on our lean forward, on our grasp for meaning. In the end, they draw us back from the ethereal to the material. The liveliness of Mikala’s work is located here too on this threshold between earthly and otherworldly. Here, as in theatre, time takes on an almost spatial quality, in the melancholic realisation that the show must end. “It’s a temporary thing, that psychic coalescence of stuff and matter and ideas and spirits. Afterwards the audience leave, and all that remains is the material thing. And even that goes away in the end, it dissipates. It becomes trash, or it’s recycled.” Since Panto Collapsar wrapped, many of the pieces have been recycled, the more precious items from Additions and Subtractions redistributed, gifted to those who worked most closely with them. Claycapped whiskey sits on shelves at Project Arts Centre, a Holy Mary statue rests in the corner of Ruth’s midlands studio. “I like that,” Mikala smiles. “Because individually, these works are not refined art objects, they are not in themselves worth anything, they are only worth something by virtue of their connectivity to each other,

to the event. So it’s like a souvenir. And I can imagine that at a certain point you’ll probably throw it out, but that would be fine too. In the past, I’ve often wondered what happens if someone was to take one away, what would happen to the others, would they remain animated? I wonder how they hold up on their own.” “Let’s get the band back together,” David laughs. “How’s it hangin’ they’ll ask to each other.” The three of us laugh and laugh. It’s close to midnight, and Mikala and David walk me to the gates of IMMA. They leave for Australia soon, and we say our goodbyes. On the descent down the Royal Hospital boulevard, the herbaceous border twinkles in frost. As I sit here now and think about getting the band back together, a small thumb-printed gold-painted mound sits in the top right corner of my desk, glistening under the soft glow of the anglepoise. Next to it, a handful of clay figure 8s, some still wrapped like precious artefacts in acid-free tissue – an eight-month procrastination over the perfect place to put them. The circle has widened, its standing stones and relics scattered across the city and country, fragile in their far-apartness. Like a dormant volcano, somewhere inside they remain quietly alive, ready to be reanimated through a new act of imagination.





Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2014, Droichead Arts Centre. Project Arts Centre on Tour

List of Works Mikala Dwyer 1. Open Corner, 2012 Wall painting 2. The Collapzars, 2012 Various fabrics, gold paint, plastics, plaster 3. The Silvering, 2012 Metallic silver helium-filled balloons, Mylar sheet, silver raffia 4. The Additions and Subtractions, 2012 Mixed materials including clay, papier mache, plastic, whiskey, cigarettes, copper coins, stones, found objects, light and video projection and 16 gold plinths


Mikala Dwyer, Panto Collapsar, 2012, installation view showing The Additions and Subtractions. Mixed media including Marlboro gold cigarettes, distilled spirits, gold paint, copper coins, spirit level, short stem glasses and clay ashtrays, Project Arts Centre

Biographies Mikala Dwyer (b. 1959) lives and works in Sydney. Selected solo exhibitions include: Mikala Dwyer: MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2015; Hollowwork, Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne, 2014; Goldene Bend’er, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne and Teksas, Denmark, 2013; Mikala Dwyer: drawing down the moon, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2012; Costumes and empty sculptures, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2008; The addition and subtractions and the hanging garden, Kunstraum, Potsdam, 2007; Art lifts, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002; Mikala Dwyer, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2000; Sad songs, Artspace, Sydney,1995. Selected recent group exhibitions include: Hall of Half-life, Steirischer Herbst Festival, GrazMuseum, Austria, 2015; You Imagine What You Desire, Sydney Biennale, 2014; The End of the 20th Century. The Best is Yet to Come. A Dialogue with the Marx Collection, Hamburger Bahnhof National Galerie Berlin, 2013; Less is more: minimal and post-minimal art in Australia, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2012; and Monanism, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, 2011. Dwyer is represented by Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, Hamish Morrison Galerie Berlin and Hamish McKay Gallery, New Zealand.

Declan Long is Programme Director (with Francis Halsall) of the MA Art in the Contemporary World at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin, Ireland. He writes regularly for Artforum, Frieze and other art publications. Kate Heffernan (b. 1983, Ireland) is a writer and theatre artist. A winner of the 2013 Stewart Parker Trust Emerging Playwright Award, she was also an assistant producer at Project Arts Centre from 2011–2014. A long-time collaborator of Tessa Giblin, Kate is sub-editor of gallery texts and Project Press publications.


Panto Collapsar Mikala Dwyer Published as an edition of Forms of Imagining, a series published by Project Press based on the exhibitions programme of Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Dublin, March 2016 ISBN 978-1-872493-47-3 Editor: Tessa Giblin © The Artist, Writers and Project Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission of the publishers. Text: Tessa Giblin, Declan Long, Kate Heffernan Designed in Ireland by WorkGroup Sub Editor: Kate Heffernan Series Editor: Emer Lynch Panto Collapsar Mikala Dwyer 27 January – 31 March 2012 Project Arts Centre, Dublin Panto Collapsar nationwide tour West Cork Arts Centre, 2 February – 7 March 2013 Wexford Arts Centre, 11 April – 8 May 2013 Ballina Arts Centre, 30 May – 31 June 2013 Riverbank Arts Centre, 26 October – 7 December 2013 Droichead Arts Centre, 16 January – 1 March 2014 Mermaid Arts Centre, 13 March – 5 May 2014

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Forms of Imagining – Panto Collapsar (Project Press)  

Published as an edition of Forms of Imagining, a series published by Project Press based on the exhibitions programme of Project Arts Centre...

Forms of Imagining – Panto Collapsar (Project Press)  

Published as an edition of Forms of Imagining, a series published by Project Press based on the exhibitions programme of Project Arts Centre...