Visual Artists' News Sheet – 2019 September October

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Special Issue: September – October 2019


Contents On The Cover Róisín White, from the series ‘Lay Her Down Upon Her Back’, 2017; courtesy of the artist and PhotoIreland Foundation. Exhibitions & Screenings 6. 8. 10. 11. 12.

Physical, Social Celestial. Moran Been-Noon profiles PhotoIreland Festival’s ‘New Irish Works 2019’. Vernacular & Narrative. Catherine Harty profiles ‘The Parted Veil’ at The Glucksman, Cork. Cracking the Interface. EL Putnam describes the impacts of digital technology on moving image practice, through an analysis of ‘Screen time’ at the Green on Red Gallery. To train the whole body as a tongue. Sarah Browne discusses the touring film programme she recently curated for aemi. Snapshots. Áine Phillips discusses the ‘Snapshots’ programme at Dingle International Film Festival.

Organisations and Resources 14.


Digital Art Studios. Angela Halliday profiles DAS, a digital resource hub located in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The Darkroom. Mella Travers gives insights into the evolution of The Darkroom. Towards a Permanent Museum of Photography. Trish Lambe and Tanya Kiang discuss the Gallery of Photography Ireland.

Critical Discourse 16. 18.



Commonplaces: The Topographical Turn. Justin Carville considers the significance of ‘place’ within 21st-century Irish photography. Source: Approaching the 100th Issue. John Duncan outlines the evolution of Source – a quarterly photography magazine, published in Belfast. The Second Shift. Clare Gallagher discusses her photographic research focusing on domestic labour. MExIndex. Fifi Smith outlines the evolution of the MExIndex – a database of Irish moving image works. Out of the Darkroom. Seán Kissane discusses the David Kronn collection, being gifted to IMMA. Culture of Experimental Practice. Alice Butler provides an overview of contemporary Irish moving image practice.

Introduction WELCOME to the September – October 2019 issue of The Visual Artists’ News Sheet.

VAN’s 2019 themed issue focuses on contemporary Irish photography and moving image, probing the expanded parameters of each medium in the digital age. With an abundance of image-making technologies now readily at hand within our daily lives, this issue considers how static and moving images are created, disseminated, consumed and stored. In technical terms, it has never been easier to produce images; however, some argue that with the plenitude of media now available, it is becoming harder to create images that are culturally relevant or interesting. As evidenced throughout this issue, such inquiries manifest in current artistic practice through rejections or subversions of digital technologies. This includes a resurgence of analogue production and presentation formats, leading to the creation of deliberately flawed images, which sit in opposition to the ‘non-reality’ fostered by digital post-production. In addition, many artists are engaged in a ‘reassertion of objecthood’, often involving the assemblage of pre-internet material, including printed matter, found photographs or archival footage. This, in turn, creates physical repositories of knowledge, with the space of the exhibition – characterised by non-linear, sculptural or immersive installations – being pivotal to encounters with lens-based work. Central to this themed issue are interviews with artists at various career stages, who work with photography – namely Roseanne Lynch, Darn

24. 26.

Visual Artists Ireland:

CEO/Director: Noel Kelly Office Manager: Bernadette Beecher Northern Ireland Manager: Rob Hilken Communications Officer: Shelly McDonnell Membership Officer: Siobhan Mooney Publications: Joanne Laws, Christopher Steenson Professional Development Officer: Monica Flynn Opportunities Listings: Shelly McDonnell Exhibition Listings: Christopher Steenson Bookkeeping: Dina Mulchrone

Image Tendencies. Pádraig Spillane interviews three visual artists working in photography. The Physicality of Looking. Joanne Laws interviews Dragana Jurišic, Locky Morris and Ciarán Óg Arnold about their photographic practices. Performing the Posthuman Subject. Becks Butler talks to Vera Ryklova and Fanfa Otal Simal about the role of the subject in their photographic practices.

28. 30. 32. 33. 34.

Magnetic Earth. Joanne Laws interviews artist Clare Langan about the themes and influences in her films. Rose-tinted Reality. Aidan Kelly Murphy interviews Bassam Al-Sabah about his current solo exhibition at Solstice Art Centre. Filmic Inquiries. Barry McHugh interviews three Irish filmmakers. Time and Time Again. Joanne Laws interviews Kevin Atherton, Frances Hegarty and Andrew Stones about the evolution of their filmmaking practices. State of the Medium. Christopher Steenson talks to Gerard Byrne about conserving media art in the digital age. Kinetics in Blue. Suzanne Walsh interviews Atoosa Pour Hosseini about her experimental film practice.

Critique Supplement i. ii. iii. iv.

Cover Image: Darren Nixon, Dislocate, 2019. ‘FIX’ at Hang Tough Gallery, Dublin. ‘Fast Slow Fast’ at CCA Derry~Londonderry. ‘A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland’ at The Gallery of Photography Ireland and National Photographic Archive, Dublin. 'Do Governments Lie?' at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. ‘The Ocean Between’ at Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.

Offering archival perspectives, Fifi Smith outlines the evolution of the MExIndex, a database of Irish moving image works, while Seán Kissane discusses the David Kronn photographic collection, gifted to IMMA. Dialogue surrounding photographic and moving image practice is fostered through contributions from John Duncan, editor of Source Photographic Review, and University of Ulster lecturer, Clare Gallagher, who discusses her practice-based PhD.

Features Editor: Joanne Laws Production Editor/Design: Christopher Steenson News/Opportunities: Shelly McDonnell, Siobhan Mooney

Board of Directors: Michael Corrigan (Acting Chair), Michael Fitzpatrick, Richard Forrest, Paul Moore, Mary-Ruth Walsh, Cliodhna Ní Anluain

Artist Interviews: Moving Image 27.

This issue features two specially-commissioned essays: Alice Butler provides a survey of contemporary Irish moving image practice; while Justin Carville outlines the significance of ‘place’ in Irish photography. This issue also profiles Irish organisations, such as the production facilities, The Darkroom and Digital Arts Studios, and the Gallery of Photography Ireland. Recent film screenings are profiled – namely ‘Snapshots’ at Dingle International Film Festival and aemi’s recent touring film programme, curated by Sarah Browne – as well as prominent photography and moving image exhibitions, including: ‘The Parted Veil’ at The Glucksman; ‘New Irish Works 2019’ at PhotoIreland Festival; and ‘Screentime’ at the Green on Red Gallery.

The Visual Artists' News Sheet:

Artist Interviews: Photography 22.

Thorn, Róisín White, Dragana Jurišić, Ciarán Óg Arnold, Locky Morris, Vera Ryklova and Fanfa Otal Simal – as well as artists working predominantly with moving image, such as Gerard Byrne, Clare Langan, Myrid Carten, Eoghan Ryan, Emily McFarland, Bassam Al-Sabah, Frances Hegarty & Andrew Stones, Kevin Atherton and Atoosa Pour Hosseini.

Republic of Ireland Office

Northern Ireland Office

Visual Artists Ireland Windmill View House 4 Oliver Bond Street Merchants Quay, Dublin 8 T: +353 (0)1 672 9488 E: W:

Visual Artists Ireland 109 Royal Avenue Belfast BT1 1FF T: +44 (0)28 958 70361 E: W:

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International Memberships


Exhibitions & Screenings

Sarah Flynn, from the series ‘Uinse’, 2018–2019; courtesy the artist and PhotoIreland Foundation

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Cian Burke, from the series ‘Rectangular Universe’, 2017; courtesy the artist and PhotoIreland Foundation

AS DEMONSTRATED IN ‘New Irish Works 2019’, the medium of photography can


highlight aspects of our world that cannot be documented. With tenuous prods at artistic subject matter, the exhibition – which ran from 2 to 28 July, as part of PhotoIreland Festival – conveys a sense of encountering different strands of ongoing research, with each project narrating our world and our bodies within it. ‘New Irish Works’ is a triennial project, run by the PhotoIreland Foundation, which aims to promote photographic and lens-based practices in Ireland. This is the project’s third edition, with ten artists selected by a jury following an international open call. The exhibition is one of several presented at the ‘Museum of Contemporary Photography of Ireland’, located in The Printworks at Dublin Castle. It acts as a brief survey of current practice, while at the same time exploring the parameters and definitions of photography in 2019. One recurrent element is the abundant use of archival material as a visual method of inquiry. Sarah Flynn’s ‘Uinse’ and Zoe Hamill’s ‘A Map Without Words’ use material from public archives alongside images from locations where the natural and the societal are perceived to intersect. Flynn focuses on ash trees (uinse in Irish) and their history in Ireland, and on the interaction between changes in the ecological and economic landscapes. The work includes a government registry of ash trees and photographs of diseased vegetation and of human hands. A new category is proposed, uniting the social and natural to stand together, countering the economic. Meanwhile, Hamill uses photography as a means of cataloguing the intangible. She indiscriminately documents plants, human-made objects and body parts, without categorising these images. They are numbered, with some placed in a display cabinet, while an archival catalogue maps the network of relationships between individuals and places, based on themes such as ‘being’ and ‘longing’. Aisling McCoy’s project, ‘and live the space of a door’, also uses archival images and is dedicated to the history of Berlin’s Tempelhof airport as a refugee shelter, since the end of World War II. It includes images depicting the airport’s architecture, and documentation of refugees at Tempelhof, both in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The work is a visual play between ideas of place and non-place, juxtaposing the functional design of a point of transit – detached from any relational meaning – with

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Exhibitions & Screenings

Robert Ellis, from the series ‘Proverbs’, 2017; courtesy the artist and PhotoIreland Foundation

George Voronov, from the series ‘... And Also With You’, 2019; courtesy of the artist and PhotoIreland Foundation

the unstable messiness of humanity. These themes are conveyed through the individual photographic frames and printing methods, as well as in the artist’s approach to installation. It questions the aesthetic and ethical choices made in the airport’s design and functions over time. In Róisín White’s ‘Lay Her Down Upon Her Back’, archival material provided a starting point for researching attitudes towards the medical treatment of women. The historical images recount a story of pain and frustration, echoed in contemporary photographs of awkward body positions and intense floral wallpaper. The latter is a reference to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, which tells about a woman who is prescribed a “rest cure”, and as a result of the imposed long stay in bed, begins to hallucinate a relationship with a woman trapped in the bedroom’s wallpaper. White offers multiple angles of this story, looking at the protagonist, as well as inspecting the room from the woman’s point of view. Whether the pain emanating from these pieces preceded the medical treatment or is a result of the treatment’s outcome, remains undisclosed in this work, allowing it to act as poignant feminist commentary. Unresolved pain resurfaces in Dorje de Burgh’s ‘Dream the End’, a detailed series of visual research on the elusive nature of loss. Digging into his personal and family archives, de Burgh tells of his relationship with his mother. He anatomises it by exploring the family’s background and the story of the mother falling ill and passing away. The work includes textual extracts from the artist’s research, which tie the photographs together as a cinematic examination of this raw narrative. The project’s anchor as documentary work is in the sobering reality of the radiotherapy mask, starkly installed on a makeshift concrete plinth. A different form of loss emerges in Phelim Hoey’s ‘La Machine’, which chronicles the artist coping with his Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. This is a deeply pragmatic and emotional account of living with MS, and includes medical imaging, photographed porcelain prosthetics and visual motion studies. Photographs referencing figurative works by Muybridge and Swiss duo, Fischli and Weiss, are used to illustrate the strongest element of this project: a painful relearning of the skills of movement, and the limits of the human body. Discussing intangible forces beyond one’s body is George Voronov’s ‘...And Also

With You’. The work includes photographs documenting spiritual retreats and captured moments from Voronov’s everyday life, like a ray of light hitting a water-filled glass, seemingly unrelated to the spiritual narrative. The work tells a story about searching for clarity through fusing social and spiritual situations with the isolated materiality of still life objects. A strong sense of materiality is also visible in Robert Ellis’ ‘Proverbs’. The project captures the beauty of the Ugandan landscape, which glows in his photographs. Particularly impressive are the night-time photographs. Ellis, an Irish photographer, worked with his portraiture subjects as a photography teacher, studying the contentious topic of cultural ownership of places. The multimedia work features the landscapes and portraits, with accompanying proverbs, recited like poetry. Jamin Keogh’s ‘A Constant Parameter’ and Cian Burke’s ‘Rectangular’ Universe look at materiality through a visual-scientific lens, using photography as a playful research method for creative questioning about the mechanisms of the world. In Keogh’s work, the horizon line – and its changes in different contexts, locations and time zones – is used to pseudo-scientifically examine subjective experiences. The artist allows us to imagine ourselves in place of the camera, trying to trace back to the last time we saw the horizon. Burke’s project is a visual manifestation of physics, including photographs and objects that challenge what we see when we look around us. The distance between an object’s physical existence and its depiction shifts as we browse through black and white abstract photographs that capture urban settings. Due to the artist’s geometrical interventions in the photographed locations, the scenes appear to relay visions of celestial spheres. The openness of research and the precision of subject matter explored in ‘New Irish Works 2019’ creates deeply thought-provoking experiences in the viewer. We learn about ourselves, our pain, our bodies and the contexts in which we roam – including occasional tangential journeys out into the cosmos. This snapshot of current photographic practices feels optimistic. The artists strive to arrive at profound understandings, and they do so relentlessly. Moran Been-noon is an independent curator and artist based in Dublin.



Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Exhibitions & Screenings

Miriam O’Connor, ‘Tomorrow is Sunday’, installation view at The Glucksman; all images courtesy of the artists and The Glucksman, all photographs by Jed Niezgoda


‘THE PARTED VEIL: Commemoration in Photographic Practices’ (12 April – 30 June) presented the work of artists using various strategies – including documentary style photography, conceptual and historical photographic techniques, and the use of found imagery – to consider personal and collective ideas around remembrance and celebration. The exhibition title initially brought to mind Pliny the Elder’s tale of the parted curtain, in which Parrhasius wins the accolade of ‘greatest painter’ by tricking his competitor Zeuxis into attempting to pull back the curtain he has painted, to reveal what lies behind. Of course, a veil is not the same as a curtain; a veil is transparent, playing a game of hiding and revealing, while also drawing attention to what is being covered. Ailbhe Ní Bhriain’s photograph, Inscriptions 1 (2017), plays with these aspects of layering and concealing. From a distance, the image appears to be covered by a semitransparent material; but moving closer, it is revealed as ‘simply’ a photograph – a black and white, soft focus image of forestry, captured from above, with no horizon line or depth of field. This scene has been covered over with gauze, featuring a large tear. It becomes confusing to try and conceptualise how the image was made – did the camera capture the different layers simultaneously or over a period of time? In her 1977 book, On Photography, Susan Sontag describes how mass travel and mass photography grew rapidly and concurrently during the twentieth century. People travelled to ‘exotic’ locations, bringing back photographs – evidence of ‘the leisure interlude’ – which intermittently punctuated the daily grind of work. The proliferation of photographs has increased exponentially since then, submerging us in an ocean of images. Tom Molloy presents WAVE – a constellation of found snapshots. All framed and small in scale, the photographs date from the 1930s through to the 1990s, variously depicting family and friends at home, on daytrips or on foreign holidays. Molloy’s decision to ‘find’ as opposed to ‘take’ photographs is representative of a methodology recurring throughout the show, which sees photographers engaged in more than simply releasing a shutter. In Molloy’s appropriated vernacular snapshots, the unnamed photographers were probably not attempting to compose artful images; instead they merely wanted to document their lives and loved ones. Every photograph in this assemblage contains a single person with a hand raised – a gesture that can be read as both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ – which subtlety signals the complexity of the photographic image as an ambiguous artefact. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes tries to understand the emotional pull of the

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

commonplace snapshot, proposing the idea of the ‘punctum’ as the small, often overlooked detail, that seems to shoot out from the photograph, producing a bodily reaction in the viewer, unconnected to the intellect and not controlled by the photographer. Pinpointing a specific message in Molloy’s work is slippery, but for me, this assemblage provokes the strongest emotional reaction in the entire show. James Parkin’s Folding News is another arrangement of found photographs, this time cut from old newspapers. Parkin uses these media images, manually folding and manipulating them to make an array of distorted compositions. The newspaper is a medium that we are constantly told is fast becoming obsolete. Why would people want a physical manifestation of the news, when instead they can scroll through constantly updated digital news platforms? The newspaper is a tool, which was historically significant in manufacturing ideas of the nation state. The ‘Fourth Estate’ – an eighteenth-century term, denoting the indirect power and social influence of the media – brought national stories to the literate educated populace. However, for the great and the good, it also included the inherent danger of ‘dumbing down’; with mass literacy would come mass circulation, and a ‘race to the bottom’. All of these connotations are found in the creases of Parkin’s work. Vukašin Nedeljković presents works from his ongoing project, ‘The Asylum Archive’, documenting Direct Provision Centres across Ireland – described by the artist as ‘non-places’, which conceal asylum seekers from wider society. Three photographs sparsely depict an interior shot and two exteriors, showing the façades of these sites of supposed asylum. The grim scenes depict: a caravan park in the habitual drizzly grey of an Irish seaside town; the down on its uppers Glenvara residential centre in Cork city; and a bare sagging, metal-framed bunkbed. On ethical grounds, the artist refuses to photograph the residents of these institutions, instead focusing on the physical structures and the detritus left behind. Interviewed on the occasion of his show at Triskel earlier this year, Nedeljković stated: “I decided to focus on the ghosts; what’s left after people have been deported or transferred to a different centre. The exhibition is of ephemera, the traces and remnants of people. Humans are present in their invisibility”. Miriam O’Connor’s photographic series, ‘Tomorrow is Sunday’, depicts the family farm she grew up on. Six photographs are anchored to this environment by a portrait of an older woman, who gazes steadfastly at the camera. The other photographs are more tightly-bound, cut off and framed, featuring: a pair of workworn female hands, stoically holding a brown paper bag; a hand holding an ice sheet up for inspection by the camera; a close-up of the folds in the leg of a calf; and an amusingly deadpan note about “the cat” getting sick. These pared back compositions show the power of incidental photographs, with the series as a whole displaying a concern with labour and a focus on hands and vision. Mhairi Sutherland’s Re-imagining Treason (Childers) is a cyanotype print – a photographic printing process developed in the mid-1800s and widely used in the early twentieth century. It is a one-off, hand-made drawing, copied from a silhouette contained in the historical archive of Robert Erskine Childers and his family. This work utilises a technique from the period with which it engages, but it does not alienate or ‘make strange’, in the way a self-reflexive modernist work may have done. The piece demonstrates another tendency running throughout the show – the making of one-off works, in direct opposition to the ‘common photograph’ and its inherent potential for endless reproducibility. Also exploring a novel technique in the history of photography, Alan Phelan’s recent work utilises the Joly Screen Process, invented in Ireland in the 1890s by physicist John Joly. The now obsolete technique involved using a glass photographic plate with vertical red, green and blue (RGB) stripes to expose a black and white negative. Phelan’s installation consists of a large wooden rectangular structure, with one side painted in vertical RGB bands, subtly engaging with the formal strategies of minimalism. A single light-box is positioned on each colour band, featuring a trio of images: a pink feather held suggestively at crotch-level; a face ‘camouflaged’ by shaving foam, with only the eyes revealed; and a hand holding a wreath. In a contemporary sense, the work also references screen colour (employed in computer monitors and mobile devices), while the use of backlighting echoes modern ways of viewing images, digitally onscreen. When viewed in this way, these seemingly floating images recall appropriated digital images; yet they are anchored by the physical installation, thus reaffirming the material aspects of image-making. Adrian Duncan’s three photographs, Pyramids (2015–16), attempt to capture a fireworks display. They are positioned, unframed, high up the gallery wall and we crane our necks to see them. They resonate and bring to mind the light from stars in the sky, which science tells us are actually dead stars that have imploded long ago. The fact that we are observing the past, again reverberates with the uncanny qualities of photography, in the medium’s capacity to eternally preserve its subjects, even after death. Lian Bell’s Sum Total (Becoming things again) employs a conceptual style, utilising both image and text. Each framed work contains two photographs depicting domestic objects and interior scenes. The text takes the form of everyday speech, a vernacular form containing the pauses and verbal sounds, which do not contain a message. This can be read as in some way analogous to the snapshot – not primarily concerned with conveying information, but instead more related to emotional expression: “Umm, I think the most poignant thing of all, comes to an end now, umm is the chair he used to sit in at tea over by the bookcase. Um, after he died I, you know. I find myself just looking at it.” I wonder if this is a true story; whether the artist is exposing intimate family history, or developing a fiction, prompted by found photographs. Fact or fiction, either way, I found it a very resonant series. The most effective photographic works in ‘The Parted Veil’ are those employing vernacular styles and associations with personal narratives. I found the works that engage with historical memory and commemoration slightly more problematic, as I feel they

Exhibitions & Screenings may have benefited from being displayed more explicitly alongside other aspects of the artist’s research, rather than as stand-alone artworks. There is a very evident refusal on the part of the exhibiting artists to work in the visual vernacular of the digital era. There are no ‘selfies’; no attempts at post-production to render surfaces with seamless perfection – with the exception of John Halpin’s staged scenarios, constructed using high-end 3D modelling and a slow process of digital layering, to situate his figures in deliberately artificial contexts. The widespread desire to appropriate existing imagery, rather than add to the endless proliferation of images in the digital age, seems to assert an element of refusal. I don’t know if this, in itself, is a positive position to take; it may well be a form of surrender, suggesting an underlying inability to affirm the commemorative potential of digital culture. Catherine Harty is a member of the Cork Artists Collective and a curator at The Guesthouse Project.

Top: Alan Phelan, ‘Untitled’, installation view Middle: Dervla Baker, ‘Waiting I–V’, installation view Bottom: Vukašin Nedeljković, ‘Asylum Archive’, installation view



Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Exhibitions & Screenings


Alan Butler, Sturtevant/a_m_f_skidrow_01 Finite Infinite, 2018, video still; courtesy of the artist and Green on Red Gallery

WITH THE CONTEMPORARY ubiquity of computing and

digital technology, forms of connectivity that used to astonish us have now become habitually engrained in mundane activities. Much like television, telephone, radio and photography before it, digital technology has tipped from being ‘new media’ into a necessary mode of communication. Works included in the recent exhibition ‘Screentime’ at the Green on Red Gallery (11 April – 25 May), curated by Jerome O Drisceoil, engage critically with the media they utilise, introducing fissures to the apparently seamless integration of computation into our daily activities. Through playful interventions, these artists highlight how the tools we use end up defining our realities, while also exemplifying how the moving image genre has been radicalised through the affordances of digital technology. There is an excess that can be detected throughout the exhibition, as artists crack through interfaces to cull from the digital depths. The earliest work in the show is Super Mario Movie (2005) by Cory Arcangel and Paper Rad ( Jacob Ciocci, Jessica Ciocci and Ben Jones). It takes the form of a video – playing on a modified version of a Super Mario Bros. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Game Cartridge – which celebrates the glitch aesthetic as well as the ethos of appropriation, found in early twenty-first century digital art. Text, words and images are fractured as Mario gets stuck in loops without reaction, such as falling down the screen repeatedly or walking over empty space – actions which, in the original context of play, would have meant “Game Over”. This formal deconstruction of the game points to its structural parameters, not rendering the game design dysfunctional, but allowing it to perform aesthetically. Ben Jones continues this aesthetic play through looping animations in Hi Score Video (2019), where the repetition of imagery through a never-ending cascade fosters a sense of limitlessness within the formal confines of 8-bit graphics. In his video installation, titled Sturtevant/a_m_f_skidrow_01 Finite Infinite (2018), Alan Butler takes advantage of the modular qualities of digital technology that enable facile shifts between different media forms and genres. The work is comprised of a nine-second loop of a human figure appearing to run endlessly through a field like a dog. A spinning projector mounted on the ceiling rotates the video in a circle on the floor. According to the accompanying video essay, Mondo Cane (2018), the work emerged from Butler’s creative engagement with the video game, Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV), and its non-playing characters, specifically homeless people. One such character bears a strong resemblance to American conceptual artist, Elaine Sturtevant. Butler appropriated and altered this character to perform the gestures of a dog running, mimicking the infinite loop of Sturtevant’s film, Finite Infinite (2010), by using images and sounds from GTAV. Butler creates a video installation with a digital twist that pays homage to Sturtevant through acts of ‘inexact appropriation’

They are Here, We help each other grow, 2017, video still; courtesy of the artists and Green on Red Gallery

Darren Almond, Time and Time Again, 1996, installation view, ‘Video Time’ (2004) Green on Red Gallery; courtesy of Green on Red

– something the late artist built her reputation upon. As Butler’s work alludes, film and video created a precedent for today’s digital art. In 2004, Green on Red presented the exhibition ‘Video Time’ that included moving image works by Ceal Floyer, Darren Almond, Richard Serra and Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky. Also curated by Jerome O Drisceoil, this exhibition focused on the temporal dimensions of moving image. For instance, Ceal Foyer’s two-channel video work H2O Diptych (2002) juxtaposed a glass of sparkling water losing its effervescence, with a pot of water slowly coming to a boil. The slow nature of these processes translate awkwardly into the pace of video, as physical states of change presented in real time appear to show nothing happening at all, thus drawing perceptual attention to time itself. With digital art, moving image becomes a means of critiquing our broader engagements with technology, where “artistic production is a material exploration of its own technological means of production and how these constantly change”.1 As interface designs increasingly direct and modify user behaviours, artists can fracture these algorithmic illusions, by using these technologies to highlight how we use and are used by them, while offering alternatives. For instance, David O’Reilly’s Mountain Drawings Interpretations 1 and 3 (2018) exemplify how digital infrastructures become modes of surveillance and capture. In 2014, he released Mountain, a game notable for its lack of interactivity, except for the line drawings created by players at the start of the game. O’Reilly has collected these digital drawings – which are the players’ gestural expressions of fear, the past and sickness – to create several video works that provide insights into the imagination and intimate thoughts of anonymous strangers, while also visualising the ease with which seemingly innocuous data can be collected and exploited as a raw material. Even though O’Reilly uses this data to cultivate a playful aesthetic experience, the work also points to how other entities (including certain companies located in the Docklands, across from Green on Red Gallery) may utilise users’ data for more nefarious means. Art also functions as a critical probe in Conor McGarrigle’s contributions to the show. #RiseandGrind (2018) involves the development of a Twitter bot (@RiseandGrind_ ML) whose content is generated from a machine learning alogorithm, which has learnt how to write, based on tweets where people have used the hashtags “#RiseandGrind” and “#Hustle” – buzzwords that have become emblematic of the over-worked, underpaid and precarious gig economy. Like other artworks in ‘Screentime’, the installation of #RiseandGrind highlights, rather than hides, the hardware constituting the piece. While the machine learning processes might take place in hidden data farms, here small screens are connected to dangling Raspberry Pis generating the tweets, giving the bot a visible material presence. The bot’s tweets started as a

chaotic jumble of words, such as: “?mmn in ready to sian your ass. Respect pheich Girl yb hustle no hithday. #momoric” but overtime, the tweets became more refined through machine learning process, eventually mimicking Twitter dialect, with tweets such as: “Freelance life Grind all day; The hustle never stops; What’s a weekend; Monetise your hobbies; Health probs; Handouts don’t exist”. What at first evokes a humourous response (at the ability of the bot to match the proclamations of hyper-productivity) becomes more disconcerting, through the culture of self-exploitation it promotes. With everyday actions increasingly being performed and mediated through computational technologies, it may be easy to forget – or ignore – the human bodies immanent in their use. The UK-based art collective, They are Here (consisting of Helen Walker and Harun Morrison), presented We help each other grow (2017), which was shot using a heat sensitive surveillance camera, typically used to detect the presence of unwelcome bodies that escape vision. The figure in the video is a refugee from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu who is performing the Bharatanatyam, a traditional women’s dance, originating from his native region. The contrast between the militaristic overtones of the heat sensitive imagery and the fluid motions of the dancing figure undermines the angst concerning immigrant bodies, using the tools of border mediation to produce a poignant political statement. Philosopher Santiago Zabala argues that we have entered a state of emergency in this current technological world, drawing from Martin Heidegger in describing how the “only emergency is the lack of a sense of emergency”.2 For Zabala, only art can draw attention to this urgency, and as the title of his book suggests, only art can save us. Instead of continuing to enable ourselves to succumb to the seamless forces of digital technology that entangle us, these artists leverage these platforms, introducing fractures that break the illusion. Through aesthetic experiences, they provide a sense of traction in the destabilising disruption of this hyperreal state. At the same time, there is a strong sense of play through the appropriation and repurposing of games and social media, producing moments of joy that do not counter the art’s critical integrity, but offer hope. EL Putnam is an artist-philosopher and Lecturer in Digital Media at the Huston School of Film and Digital Media in NUI Galway. She also runs the Irish performance art blog, in:Action.

Notes 1 Christian Ulrik Andersen and Søren Pold, The Metainterface: The Art of Platforms, Cities, and Clouds (Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: The MIT Press, 2018), 24. 2 Santiago Zabala, Why Only Art Can Save Us: Aesthetics and the Absence of Emergency (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 1.

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Exhibitions & Screenings


To train the whole body as a tongue SARAH BROWNE DISCUSSES THE TOURING FILM PROGRAMME SHE RECENTLY CURATED FOR AEMI. OVER THE LAST five years or so, curating film programmes has become a surprising and important method in my practice, mainly as a way of researching into the production of new work. I was delighted when Alice Butler and Daniel Fitzpatrick of aemi approached me at the other side of this process, inviting me to curate a series of films around an existing work, Report to an Academy.1 Vivienne Dick was also invited to curate a selection of films, and both programmes toured nationally, in partnership with Access Cinema. Our respective programmes travelled to: the Belltable, Limerick; Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford; The Model, Sligo; VISUAL, Carlow; Glór, Clare, and PÁLÁS, Galway. Aemi travelled with the programme to each venue to facilitate a Q&A, most often with me or Vivienne. Sometimes this was also led by someone locally who had an existing connection with the featured artists, the concerns of the particular programme, or significant expertise in moving image practice – thanks to Ronnie Hughes, Orla Ryan, Dara Waldron, David Upton and Saoirse Wall who supported me, Vivienne and aemi in this way. Vivienne’s programme, ‘Delirious Rhythm 1936-2017’, was also shown in the MAC, Belfast, in September, and my programme, ‘To train the whole body as a tongue’, was shown at CCA Glasgow in June, in partnership with LUX Scotland. As such, the touring programme aimed to support both the development of audiences regionally in Ireland, as well as the development of the individual artists. ‘To train the whole body as a tongue’ takes its title from a phrase uttered by the central protagonist of my film, a lecturer who has transformed herself from a human into an octopus. It names the process of transition she has undertaken and her motivations in doing so, which she recounts as her Report to an Academy. The film is an adaptation of the Kafka short story of the same title, exploring the pressures of the contemporary academic environment as a neoliberal workplace – including distortions of language that impact the body.2 Where in Kafka’s story, an ape delivers an address to a gathering on his transition into human life, joining human community by acquiring speech, the octopus who features in my adaptation describes her choice to surrender spoken language in search of other forms of articulacy and agency. Searching for a ‘way out’ of her ‘Kafkaesque’ environment – where language can be a slippery, dangerous or even violent force – she delivers her report with a machine

voice (this is the Scottish-accented ‘Fiona’, who is installed with Mac OSX). The other films in the programme are similarly concerned with practices of bodily exertion and effort in the service of learning, all working within and against certain constraints. Many use a technique of a frontal address to the camera, as a singular protagonist negotiates institutions of education, illness and beauty, pushing at the limits of our sense of the possible and what bodies can (or should) do. Pedagogue (1988, 11 minutes) was made by Stuart Marshall and Neil Bartlett during their break-time while lecturing art students in Newcastle. Through a parodic performance, it explores the implications of Clause 28, when the British Government took powers to outlaw the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in education and local government: there are echoes of a different panic in the UK’s contemporary Prevent duty.3 In My Language by A.M. Baggs (2007, 9 minutes) is an extraordinary video that was made as a piece of advocacy, distributed via YouTube.4 In this screening context, what initially seems like an artwork using the formal vocabulary of experimental film is ‘translated’ in the second half of the video into text and a machine voice. In this section, Baggs, an autistic person who does not speak, explains that ‘this is not a voyeuristic freak show’, and queries why neurotypical people assume it is only natural for her to learn our language, whereas we are unwilling to learn hers – and to recognise her as a ‘real person’. This video is followed by Sticky Encounter (2016, 10 minutes) by Saoirse Wall, where the artist again addresses the camera directly. The cinema audience takes the place of an (un)listening clinician in a doctor-patient encounter. Proposing a response to the pain of not being believed, the camera/ viewer is finally swallowed. Saoirse is an artist I first met when I was a lecturer and they were a student. They also appear as an expert performer (actually, a very distinctive tongue and set of teeth in close-up) in Report to an Academy. We shared research as we each made these works at the same time; to me they belong as siblings to each other in the screening. Moving through the 68-minute arc of the programme, the significance of the voice recedes, and the other perceptual and expressive capacities of the body emerge. Report to an Academy (2016, 28 minutes) is followed by Eyeballing (2005, 10 minutes), by Rosalind Nashashibi as the conclusion. This intriguing piece of work is the only film included that is com-

Stuart Marshall and Neil Bartlett, Pedagogue, 1988; 11 mins; video still courtesy of Neil Bartlett and LUX, London. Featured as part of ‘To train the whole body as a tongue’, curated by Sarah Browne

pletely without speech, providing some kind of sensory and cognitive release at the end of the programme. I approached the curation of this screening with a kind of sculptural thinking, rather than with the training or knowledge of a curator or film scholar. The format of direct address through the screening was reprised in a curious way with the Q&A format. Often it seemed that members of the audience identified more or less strongly with the ‘speaker’ or the (usually uncaring) ‘listener’ that had appeared through the series of films. These discussions in each venue were sometimes unexpectedly challenging and offered surprises and exposures I did not anticipate. The screening experience was of a different temperature and rhythm every time, with points of tension, humour, pain and pleasure being pressed on with different audiences. Each screening event was a shared, live experience that brought a three-year-old artwork I’d made very much back into the present for me. Working on the programme with aemi has been a hugely enriching experience and I look forward to engaging with other artist-curated programmes in this way in future. Sarah Browne is an artist based in Dublin. Notes 1 Report to an Academy was one of three projects commissioned for 2016 by the UK-based curatorial project Manual Labours, established by Sophie Hope and Jenny Richards, with the brief to explore the thematic of ‘the complaining body’ in contemporary work. 2 The report that forms the structure of the film draws on my experience of working as a lecturer, but the experiences described in it are not limited to any one institution and they have not all been experienced by me directly. The reference to academics crossing picket lines of cleaning staff happened in UCD in the 1980s; the reference to educators being legally obligated to instil ‘fundamental British values’ and report ‘students at risk of radicalisation’ refers to the Prevent duty that forms part of the UK Counter Terrorism and Security Act (2015). 3 The Prevent policy was introduced in the UK in 2003 and became a legal duty for public sector institutions in 2015. Amnesty International explains: “Developed without a firm evidence base and rooted in a vague and expansive definition of ‘extremism’, Prevent has been widely criticised for fostering discrimination against people of Muslim faith or background, and chilling legitimate expression”. The policy is under independent review as of January 2019. See: open-letter-uks-prevent-counter-terrorism-strategy 4 See:

Saorise Wall, Sticky Encounter, 2016, 10 mins; video still courtesy of the artist. Featured as part of ‘To train the whole body as a tongue’, curated by Sarah Browne


Exhibitions & Screenings




cross boundaries into other disciplines: The artists involved are challenged with different aesthetic conventions and contexts for display; new audiences get to experience the work; artforms are broadened and stretched to accommodate fresh approaches; and new theoretical models are invented. With these intentions in mind, MExIndex founder Fifi Smith, instigated ‘Snapshots’ – a screening programme of visual artists’ films, curated this year by Marysia Więckiewicz-Carroll – which took place on 24 March as part of the Dingle International Film Festival. The opening film, Cracks (2018) by Megan Robinson, presents a dystopian scenario, involving a ruined building, set in a windblown meadow, which is occupied by a distracted, fervent woman. The woman tries to repair this broken shelter by filling in gaping fissures with white paint, as a tense soundscape builds apprehension and unease. The hovering camera circles the protagonist like an insect. The futile yet compelling task of trying to conceal the devastations of time becomes an allegory for the practice of whitewashing public and private histories. Yoga for the Eyes (2018) is a collaborative work by Cóilín O’Connell, Michelle Doyle and Eva Richardson McCrea. As outlined in the press release, the film promises to “awaken you to a whole new paradigm of health, wealth, happiness.” It appropriates the credo and aesthetics of New Age movements, which draw on elements of Eastern philosophy, holism and environmentalism. The film assembles archival footage of festivals, documentation of animate objects associated with Celtic mysticism and footage of a yogi performing her asanas. The myriad of digital effects and processes creates a hypnotic atmosphere. My own piece, Buttered Up (2017), was also screened and I was pleased to hear muted giggles of surprise from the audience. They responded with amusement to my on-screen performance, in which I deliberately butter the crevices of a plush sofa, before diving into it, disappearing into an ‘underworld of domesticity’. I emerge again some moments later out of the kitchen sink, covered in butter. Exploring themes of displacement and transformation within the domestic frame, I consciously used humour to facilitate a wide appeal, for art and cinema audiences. As an established performance artist, who has often worked with video as a mode of documentation, in recent years I have explored making performance films as autonomous artworks. Vera McEvoy’s Shine (2012) is a meditation on image and form. A series of elegant black and white architectural structures and silhouettes unfold as a great building is revealed. Shine is an intimate portrayal of King House, Boyle, and McEvoy’s often-motionless camera elegantly records its spaces, details and ambience. The artist’s love of the place is evident as she conveys her “knowledge that shadows fall one way in one season; that the attic creaks as the sun rises or sets”. At one point, a shadowy figure emerges

playing a solemn classical piano piece and we are subtly made aware of the intimate daily routines of the building’s human occupants. Several films focus on dance, movement and the body. Elena Horgan’s Skin Hunger (2018) depicts a series of extreme close-ups, focusing on various freckled, hairy and wrinkled epidermises. These morph into the sculptural image of a group of bodies stretching urgently into a vast tensile skin. Equally seductive and repulsive, haptic sensations are aroused and the primal craving for physical human touch is laid bare. This desire for physical human contact is known as ‘skin hunger’. The film offers a poignant eulogy to this basic need, in a world where human interactions are increasingly becoming disembodied, through the use of technology. Owen Boss’s Falling Out of Standing by (2016) emerged out of a collaboration between CoisCéim Dance Theatre and ANU Productions (of which Boss is Co-Artistic Director), with the intention of cross-pollinating visual art, theatre and dance. A live immersive performance, These Rooms, thrust audiences into the traumatic events of the 1916 Rising and its violent impact on civilians in their homes. From this project, Boss developed his film in which a roving camera navigates a maze of rooms that gradually become more dilapidated and haunted by the rising sounds of urgent voices. Evoking the historical narrative by using an original site, a growing sense of disquiet builds, while the confounding labyrinthine chambers create an evolving metaphor. The final film, Patrick Corcoran’s 4DTI (2017), was made using a combination of stop motion and hand-drawn animation and deals with themes of childhood, memory, loss and the ‘presence of absence’. A narrative runs throughout, but is masked with symbolism, archetypes and ritual. A toy bear symbolises a bereaved animal, with the enactment of its death and burial forming the central action. In a strangely convincing psychoanalytic turn, a miniature 4DTI car is hammered to pieces; we imagine the (offscreen) performer as a bewildered child, coming to terms with death, grief and anger. ‘Snapshots’ occupied a busy slot in the weeklong festival. The screening programme enjoyed a full audience, who appeared thoroughly engaged with the broad range of filmic forms and styles, offering a panorama of current artists moving image works in Ireland. Overall, the programme recognised the potential for visual artists working with moving image to expand the contexts for their work, whilst also affording cinema-going audiences the chance to encounter experimental videos and films that push the limits of convention, form and content. Áine Phillips is an artist based in County Galway. ‘Snapshots’ will be screened again at An Táin Arts Centre, Dundalk, on Culture Night (20 September).


Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Organisations & Resources



Digital Arts Studios

The Darkroom



DIGITAL ARTS STUDIOS (DAS) is a charity operating a shared studio space in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. DAS emerged out of a desire to support and encourage artists working with digital technologies. We value and promote the convergence of art and technology, and like those disciplines, we are constantly evolving. The ‘Digital Studios’ initially commenced in 2003 as a project by Queen Street Studios. Beginning with an essential range of equipment (including Sony Walkmans, which we still have!), the studio was set up to provide artists with access to computers, software (such as Final Cut Pro) and equipment hire. The studio ran a programme of workshops and offered one-to-one training. Activity and demand grew, until the Digital Arts Studios was established as its own company in 2008. Since 2008, DAS has occupied premises in Queen Street and Hill Street. In June 2018, we moved to Cathedral Buildings on Donegall Street. Over the last 16 years, DAS has hosted 180 artists from all over the world. The residency programme has been diligently co-ordinated by visual artist Catherine Devlin, since she took up her post with DAS in 2012. Catherine works with each artist to help them realise their ambitions during their four-month residency, providing technical support, access to equipment and endless coffee! DAS has predominantly been involved with artists’ digital moving image since 2003. Visual artists aren’t necessarily taught film-production techniques as part of a fine art course, but as with any medium, there is the understanding that artists will self-teach. This can be tricky, when access to equipment and technical assistance are limited. We endeavour to support as many artists’ films as possible, most recently, Niamh McCann’s new films for her solo exhibition, ‘Furtive Tears’, at Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane, and Raymond Watson’s Grappling Hook, which was produced in collaboration with the Creative Workers Co-Op, to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. We have also had the pleasure of hosting some exceptional international filmmakers, such as Melissa Hacker (USA), DAS resident in 2017, who worked on several projects, including a new film made in the historic synagogue in Annesley Street. Her documentary My Knees Were Jumping; Remembering the Kindertransports was short-listed for an Academy Award and had its Belfast premiere during her residency. A useful archive of past artists-in-residence is available on the DAS website. The DAS International Residency also fosters valuable collaborations with other arts organisations. The Golden Thread Gallery and Ulster University have kindly hosted many talks by international residents, while galleries like PS2, Platform Arts, Catalyst Arts and Pollen Studios have hosted exhibitions. These generous collaborators offer essential opportunities to showcase the work being produced in DAS. Despite not having our own gallery space, we have facilitated

three exhibitions a year. In the future, we hope to programme a larger-scale, independently curated annual exhibition. Our inaugural Annual Review took place this year in the Golden Thread Gallery, and was selected by Simon Poulter (Director of Collusion, Cambridge) and Daria Yelonek (Co-founder of Above&Below). In addition, our new Future Labs programme, funded by Belfast City Council, focuses on providing access to emerging technologies, such as AI, VR, projection mapping and 3D modelling, allowing artists to develop new skills and generate innovative work. With access to dissemination and training opportunities, it is possible to do the residency more than once. Nicky Larkin has worked with DAS many times over the years. Speaking of his first visit in 2014, Larkin states that the residency “came at a perfect time, as I was about to start editing a feature-length documentary I’d shot over the previous two years, involving a bewildering array of different cameras, codecs, cards and cables. Time and again, I was saved by [DAS’s technical officer] Jenny Atcheson… The 24-hour studio access allowed for antisocial vampires like me to continue staring at screens until the “wee” hours. The documentary I was editing was eventually screened in the Strand Cinema, as part of the DAS programme at the 2015 Belfast Film Festival.” In 2017, Larkin returned to DAS to edit a music video, when his “battered computer [was] unable to cope with the HD footage”. Funding from NI Screen helped Larkin make Becoming Cherrie – a documentary about HIV in Northern Ireland, which told the story of his friend, Matthew Cavan (AKA drag artist, Cherrie Ontop). Larkin again used DAS’ resources to finish the film, with fellow DAS resident, Terry Grew, helping with sound supervision, “making sure it stood up straight when blasted out in a cinema setting.” Becoming Cherrie has since been screened at multiple Irish and international film festivals, including the Contemporary Irish Arts Centre Los Angeles, and in London, as part of NI Screen’s BAFTA showcase. As a result of the film, Larkin was commissioned to direct a BBC NI True North documentary about HIV in Northern Ireland, which will be broadcast on World AIDS Day 2019. With further funding from NI Screen, his next documentary will focus on the Northern Irish stand-up, Terry McHugh. Larkin will shoot with the same DAS team in October. “It’s fair to say that DAS has had a major impact on my life and work, with the top-of-the-range facilities, but mostly, through the people I’ve met… My only issue is that recently I’ve caught myself using “wee” as an adjective. I think I’ve been here too long…”

Angela Halliday has been DAS Manager since 2011.

Photoshoot with Bob Gallagher (artist-in-residence), February 2019, featuring Dan Fitzpatrick, Stephen Tiernan and Diolmhain Ingram Roche; photograph by Mella Travers

MOVING BACK TO Dublin in 1998, I start-

ed lecturing on photography and film-making courses at Dublin Institute of Technology and Griffith College. From there, I went on to shoot for prestigious fashion publications, as well as shooting commercial campaigns for select labels and outlets. For personal reasons, I later decided to move away from the commercial side of photography, to concentrate on my own artistic practice, which led me to Block T, where I began renting a studio space in 2010. I owned a lot of photographic darkroom equipment and wanted to set up a darkroom with public access, as such facilities were quickly disappearing across Dublin. I also needed to create one so that I could work on my own experimental photographic work. I approached Block T with a proposal to create such a space within their building. They were enthusiastic and after some discussion about logistics and costs, The Darkroom was built. The team at Block T were very supportive throughout the process, helping to set up and promote the space. From this, we launched our exhibition programme, which allowed anyone who participated in our photography courses or used the darkroom to develop film and prints, to show work with us. These exhibitions often involved a mix of artists, photographers and photography enthusiasts. While at Block T, I met artist Aubrey Robison, who built The Darkroom’s first website and began teaching digital photography. Experimental filmmaker, Michael Higgins also came on board to teach Super 8, after being supported by us to process his 16mm art film. Artist Darn Thorn was instrumental in enabling us to expand our services and our teaching programme. In addition, street photographer, Esther Morley, and James Lillis (a night-time photographer) later joined the team as tutors. With this new team, we set up our website and expanded our programme of training courses. The Darkroom held its first launch in Block T, where their team were on hand and were very supportive throughout all the new changes. The Darkroom continued to have its annual exhibitions there, however in 2016, Block T was sadly forced to vacate their building. Darragh Sinnott supported The Darkroom in its move to our cur-

rent location in Stoneybatter. This new space is purposely fitted with two darkrooms: one large darkroom contains eight enlargers for courses and bookings; while the second space is an artist studio/darkroom space, which has been occupied for the last three years by artist Louis Haugh, who teaches alternative photographic techniques, as well as digital processing. There is a large photographic studio/gallery space, which offers an extensive range of camera and lighting equipment and the ability to print up to seven-feet silver prints. In July 2018, The Darkroom formally became a not-for- profit Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG). We extended our artist programme to run three artist residencies, comprising a graduate award, an emerging artist award and a residency for artists wishing to use photography within their practice. Each resident artist receives 24-hour access to all our equipment, tuition and weekly meetings. All residencies culminate in an exhibition, which I curate in conjunction with the artist. Our programme supports exhibitions from both international artists living in Ireland and Irish artists. We also host exhibitions by students and artists on Culture Night and run a programme of exhibitions to coincide with PhotoIreland Festival each summer. Our mission is to foster a community of artists who use photography and wider lensbased media through mentorship, a subsidised workspace, technical expertise and public engagement opportunities. We also engage with artists through residencies, group critiques, presentations and film screenings, as well as classes, workshops, tailored mentoring and memberships. Our current workspace is the culmination of nine years dedication, which has seen us work with artists at all levels, as well as engaging with the public through artistic practice. The ethos of The Darkroom has always been founded on open access, social inclusivity and creating a nurturing, encouraging and creative environment. Through these endeavours, we aim to keep the art of analogue photography alive and firmly on the map. Mella Travers is an artist and founding director of The Darkroom.

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019




national centre for contemporary photography. We are proud to have been at the core of a dynamic and thriving artform for over forty years. The gallery was established by John Osman in 1978 and was originally located on Wellington Quay in the city centre. Its aim was to present the best of Irish and international fine art and documentary photography to Irish audiences, while encouraging critical debate through its programme of talks, masterclasses and training courses. In 1996 the gallery moved to a new purpose-built space, designed by O’Donnell Tuomey, in Temple Bar. The building, though modest in scale, had much improved gallery space and could now provide essential production facilities for artists. Since then the gallery has become a popular cultural attraction, with over 80,000 visitors a year. It’s a great time for Irish photography and we have exciting, ambitious plans for the future. We are just back from Rencontres Arles, the world’s largest and most important photography festival, which attracts top international photographers, gallerists, collectors and curators. The interest in Irish artists has been increasingly evident at the festival in recent years – Eamonn Doyle’s exhibition, ‘END’, was the highlight in 2016. This year the festival features work by Anthony Haughey, Frankie Quinn and Tom Wood. The shortlist for the Prix Pictet – one of the top prizes in the international arts sector – was announced at the festival. Ivor Prickett is shortlisted for this cycle of the prize, while Richard Mosse was the overall winner of the last cycle. All of these artists have been previously exhibited by us. We spoke with numerous collectors and curators who were really interested in the work we do at Gallery of Photography Ireland to gain international recognition for Irish artists. Almost without exception, we’ve exhibited the leading names in Irish and international photography, while consistently demonstrating that the work of Irish artists can stand alongside the best of international practice. Of central importance to us is the vital role we play in supporting artists in the development of their work. As an artist-focussed organisation, the gallery invests one third of its resources in the provision of subsidised artists’ digital and darkroom studios. This helps to support Irish artists in the production and promotion of their work, by initiating major commission projects and touring exhibitions, publishing and supporting photo books, as well as providing a platform for critical debate and engagement with audiences. We fundamentally believe that artists should be paid for their work and have committed to paying fees to artists in line with VAI’s guidelines. We never take funds for our programme from artists. We are currently working on two major goals: going public with our permanent National Photography Collection; and securing a larger, museum-standard home for contemporary photography. The National Photography Collection of Ireland is supported by leading Irish photo-

graphic artists who have generously agreed to contribute to an artist-led print collection. The gallery has been working with a panel of advisors that include prominent academic Dr Luke Gibbons and the internationally respected photography critic Sean O’Hagan. The collection will build on our specialist knowledge and curatorial expertise to promote awareness of the canon of Irish photography. Our eventual goal is to house artists’ estate collections, preserving their work for future generations. This comprehensive national collection will be formally launched in autumn 2019. It has been made possible by a philanthropic donation by Cormac O’Malley, in honour of his mother, photographer Helen Hooker O’Malley. Thanks to the unstinting support of the community of Irish photographic artists, and to the generosity of visionary benefactors such as O’Malley, this new collection significantly advances our progress in realising our vision. It is an important step towards celebrating the role photography plays in enriching the lives of people in Ireland, increasing the enjoyment and engagement with great art, as well as reflecting the most important social and political issues of our time. Since 2016 we have publicly articulated our intention to seek a new location for our organisation and develop into Ireland’s permanent Museum for Contemporary Photography, on a par with international institutions, such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, New York’s International Centre for Photography, FOAM Fotographiemuseum in Amsterdam or Stockholm’s Fotografiska, which also has three other locations internationally. Over the past four years, we have been actively exploring development possibilities with key funders and planners. This is no easy task, as the establishment of a museum demands the highest standards in terms of governance, museum-grade exhibition spaces, appropriate funding and the establishment of a collection. To achieve our goal of establishing a permanent Museum of Contemporary Photography, we are undergoing significant organisational growth. We have recently published an ambitious three-year strategy, which articulates our plans and lays out a definite road map to become Ireland’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. Relocation to a new larger museum-standard space will provide us with the opportunity to finally host major large-scale exhibitions and develop ambitious curatorial projects. It will also incorporate new digital engagement spaces, to attract more diverse audiences through award-winning projects such as our digital archive, ‘Photo Album of the Irish’, which explores social and cultural histories through the genuinely democratic perspective of vernacular photography. Tanya Kiang and Trish Lambe are CoDirectors of the Gallery of Photography Ireland.


Critical Discourse

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Left: Eoin O’Conaill, O’Connell Street, Limerick, 2009, lambda photographic print from the series ‘Common Place’. Top Right: Simon Burch, Area Thirteen 01, 2009, c-type print from the series ‘Under a Grey Sky’. Bottom Right: Linda Brownlee, Rebecca & Sinead, 2010, from the series ‘Achill’. All images © and courtesy of the artists.


THE PRESENTATION OF ‘New Irish Works 2019’ at the Museum of Contemporary Photography – a pop-up space located in Dublin Castle, as part of this year’s PhotoIreland Festival – provides a brief snapshot of the variegated practices of contemporary Irish photography. The diverse projects exhibited in ‘New Irish Works’ range from the personal and the political, to the investigative, formal and conceptual. Phelim Hoey’s ‘La Machine’, for example, explores his diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis through diaries, sculptural forms and motion studies that reference the anatomising and visual abstraction of technology, modernism and the body in the work of the French scientist and photographer, Étienne-Jules Marey. Dorje de Burgh’s ‘Dream the End’ – a work of mourning, loss, and memory – interrogates his own familial archive as a sort of imaginative, open-ended and unresolved link between the past and the present. Rósín White draws on found photographs and archival materials to explore the legacy of psychiatry through Silas Weir Mitchell’s late nineteenth-century ‘Rest Cure’ therapy, as a treatment for hysteria and nervous illnesses in women; while Sarah Flynn’s ‘Uinse’ combines still life, landscape images and detailed studies of human hands to explore nature-society dualism, through the fungal disease affecting Ash tree forestation in Ireland. The range and scope of projects in this timely survey also reflect the transnationalism of Irish photography, both in terms of photographers living and working in the UK and Europe, and Irish photographers pursuing projects that resonate outside of the island of Ireland. Zoe Hamill’s ‘A Map Without Words’, draws together still life images of archaeological objects, portraits and photographs of specific locations to investigate her homeland and the place where she now finds herself located, in a series exploring the psychic relations between image and place that resonates with Victorian folklore and antiquity. Aisling McCoy’s series, ‘and live the space of a door’, explores the historical and political legacy of Berlin’s former Tempelhof airport, now repurposed as a refugee shelter through its banal spatial and architectural configurations; while Robert Ellis’s ongoing project, ‘Proverbs’, focuses on the people and landscapes of the former British protectorate of Uganda. As a microcosm of contemporary Irish photography, ‘New Irish Works’ evidences a broad spectrum of investigative and conceptual strategies, forms of display and technical inscriptions of photography as a medium and form of representation. The identification of an overarching theme, subject, aesthetic or visual strategy is thus difficult to discern. However, McCoy’s and Ellis’s works both gesture toward the centrality of place, belonging and the everyday bodily interactions with natural and built environments, which has featured prominently in Irish photography for the last decade. This turn to ‘place’ is not something that should be taken frivolously. Place is not simply about fixed geographic location, or the abstract contours of physical spaces; it is also about the material environments of social relations, amongst and between individuals and communities. For the last decade, much of Irish photography has not so much focused on the representation

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

or the objective appearance of physical locations, but on conveying subjective interactions and attachments to place. It has focused on transmitting the quotidian bodily interactions with and within emotionally, culturally and socially resonate places. The concern with place in distinction to space in recent Irish photography, and the routine interactions of communities within everyday environments, has marked a social and ideological shift – particularly within prominent work made during the two decades either side of the millennium. In what might be termed the ‘topographical turn’ of Celtic Tiger and post Celtic-Tiger Irish photography, the emphasis became the spatial reconfiguration of urban and suburban Irish landscapes. In series such as Dara McGrath’s ‘By the Way’ (2003) and Martin Cregg’s ‘Midlands’ (2009), the boom-era landscapes of speculative property developments and partially-built ghost estates (the most immediate material ruins of financial collapse) refracted back to the viewer the accelerated transformation of the Celtic Tiger period, through its visible spatial forms. In this work – and that of numerous other photographers of this period – the transformation of Ireland through global capitalism was measured in the spatial transformation of cities and towns as degrees of what Marc Augé defined as ‘non-places’. Emphasising the rectilinear forms and muted hues of the newly-built environments of business and retail parks, motorways and housing estates, the detached topographical gaze of photography from this period depicted the emerging boom-time landscapes as a peopleless spaces. Devoid of human presence, configurations of the Irish landscape through property development were represented as hollowed out, indistinct, transient spaces. They forged a perception that emphasised the inauthenticity and anonymity of social relations with what the phenomenological geographer, Edward Relph, described in the late 1970s as ‘placelessness’ – the distinctive eradication and standardisation of landscapes. Amid the global financial collapse of 2008, projects such as Simon Burch’s ‘Under a Grey Sky’, Eoin O’Connaill’s ‘Common Place’ and Jakie Nickerson’s ‘Ten Miles Round’ emerged, which demonstrated a shift in Irish photography from the ‘absence of presence’ to the ‘presence of absence’. Empty landscapes, devoid of people, were a consistent aspect to this work; however, these landscapes were portrayed as imbued with the signs of human presence, marked in the traces of everyday use of landscapes, temporarily suspended in anticipation of the return of human interactions with

Critical Discourse built or natural environments. These photographs were also accompanied by portraits – some formal in spaces seemingly distinct from the landscapes, others more informal in their depiction of individuals or groups, either in domestic settings or interacting with the everyday social landscapes depicted in the photographs. Burch’s series, ‘Under a Grey Sky’, for example, focused on the hinterlands of industrial peat harvesting. Photographs of the sometimes dark, brooding peat-scape are accompanied by a series of portraits taken mostly in workspaces or domestic interiors. There is no formal regularity to Burch’s portraits. Some are positioned directly in the centre of the frame, while other subjects are decentred from their domestic environments, shown with pensive expressions. Mandy O’Neill’s 2016 project, ‘Promise’, uses a similar approach. O’Neill carried out ‘Promise’ during a four-year period in Gaelscoil Bharra, in Dublin’s northside, as the school waited for its dilapidated pre-fabs to be replaced by a purpose-built new building. The project combines photographs of the school’s eroding interiors and temporary facades with portraits of schoolchildren. However, unlike Burch’s portraits, O’Neill’s photographs of the pupils have a regularity in the formal organisation of the pictorial space of the portrait, with the subject’s bodies positioned in front of a neutral background – the only exception being the portrait of a young female student in a conformation outfit. As with Burch’s project, O’Neill’s portraits seemingly detach the subjects from the environments that are the focus of the project. However, this strategy avoids place becoming a mere backdrop to the portraits, a sort of scenography against which the body is represented. Instead, the combination of portraits and empty environments – around Irish bog lands, in the case of Burch, or the decrepit, temporary architecture of school buildings documented by O’Neill – requires the viewer to work harder, to look deeper into the relationship between subject and place. This combination of environmental photographs and portraits works contrapuntally – as independent but related counterpoints to one another – asserting the relations of bodies and the sense of place projected in these artworks. An alternative approach is evident in Linda Brownlee’s 2010 photographic series, ‘Achill’. Brownlee had a long childhood association with Achill Island. For the series, she worked with adolescents on the island, to identify their favourite places and how they wished to be represented in the

Dara McGrath, N25 Douglas, 2003, from the series ‘By The Way’; image © Dara McGrath, courtesy the artist

landscape. In addition to photographs of the Achill landscape, Brownlee photographed subjects from a variety of perspectives that yoke between intimate formal portraits – in which the subjects dominate the pictorial space of the photograph – to images in which the young people are enveloped by the natural environment, or appear as diminutive bodies amidst the vast expanse of horizon that stretches into the distance. Bodily deportment is a significant aspect of Brownlee’s photographs; sometimes all that is visible is the back of someone’s head or a mop of hair blowing in the wind. In other images, the subjects look towards the horizon that is visible to the viewer, or they gaze out to the unseen landscape, beyond the pictorial frame of the photograph. The oscillation between forms of portraiture and bodily poses in the landscape, envision the dynamic relations between body and place; it projects a sense of the landscape, not as a mere backdrop to the formation of adolescent identity, but as a way of showing how their identity is given expression in and through place. The continuation of the attention to place in Irish photography – as a dynamic arena of social interaction imbued with presence that shapes everyday identity and experience – is not only evident in recent projects, such as those exhibited in ‘New Irish Works’, but also in more subtle projects, such as Gerry Blake’s ‘Into the Sea’ on the bathing spots along the south Dublin coast, and more politically salient projects, such as Kate Nolan’s ‘Lacuna’ on the border town of Pettigo, County Donegal. As with the aforementioned projects, the concern is not the representation of geographic locations or discrete places, but the social interactions and everyday bodily relations that make place meaningful. All of these projects have involved long-term negotiations and relationships with communities and environments, to envision the deep, subjective entanglements between people and place. They require a more considered analysis on the part of the viewer, to allow the unfolding dynamics of body and place to emerge. This, in turn, reveals how photography can imaginatively envision emotional attachments with the most ordinary commonplaces, in which communities go about everyday life. Justin Carville is a lecturer in Historical and Theoretical Studies in Photography at IADT Dún Laoghaire, where he is also Programme Chair of the BA (Hons.) Photography Programme.

Aisling McCoy, from the series ‘and live the space of a door’, 2019; image © Aisling McCoy, courtesy of the artist and PhotoIreland Foundation



Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Critical Discourse



Source: Approaching the 100th Issue

The Second Shift




published in 1992. It was one of the activities of Photo Works North, a photography organisation set up by a group of predominately Belfast-based photographers, who were frustrated with the lack of opportunities and interest in photography in Ireland. Their wider aims included having a gallery and production facilities. Selling photographs through a lottery raised the organisation’s initial funding. Most notable was a set of self-portraits, passport booth photographs by Lee Friedlander. Funding was later secured from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1993, the Arts Council of Ireland in 1998 and Belfast City Council from 2001. As things developed, activities increasingly focused on the production of Source. I became aware of the organisation as a student studying photography, having been asked to contribute a set of slides of my work for a planned archive of Irish photography (which was fulfilled much later, as part of the Source website). Returning to Belfast after graduating, I became more actively involved in the publication, working with photographers Jim Maginn, Peter Neill, Patrick McCoy and Nicholas Allen. Paul Seawright was the editor of the first two issues and had left Belfast to lecture in Wales. The editorial meetings were in Jim’s kitchen and Peter managed to do the design by using a computer at work. After the purchase of our own computer, I was charged with locating premises and setting up an office (with duties including the procurement of second-hand furniture). The chosen location of Botanic Avenue was conveniently near my paid job at the local photo lab, Quik-Snaps. Next was an induction into the world of funding applications, which involved Dadaist-style techniques of printing out text, cutting it up, and sticking it onto application forms for photocopying and hand-delivery to funders. Meeting people handing in forms at Arts Council HQ sometimes seemed like the only contact we had with others in the arts sector. Phone, fax and the post were about as connected as it got, pre-internet. Making contact with the world of photography was a challenge. Getting on press mailing lists for the handful of photography galleries in the UK, and the Gallery of Photography in Dublin, was a first step. I was able to utilise contacts I had made while studying in Newport and Glasgow School of Art, including photographers like Jonathan Olley and writers like Ray McKenzie. I wanted to point to the wider world of photography, while drawing attention to those closer to hand. Early issues included work by people like Frankie Quinn, Abigail O’Brien, Clare Langan and Peter Richards. Reviews covered a spectrum, from Bernd and Hilla Becher, to Jo Spence and Tom Stoddart. Equally challenging was getting the publication out to readers, often involving delivering magazines from the back of a car to camera shops and venues. Distribution to Dublin involved requisitioning a shopping trol-

ley, to get boxes from the train to the GPO on O’Connell Street. The core components of the magazine, portfolios, reviews and feature articles have been in place since those early issues, with the quantity and quality of writing increasing over the years. Self-published book reviews, specialist columns and more ambitious feature articles have been added along the way, along with more tightly themed issues. We have covered everything from the RUC Police Archives, to the history of paparazzi photography. Discussing work directly with photographers has been a constant activity since 1998, at various venues across the UK and Ireland. In twenty years, only one person has walked out during a discussion of their work. As a photographer myself, I hope I bring a level of understanding to the table, along with my experience as an editor. Source’s early recruitment was organic. In 1997 my now co-editor, Richard West, spotted a note from Source on the notice board at Queens University, offering work experience for students. A stint of archiving and a trial review quickly led to a role (at the time voluntary) on the editorial team. A new designer, Keith Connolly, was also recruited. The terms were an office space and computer access in return for design work. This coincided with Lottery Funding that allowed for a major redesign and the ability to print in full colour (images had been mostly black and white, up until our 1998 winter issue). Pivotal external developments included the 2001 demise of the long-running UK magazine, Creative Camera. This opened up a space in Britain for Source, both in terms of expanding our review coverage and reaching more readers and advertisers. Over the years we have also increasingly been able to commission writers who have in-depth knowledge of photographic culture. We have published the work of photographers, ranging from recent graduates to Turner Prize winners. We have also particularly enjoyed discovering the work of independent photographers working outside the mainstream. Arriving at a portfolio day, Robin Dale laid out his medium format transparencies on a lightbox and got me to listen on headphones to accompanying sound recordings, using a silver stopwatch to prompt the slide I should look at. It remains a gold standard for those from the leftfield we hope to discover. Trying to keep what we do interesting for our readers and ourselves has led to three major overhauls of design and reevaluations of ideas since 1998. The most recent, which took place in December 2018, is signposted by our new strap line: “Thinking Through Photography”. The new design is in some ways a return to the rawness and immediacy of the publication’s early years. As we approach our 100th issue, trying to discover what the field of photographic culture might be is still the adventure it was in 1994. John Duncan is a photographer and coeditor of Source Magazine.

“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition. The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day” – Simone de Beauvoir1 MY CURRENT PHOTOGRAPHIC research, titled The Second Shift, focuses on the hidden labour of housework and childcare, primarily carried out by women on top of their paid employment. I use photography and video to examine and respond to the ideas and practices of home which constitute the second shift. It is physical, mental and emotional labour which demands effort, skill and time, but is unpaid, unaccounted for, unequally distributed and largely unrecognised. Performing two daily shifts (one during ‘leisure’ hours) is the experience for the majority of working women. It also implies a hierarchy: that some people’s time matters more than others. I probe the changed and potentially more fraught relationship with home that accompanies the transition to motherhood which tends to remain after the return to paid work outside the home. Hidden in plain sight and veiled by familiarity and insignificance, the second shift is largely absent from photographs of home and family. The Second Shift is an attempt to recognise the complexity and value of this invisible work. It is a call for resistance to the capitalist, patriarchal and aesthetic systems which ignore it. I am a full-time lecturer, part-time researcher and mother, with two teenage sons. I started researching home in the late 2000s, as the exhaustion and delirium of mothering babies and toddlers gave way to bewilderment and frustration at the gendering of my time and opportunities in ways I had not been prepared for. In my mixed-gender state school, girls went on to study engineering, medicine and law in the same proportions as the boys. Thinking the feminist battle had been won in the 1970s, we set out with expectations of equality. Where did all the promises of parity go? Of shared parenting? If we had still managed to retain the belief in gender equality in the workforce, parenthood rapidly revealed this to be an illusion. I made a previous body of photographs, Domestic Drift, when my children were small and I was utterly frazzled by the seemingly relentless demands of motherhood, the job and housework. Wishing for things to be easier, neater, sunnier, more appealing – actually, just done – left me struggling to reconcile my everyday life with my expectations of happy family snaps, beautiful homes and Kodak moments. I felt like me, my home, my family didn’t measure up. The work became anchored in the home, in this claustrophobic, often strained and busy setting. I felt that I needed home to be clean, tidy and pleasing to be experienced properly. The fabled leisure hours, when it was all finished, would be the appropriate point at which to take it in, with all signs of mess and effort gone. However, the idea of home being the refuge from work – the place you put your feet up and crack open a cold beer – was laughable. The ordinary state certainly

didn’t seem to deserve recording for posterity. By avoiding looking at home and family as a ‘workin-progress’, I realised that I wasn’t really seeing much of it at all – neither the dirty washing and mischievous children, nor the kind gestures and playful constructions. To confront this tension between expectations and reality, I started photographing exactly what was in front of me, in order to see it clearly and begin to appreciate it more fully, with equanimity rather than dissatisfaction. I began to face the impossibility of getting everything done, focusing instead on the non-moments, the difficult bits, the things that either barely registered amidst the busyness or were distinctly unappealing. Using a medium format film camera with a waist-level viewfinder, I photographed things the children had left – curls of masking tape stuck on a chair after some project; toy knights invading the dishwasher; a bunch of dandelions in a tissue as an apology. I took pictures of the processes of home – debris from meals and the endless laundry. I discovered the in-between moments that revealed something of the ambiguity and ephemerality of family life. I found photography effective at revealing what was right in front of me, that I was oblivious to, in the rush to get it all done. Domestic Drift seemed to resonate with other working mothers and struck a particularly poignant chord with those whose children were grown up. Many felt that it was the ordinary moments that they recognised the most. Yet it was also these which had vanished undocumented, in the scramble of daily life. Many were angry and the same issues came up repeatedly: the substantial hidden work they did, the ingenuity they employed, the lack of acknowledgment and the pressure they felt to maintain standards in both their professional and family lives. They asked the same questions too: How might we resist the expectations that the second shift is women’s responsibility? How can we reconcile the work that we put into keeping things looking the same, with the beliefs we hold about progress? How do we point at all of this daily expenditure of time, thought and effort and say: “herein lies value”? Allen and Crow point out that “home, what it is, what it means, and how it is experienced, does not just happen”. The Second Shift therefore considers the omission of women’s domestic labour from the picture of home. Instead of hearing meaningless background noise, it finds rich significance in it. It aims to make visible what has been considered invisible – or unseeable. Clare Gallagher is lecturer in photography at Belfast School of Art, Ulster University. Her book The Second Shift will be published this year.

Notes 1 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949

The Visual Artists' News Sheet

Critique Edition 45: September – October 2019

Darren Nixon, Dislocate, 2019, off-site project for CCA Derry~Londonderry as part of ‘Fast Slow Fast’ (8 June – 10 August); photograph courtesy of the artist and CCA


Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

‘FIX’ Hang Tough Gallery, Dublin 20 July – 3 August 2019

‘Fast Slow Fast’ CCA Derry~Londonderry 8 June – 10 August 2019

Johnny Savage, Verge, 2019; courtesy of artist and Hang Tough Gallery

AN EXHIBITION IS the considered placement and grouping of things that talk to each other about, around or alongside certain philosophical and/or conceptual concerns; it is a gathering and expression of ideas or thematic inquiries underlying visual conceits. The exhibition press release can provide a summary of, or guide to, such activity. The conceptual framework for ‘FIX’ was to exhibit photographic work by five artists, that has strayed or become ‘un-fixed’ from the self-defined constraints usually found within their individual practices. The exhibition press release acknowledges the artists’ diverging creative perspectives, while proposing “a common thread of identity and location”.1 Given that everything has to be located somewhere, ‘location’ is a rather broad area of interest, particularly with regards to photography – a medium that freezes and preserves location, while documenting all the stuff that’s contained within it. However, the exhibition text then ‘un-fixes’ this tentative conceptual framework by going on to state that: “Place becomes unimportant, as a collective atmosphere takes hold that blurs the lines of real and imagined…” This evasion makes critically evaluating the show as a cohesive entity very difficult. Visually or philosophically, I did not feel these works to be in communication with one another, and the press release only served to highlight this. That’s perhaps part of the reason why Ciarán Óg Arnold – with both the greatest volume of images (numbering in the twenties) and the least volunteering of information (every work was titled ‘Fever Dreams’) – was the most successful. His work was presented slightly apart from the other groupings, in a back part of the gallery that leads into a workspace. Arguably, this released the viewer from trying to force connections where there weren’t any, with Óg Arnold’s work being physically, conceptually and philosophically distinguished. An artist of compelling vision, he so effectively built a world of composites (hectic, hellish and halcyon glimpses of boobs, scars, flowers, toilet cisterns and wornout mod-cons) that it allowed the viewer to temporarily exit the realm the rest of the works were affixed to. The six works by the exhibition’s curator, Johnny Savage, were also blithely and ruthlessly successful in doing the lion’s share of the show’s atmospheric heavy lifting. Savage’s photograph-

ic prints – such as N7, Grave and Window – were literal illustrations of their respective titles. These images convey a people-less, post-location diminishment – something American writer, Maggie Nelson, might describe as the “fundamental impermanence of all things”.2 The photographs depict an existentially jaded and faded world, one beleaguered by the labour of manifestation (both as earth and as image), the continuing struggle of subsistence having “bleached out their blues”.3 There was a horse in one image – but it felt like the last horse on earth, as if some kind of dystopian zombie-bot had documented its faded glory, using a camera made of repurposed human eyes. Cáit Fahey presented a pleasant and subdued palette of flowers, interiors and building edges. The work, Kind Graffiti – which shows finger markings traced across the surface of an anonymous structure – offered a particularly satisfying gentleness. The quandary of presenting commercial-style photography in contemporary art contexts – and how to critically assess works that are perhaps themselves not invested in criticality – was most prominent when viewing the works of both Rich Gilligan and Megan Doherty, artists who, one hazards, could, or do, produce professionally and highly effectively for streetwear labels or youth-orientated commercial outlets. These were serviceable, modern images of urban scenes and the young people inhabiting them; but they did not appear bound to contemporary art discourse. However, one of Doherty’s images, titled Dissonance – which shows a young man sitting on a toilet lid seemingly getting his head examined – had a brutal delicacy, reminiscent of American photographer Nan Goldin’s unflinching depictions of intimacy. Mostly everything (though, fittingly, little of Óg Arnold) is available to view or buy online through Hang Tough’s website – a location where much of the work could’ve perhaps existed solely with a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

MY DAY-JOB IS punctuated by a variety of tasks, one of which is to create and circulate promotional images on displays. Source imagery arrives through inter-office email, mostly as custom-ratio JPEGs, PDFs, or on occasion – and most laborious of all – as PowerPoints. You might assume that this is mundane work; however, to someone with my interests, there is something profound about this cutting, pasting, alpha masking and exporting. The images become temporal objects, displaying evidence of their imperfections, rearrangements and cropping, but only remain for however long their promotions are relevant. When they are gone, so too is the time invested in them. ‘Fast Slow Fast’ at CCA takes work by Catriona Leahy, Darren Nixon and Joan Alexander, aspiring to a visual cipher for critical considerations of time, as exchanged and demarked by aesthetic gestures. The mainstay of Joan Alexander’s practice, as represented here, is the ‘Shadow Dial’ series. With drawing, photography and printmaking, Alexander captures changing light, cast upon surfaces by the movement of the sun. On the occasion of Midsummer, Alexander has produced Shadow Dial, a site-specific, spatial drawing that charts the casting of daylight through CCA’s windows, upon the floor, walls and the building’s facade. The rectangular imprints of light are outlined in white chalk, cumulatively connecting a faint lattice of past tenses. There is no singularly presented Shadow Dial; a similar methodology is documented repeatedly, in various wall-mounted prints all around the small space, with the live-work disruptively sprawled between them. The repetition isn’t the conceptual locus of the work, and it isn’t the charting of sunlight that marks the passing of time, but rather the ephemeral actions of the artist. Catriona Leahy’s body of work is inspired by a residency in Genk, a former coal-mining region in Belgium. Leahy excavates the region’s natural and built environments through modular printing and photography, repeatedly spreading large images across grids of modular parts. A counterpoint to Shadow Dial is the pronounced black of Leahy’s Rhizome, a large floor drawing that delicately maps the subterranean mines of Genk in coal dust. The instability and fragility of the medium represents not only the impermanence of coal as a resource, but of

coalmining as an industry, heightened in the context of climate change. The precarious materiality of the drawing symbolises fading identity: wear-and-tear has blurred lines and frayed edges here and there, presaging the eventual dissolution of the artwork. Rhizome critically mines notions of identity, as measured by fragile, time-limited materials and concepts. Dislocate is an off-site project by Darren Nixon, in a disused shop in Derry’s Richmond Centre. Nixon has a fluid, ambiguous practice operating in the ‘expanded-field’ of painting, which is to say, applying a painterly logic of permanent, highly individual gestures to a mixed-media practice. He works collaboratively with two dancers, Janie Doherty and Lydia Swift, in sequence over two weeks, choreographing movements amid projected backdrops and monochrome patterned objects. The movements are recorded, then cumulatively threaded through new performances as the work progresses. At the time of writing, Nixon was in the collaborative phase of the project but was working toward a final phase, when he will continue the work alone. If the premise of the work is to obfuscate responsibility, the decision to perform alone as the ‘future tense’ relents from this linear methodology, vacillating more provocatively than a well-laid plan. Dislocate thus suggests presence as an analogue to tense; agency as that to duration. The synonymic splicing of tense and authorship are an elegant metaphor for the conditioning of an artwork by its speculative exchanges. ‘Fast Slow Fast’ cumulatively graduates the artist’s presences: between Rhizome, Midsummer Shadow Dial, and Dislocate is an analogue to past, present, and future (respectively) in the circumstances of production. Returning to the promotional images I produce during my civilised hours, it could be argued that, for their intended audience, they are alienated, instantaneous things. Art has the capacity to invert this process of temporal estrangement, promoting value in the act of viewing… eventually.

Kevin Burns is an artist and writer based in Derry.

Lily Cahill is an artist and writer based in Dublin. She is a co-editor of Critical Bastards Magazine. Notes 1 ‘FIX’ press release (see 2 Maggie Nelson, Bluets ( Jonathan Cape: London, 2009). 3 Ibid.

Catriona Leahy, Rhizome, 2019, installation view; photograph by Paola Bernardelli, courtesy of CCA Derry~Londonderry

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

‘A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland’ Gallery of Photography / National Photographic Archive, Dublin 21 June – 1 September 2019 / 21 June – 2 November 2019

Helen Hooker O’Malley, Islanders watching the Regatta, Clare Island, Co. Mayo, 1938; image courtesy of Gallery of Photography Ireland and National Photographic Archive

‘A MODERN EYE: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland’ begins with a striking display of wanderlust, inquisitiveness and enviable means. An adventurous artist, born into a wealthy American family, Helen Hooker began her life-long habit of itinerant practice from a young age. Among the early shots, which document people in Mongolia, Japan, Korea and China, is the avant-garde painter Pavel Filonov, with whom she was training in Russia, taken in 1924, when she was in her early twenties. Amidst the artist’s trove of photographs – which she donated to the National Library of Ireland – the curation emphasises a salient connection with the modernist aesthetic. Spare, muscular aspects of rural and ancient Ireland are the dominant type, in a show which accommodates many other threads, of a more anecdotal nature. As a sculptor, these subjects seem to have attracted Hooker O’Malley. Fully aware of the acceptance of photography as a fine art discipline – she met the prominent modernist photographer, Paul Strand, in 1933 – the medium had an auxiliary role within her multidisciplinary practice. As a procedure for framing what is seen, it mediated her dynamic curiosity and urge to capture. Baldly preoccupied with their subjects, there is a connection between her photography of the late 1930s and the influence of the smartphone on contemporary experience. More than a precursor to reflection or display, the very process of establishing a shot augments perception with a new way of attending to phenomena. Fairy hills, carved bog lands, Neolithic tombs: these subjects themselves register sculptural qualities and are powerfully evocative of time. Hooker O’Malley saw in them – and in the wider horizon of the natural world – something transcendent and mystical. In her poem of 1975, Edward Weston, Photographer, she writes: “those who study reverently/ Observing nature, it marks them all, as creviced rocks by sea”. The first-floor atrium space of the Gallery of Photography features multiple large, blackand-white monoliths, stone walls and tiered, rolling land, flush together in repetitive, framed conjunctions. This prompts consideration of these subjects and their unquestioned value in relation to the visual language which is founded upon them. Alloyed to a modernist formalism, forceful, harmonious and uncluttered, the artist’s

apparent inspiration, found in land and ancient culture, yields a visual rhetoric of vigorous but elusive spirituality. This is somewhat alleviated where the pictures feature people. Even when teetering distantly on a precipitous shelf of cut bog, human forms defy an insistent suggestion of harmony with land, nature or milieu. Blowing up the discordance are a series of largescale prints onto the gallery wall, showing a brisk turf-cutting competition set low in the ground. Men’s bodies appear slanted, absorbed in action, signalling private experiences we cannot know. Many more images of west Mayo, taken in 1938, are distinguished by similar human recalcitrance. Prints of a regatta taking place off Clare Island are dominated by an undulating cliff face, dramatically separating the boats upon the water from gathered onlookers, who seem to decorate the coastal sweep with their peaked caps. Meanwhile, on the beach at the Carrowmore Races, the crowd spills in the direction of the waves, with riders on horseback dancing by. The camera is generally shown their backs. Remembering that Hooker O’Malley was a relatively privileged outsider attempting to harvest lofty inspiration from these vignettes – she was unsatisfied with life in Mayo1 – we are conscious of occupying a comparable perspective on such images. We mine these material indexes of real lives for something quaint, unfathomable or appalling, mingled in a potent aesthetic hit. Later Kodachrome portraits – in which compositions are more subtle, lacking the mystical architecture of pattern and landscape – offer arguably more effective approaches to the dovetailing of people and place. Highlights include a shot, taken from below, of her friend, the writer Mary Lavin, at the artist’s Ballsbridge mews in 1975. Another image from the same period shows a woman and baby seated on a train, a plain example of what is everyday and fascinatingly enigmatic.

Danny Kelly is an artist based in Dublin. Notes 1 Roy Foster ‘Hillside Men’, London Review of Books, 16 July 1998.


Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Marianne Keating ‘The Ocean Between’ Crawford Art Gallery, Cork 21 June – 22 September 2019

‘Do Governments Lie?’ Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast 6 June – 27 July 2019 AS PART OF this year’s Belfast Photo Festival,

the Golden Thread Gallery simultaneously held three very different exhibitions, at three very different qualitative levels: Philippe Chancel’s excellent and subtle observation of life within North Korean ideological strictures; a dispassionate survey of political discourse on social media by Marc Lee; and a terrible, ostensibly anti-Trump installation by Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender, which is so devoid of the potential for critical engagement that the president would, I’m sure, greet it with gleeful delight. Philippe Chancel’s ‘Kim Happiness’ consists of a selection from the large body of work he has made in North Korea over a number of years. Contained within the images is a gentle, nuanced critique of the regime, which the artist explains as an attempt at finding authenticity concealed beneath propagandist appearance. This subtlety is a necessary product of his awareness of state-sanctioned lines which must not be crossed. The installation is dominated by large prints pasted directly onto the gallery walls, with smaller, framed photographs between. The large works – interior shots of the Korean Revolution Museum – generate complex viewing, the audience initially unsure where the gallery ends and the photographs begin. The first we see is a room dominated by Kim Il-sung’s staff car – an acid yellow Russian Pobeda, whose dents, scratches and signs of wear are heightened by the shiny perfection of the marble plinth on which it stands. Behind are the first of the many photographs-within-photographs included in the show. In this case, three photographs, in ugly gold frames with red fabric surrounds, of Kim giving inspirational speeches – two with the ubiquitous North Korean ideological-happiness smile, and one with a more serious note. In a nearby case is displayed the military coat he wears in this latter photograph, with a quotation from the man situated between, producing an incongruous nod to Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs. In another of these large photographs, a museum guide raises her hand to a portrait of the young Kim, while behind her are four blackand-white prints of paintings showing him educating the entranced workers, who are gathered around him. This is standard fare in the Stalin-

ist/Zhdanovist “socialist realist” form, in which the wisdom of the leader is absorbed by all those fortunate enough to find themselves in his presence. Herein lies the reply to the question posed by the exhibition’s umbrella title. This compositional convention is found in another large, pasted print. Within is an oversized painting, in which Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are surrounded by young children, gazing happily and snuggling up against the patriarchs. This is again typical socialist realism but, because it is a watercolour, it is tonally muted and looks more like an illustration for Matthew 19:14 in a children’s bible: “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” This is the strongest trompe l’oeil of all, with a statue and a guide half concealed by pillars on either side. It brought to mind Mantegna’s fresco, The Court of Gonzaga, with its ambiguity between painting and surrounding architectural features. Illusion of this kind can often be problematic, as the loss of oneself in the tableau – and the excessive empathy this engenders – restricts the capacity for critique among its audience. Chancel, however, negates this by re-flattening the remaining wall space with grey-green, butting against the three-dimensionality of the imagery. This juxtaposition of real two-dimensional space and theatrical space returns to the audience its interpretive role. Hanging on these in-between spaces are a number of smaller framed photographs of people engaging in various aspects of Korean society, including work, play, sport, music and the military. Here we see the North Korea that our own western propaganda conceals – the individuality that pushes its way through the authoritarian uniformity imposed by the oppressive state. These are real people with authentic emotions that peek through the masks they’re expected to wear (including the haughty disdain on the faces of two Olympic athletes, whose arms are linked in genuine solidarity). This show is a class act – such a pity it was required to share a gallery with the prosaic and the downright disastrous.

Colin Darke is an artist based in Belfast.

Both images: Philippe Chancel, ‘Kim Happiness’, photographs © Philippe Chancel, courtesy Golden Thread Gallery

Marianne Keating, Land – Path of Migration, 2019; courtesy of the artist and Crawford Art Gallery

AWARENESS OF IRELAND’S involvement in the history of the British colonial project is generally one-sided, with national imagination focusing on the ‘epic’ Irish struggle against England, rather than acknowledging Irish social or cultural exchange within the wider world of empire. Marianne Keating’s exhibition, ‘The Ocean Between’, fulfils a vital role in redressing this imbalance, with rigorous research and nuanced, objective presentations. Her seven film installations are the result of years of archival research relating to the largely forgotten history of indentured Irish labourers in Barbados and Jamaica, and are linked significantly to the site of display (Crawford Art Gallery served as Cork’s Customs House during the 1700s), while couching this account within the larger postcolonial history of the Caribbean. Occupying the gallery’s top floor, Keating’s installation unfolds a dense, multi-layered narrative. The curved corridor is hung with large photographic prints of Jamaica’s rocky coast and archival press images of political rallies. The two-channel film, Landlessness (2017), is accessed first, focusing on the largely undocumented and forgotten Irish emigrants, destined for servitude on Jamaican plantations between 1835 and 1842, the years preceeding the Irish Famine. The two projections run concurrently: on one side, panning landscape shots of the sparse meadows of the Burren and the wind-battered Atlantic coast are overlaid with a script relating the conditions of extreme poverty witnessed by Alexis de Tocqueville on his travels through Ireland in 1835. The paired screen interrupts footage of dense Jamaican forest and sugar cane fields with a narrative text derived from records unearthed by Keating in the national archives of Ireland, England and Jamaica. An exchange between the Land and Emigration Commissioner for Great Britain and Ireland and the founder of the West India Immigration Society conveys the financial viability of recruiting Irish indentured labourers after the abolition of slavery. Meanwhile a transcript of a conversation between Jamaica’s Governor in Chief and Agent-General of Immigrants records the fate suffered by some of those immigrants upon arrival – including sickness and discontent, leading to their being shipped home, to avoid their perceived rebelliousness spreading to other plantations. Although presenting accounts from those in positions of power, these textual elements nevertheless give voice to the subordinate ‘other’. Despite the emotive nature

of the subject matter, Landlessness is admirable in its considered restraint. Keating is careful in the films and accompanying literature to differentiate between indentured labour and slavery, and although the sense of dislocation and displacement is powerfully evoked by the contrasting landscapes, the experience of the narrative as text, rather than as a voiceover, encourages a more measured, meditative engagement. Indeed, the ways in which Keating has choreographed the entire exhibition – contextualising this narrative within the longer history of colonialism and its legacy in the Caribbean – is deeply effective. Occupying the old drawing rooms on the gallery’s second floor, two large projections mirror each other, with small monitors placed either side of the doorways. LandPath Migration (2019) positions the colonial project within a much longer story of our relationship with land as a resource to be exploited. In a voiceover, Keating quotes the geographer Vincent Gaffney, whose expanded definition of ‘land’ extends to the minerals beneath the surface, as well and the flora and fauna above: land, he argues, is a resource, always second-hand and criss-crossed by generations of people. Meanwhile, Better Must Come – A New Jamaica (2019) splices together archival footage of Norman Washington Manley and Alexander Bustamante, both men of Irish descent, on the campaign trail preceding Jamaica’s post-independence elections, with recent news coverage documenting a community protest against political neglect, poverty and disenfranchisement. In the same room, Make the Economy Scream (2018) screens an interview with journalist Louis Wold, discussing the alleged CIA attempt to destabilise the Michael Manley government in Jamaica. Keating’s intelligent and nuanced show is effective in communicating the complexity of the cultural and political hangovers of colonialism, usefully interspersing broad ranging political accounts with personal narratives, while balancing an unfamiliar aspect of Irish history with the wider legacies of violence, political interference and disenfranchisement across the Caribbean. It is also significant as the first in a series of artist-directed projects hosted by Crawford, to support research into more complex understandings of identity and history. Sarah Kelleher is a freelance critic, curator and art historian. She is co-editor of Enclave Review and is currently working on a PhD on contemporary Irish sculpture.

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Critical Discourse

Online Archive



Out of the Dark Room



IN THE EARLY 1970s, I created a work in Super

8 film; in the 1990s, I translated this onto VHS for safekeeping; in the 2000s, I transferred it to digital DVD. But now I can’t play it on my shiny new computer, which has phased out the optical disc drive! Such is the nature of moving images: the physical artefacts that underpin them keep evolving, from the brittle break-up of analogue film, to the ever-changing technology of digital files. And while there is almost unlimited information about moving images on the internet, these sources are of variable reliability and questionable longevity. As a result, though there are many intriguing, stunning and insightful Irish artists’ moving image works out there, the chances of finding them are ever diminishing. That’s why I set up the MExIndex for Irish artists’ moving images in 2015. My ongoing aim is to make Irish artists’ moving images accessible to a wider audience, to culturally contextualise them, and to record their details for present and future generations. The ideal scenario would have been to create a national collection with a repository of information, conservation facilities and a distribution and screening centre. Unfeasible, I knew, but with generous advice from LUX (UK), Argos (Belgium) and Circuit (New Zealand) and research into other similar institutions, I looked for a format that would be manageable for a small country like Ireland. To do so, I had to be realistic. For example, a distribution model would create an income stream, but archiving and preservation are expensive and require many specialist skills. Just gathering a national collection of works in Ireland spanning five decades would be daunting. Artists’ moving image works are created in 8mm, Super 8, 16mm, 36mm analogue film, as well as VCR, camcorder tapes and different digital formats. Now and in the future, work will be created with CGI and holograms. To deal with this adequately, would need a substantial, reliable funding stream, which, after discussion with the Arts Council of Ireland at the time, I deemed unlikely. So, given that probably only a small erratic budget would be available, my decision was to start the MExIndex with a well-thought-out structure, which would allow it to be built up in distinct phases until more resources became available. The first step was to create a robust, manageable system for collecting and storing key information on Irish artists’ moving image works. This is the MexIndex – a continually expanding repository, with works collected by both invitation and application. Details of each work can be entered via open-source accessible platforms, based on a system of descriptors recommended by the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI). Using this networked cataloguing system gives the information a better chance of being internationally readable, useful and future-proofed. Precautions must be taken to preserve the MExIndex data, so multiple copies and formats

are stored in different locations. Three master copies are kept on the cloud, on computer and on an external hard drive. At least one copy is stored offsite to protect the data from local risks like theft, fire, flooding or natural disasters. Using these different storage media increases the likelihood that at least one version will be readable in the future. In addition, as external hard drives eventually break down, it is necessary to migrate the data to newer media every 5 years. All the information is regularly updated to ensure that links are valid and works still traceable. In addition, the MExIndex has deposited its physical archive with NIVAL and a digital archive will be added soon. To maintain a transparent selection process, each year an independent curator-in-residence selects works from the repository to be published on the website. Access to the unpublished works in the repository is available to critics, curators, gallerists and students, on application to the MExIndex administration. The next phase, commissioning and collecting contextual writing on the works, is currently under way. The curator-in-residence contributes, while reflective texts by other writers are being added gradually. This year we have launched a contextual writing award for artists’ moving image, which we hope will yield some exciting new writing (the deadline for this award is Monday 16 September 2019 – for details see In the meantime, the search for information on older missing works is ongoing, though sources are often incomplete. Old gallery catalogues don’t always include details of the medium the artists used. Cinema programmes give screening dates but not the year. On top of this, the significance of the works isn’t always clear and although sometimes human memory can fill the gaps, contemporary texts often omit important contextual information. This makes progress for the archivist/detective fascinating, but slow! Nevertheless, it is worth the effort. With the MExIndex, the work of Irish moving images artists remains live and, importantly, easily available. The archive enables these artworks to be assessed as a genre, while their impact on the visual arts in Ireland – and indeed internationally – can be widely explored. This in turn, I hope, will contribute to a vibrant and healthy debate around moving images generally. I firmly believe the MExIndex has a dynamic role to play in the Irish visual arts for many years to come.

Fifi Smith is a Kildare-based artist and founding director of the MexIndex, which is currently funded by Kildare Arts Service.

FEATURING MORE THAN 1,100 photographs,

the David Kronn Collection is a promised gift to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). The collection ranges in content from nineteenth-century Daguerreotypes and the twentieth-century photography of Edward Weston and August Sander, to works from award-winning contemporary photographers, such as Nicolai Howalt, Simon Norfolk and Asako Narahashi. Dr David Kronn was born in Dublin but has been based in New York city for nearly three decades. A medical doctor by profession, his interest in scientific processes is clearly apparent in the approach he takes to collecting and the specific interests on which he has focused. ‘Out of the Dark Room’ in 2011 was the first exhibition at IMMA of 165 photographs from the collection and included rooms dedicated to Irving Penn and Harry Callahan. ‘Second Sight’ took place in 2014, featuring the first outright donation of 50 works to the IMMA collection, including key pieces by August Sander, Berenice Abbott, Karl Blossfeldt and others. Photography has held a fascination for David Kronn since he was a boy. He began collecting nearly twenty-five years ago, bringing his distinctively scientific approach to the subject. Through long and careful study, he is now an authority. Dr Kronn is a paediatrician with a specialisation in medical genetics who works with children on a daily basis; it is no surprise then, that images of children form a significant part of his collection. The image of a child is one that provokes an instant reaction, usually one of empathy, and as such it can make for a powerful photograph. Photographs of children can easily slip into cliché, but this diverse collection shows how artists can use the instinctive emotional response to the subject in order to force the viewer to tackle difficult questions on parenthood, society and art itself. Within this subject matter are important photographs by Diane Arbus, Martine Franck, Doug Dubois and others. His interest in science also points to his attraction to the wide variety of materials and processes used in photography – such as photographs made without the use of a camera by artists like Adam Fuss, Chris McKaw and Alison Rossiter. Other genres in the collection include portraiture, self-portraiture, landscape (including street and architectural landscape), urban life, social documentary, still life and experimental abstractions, ranging from traditional approaches to more expanded interpretations within contemporary art practice. Kronn identifies Harry Callahan as one of his favourite photographers saying of him: “his abstractions of nature are arresting. Typically, one does not immediately register the subject of the photograph but gradually – out of the dark – the image reveals itself. As a geneticist, I’m fascinated by those photographers who reduce things to their simplest form. For example, with Callahan’s abstractions of nature, the images are almost always close-ups without the distraction of a background. The viewer is encouraged to focus


their attention entirely on the subject and the patterns suggested. Working in genetics requires minute attention to detail; one needs to recognise patterns in a disease and look for signals and clues to work towards a diagnosis. There is a large amount of control needed – one needs to filter out the background noise. I see a parallel to this in Callahan’s work – precision of focus, with attention to patterns and shapes without distraction; an attempt to make order out of chaos”. Ireland is a central theme in the collection. A core body of work is by Magnum Agency and other foreign photographers who visited Ireland in the mid-twentieth century, such as Evelyn Hofer, Paul Caponigro, Roger Mayne and Rosalind Solomon. These form a dramatic record of Ireland’s changing landscape, culture and people. Solomon’s photographs, in particular, offer timely reminders of the impact of the conflict in Northern Ireland on children. Contemporary Irish photographers who are strongly represented in the collection include Paul Seawright, Gary Coyle, David Farrell, Richard Mosse, Amelia Stein and other artists like Alice Maher, who use photography as part of their wider practice. Kronn has also collected works by visiting contemporary photographers like Doug Dubois, whose series ‘My last day at seventeen’ was made while on residency at Sirius Art Centre in Cobh. Kronn is interested in images that revisit iconic moments in Irish photographic history, such as Anna Rackard’s restaging of John Hinde’s images of Ireland from the 1960s and 70s, but with the sitters reflective of the new racial diversity apparent within Ireland’s population. He has also spent some time researching twentieth-century Irish photographers whose archives have been coming to light in recent years. These include Denis Dineen and Fergus Bourke. Kronn typically opens up a dialogue with a photographer for a significant period, before acquiring their work. He waits for images that he feels will fit with the collection as a whole and, rather than buying individual images, will acquire an entire series at once. Apart from a significant collection of photographs at the National Photography archive (part of the National Library of Ireland) the majority of which are Irish, there is no major collection of international photography housed in Ireland. Kronn’s commitment to making IMMA the future home of his photography collection positions IMMA as a major force in the field. Kronn plans to gift his collection to the museum through periodic donations and continuing until the bequest of the remainder of the collection. Kronn’s remarkable gift to IMMA is comparable to the founding donation by Gordon Lambert in 1991 or those made to the museum by George and Maura McClelland throughout the 2000s. The scale of such gifts could never be matched by the museum’s normal acquisition programme, but they hugely enrich the possibilities of display and education available to the museum’s work. Seán Kissane is Curator of Exhibitions at IMMA.


Critical Discourse

Laura Fitzgerald, Portrait of a Stone, 2018, two-channel VHS video converted to digital, colour with sound, duration: 11 min 25 secs; video still courtesy of the artist

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Vivienne Dick, Beauty Becomes The Beast, 1979, Super 8mm, colour, sound, 40 minutes, featuring Lydia Lunch; film still courtesy of the artist

IT IS DIFFICULT to appreciate the volume and diversity of contemporary


practice in artist moving image and experimental film in Ireland without taking stock of its comparatively short history and modest origins. When artists and filmmakers in Europe, the UK and America – such as Germaine Dulac, Len Lye and Maya Deren – began experimenting with new possibilities for cinema as an artform in the early part of the twentieth century, they were also laying the groundwork for the foundation in the 1960s and ‘70s of the cooperatives and distributors (including the London Film-Makers’ Co-Op, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative in New York and Canyon Cinema in San Francisco) that would build indigenous collections and, in most cases, continue to disseminate artist moving image and experimental film material right up to the present day. Without the formation of a robust native film culture until later than these international counterparts, Ireland did not follow the same trajectory. It was not until the 1970s and ‘80s that Irish artists and filmmakers began jointly to make moving image work for the gallery and cinema that challenged norms, both formally and politically, and much of this compelling early material – by artists like James Coleman, Vivienne Dick and ‘First Wave’ filmmakers Thaddeus O’Sullivan and Pat Murphy – was at least initially produced abroad. As a direct consequence of this new approach to filmmaking however, lasting infrastructural change – both for artist and commercial cinema – did come about in Ireland at this time. In 1973, the Arts Council of Ireland added film to the list of artforms that it supported, and in 1981 the Irish Film Board was established, becoming the country’s first state funding agency for cinema. In the years since, there have been clear indications of the increasingly prominent role played by the moving image in Irish visual culture. As Maeve Connolly has pointed out, Irish artist moving image work has gained greater “visibility and legitimacy” since the 1990s, a fact illustrated, she highlights, by its recurring presence at the São Paulo Biennial (Alanna O’Kelly in 1996, Clare Langan in 2002, Desperate Optimists in 2004) and the Venice Biennale ( Jaki Irvine in 1997, Anne Tallentire in 1999, Grace Weir and Siobhán Hapaska in 2001, Gerard Byrne in 2007, Kennedy Browne in 2009 and Jesse Jones in 2017).1 This same period has also seen a surge in the presentation of artist and experimental film material in Ireland in a cinema context, through a range of platforms including Darklight Festival, the Experimental Film Club and, more recently, the Experimental Film Society, PLASTIK Festival of Artists’ Moving Image and aemi. These diverse initiatives have emerged at least partly in response to the marked rise in production of this material in Ireland in the last twenty or thirty years, a development that mirrors international trends but is all the more striking in an Irish context, given how quickly the scene has evolved. Because of the pace with which work of this nature has been produced here in a short amount of time, it is all the more pressing to underpin these practices with the resources afforded to artists, students, curators and researchers elsewhere, through organisations like LUX and REWIND in

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Critical Discourse

Doireann O’Malley, A Dream of Becoming 24 Eyes, 4 Parallel Brains and 360° Vision, 2013, Super 8 and 16mm transferred to video, stereo sound; video still courtesy of the artist

the UK, Lightcone and Collectif Jeune Cinéma in France, Arsenal in Germany, Auguste Orts in Belgium, CFMDC in Canada and many others. In an effort to address at least some of these needs in the first instance, Daniel Fitzpatrick and I founded aemi at the beginning of 2016, an organisation now funded by the Arts Council that supports, advocates for and regularly exhibits moving image work by artists and experimental filmmakers, primarily in a cinema context. Aemi is one facet of a dynamic, shared ecology of artist and experimental moving image culture in Ireland. Through partnerships and collaborations (with festivals, artists, programmers and other arts organisations) we are keen to strengthen and contribute to a wider, broader infrastructure that is interconnected and mutually enriching. We also recognise that there is a thriving international network and circuit of activity around artist and experimental moving image practice that Ireland-based moving image artists and experimental filmmakers have not historically been in a strong position to engage with. This is not only because we are an island on the periphery of Europe but also because advocates or agents for Irish practice have been in shorter supply. In an effort to upend this frustrating trend, we frequently think about programming as an innate part of our role as a resource organisation. At our screening events, we regularly situate international work alongside films by Irish artists including Vivienne Dick, Sarah Browne, Susan MacWilliam, Saoirse Wall, Moira Tierney, Julie Murray, Aisling McCoy, Tamsin Snow, Alice Rekab, Vanessa Daws and Cliona Harmey. We also invite international curators, programmers and artists to Dublin to present their work in person, while giving them first-hand experience of the busy and diverse scene here. Guests we have previously welcomed include curators Herb Shellenberger, Benjamin Cook and Peter Taylor and artists Mark Leckey, Soda_Jerk, Anne-Marie Copestake, William Raban, Peggy Ahwesh, Lewis Klahr, Tamara Henderson and Sven Augustijnen. Because it is relatively difficult for Irish artists to gain the same exposure as artists based in the main cultural hubs of Europe or the UK (by virtue of being en route for the stream of arts professionals constantly passing through), we have made a priority of touring aemi programmes abroad, so that we’re not just seeing some of the excellent work that’s being made here ourselves, but also sharing it as much as possible with international audiences. Thanks to funding we have been able to tour aemi programmes abroad for the first time this year, something which forms part of a larger initiative through which we have commissioned two screening pro-

Sarah Browne, The Invisible Limb, 2014, HD video, 20 minutes, German with English subtitles; video still courtesy of the artist

grammes, curated and including work by Irish artists Sarah Browne and Vivienne Dick, that we are currently bringing to arts centres and cinemas around Ireland. Aemi is increasing audiences for and critical engagement with this material, through the collective experience of the cinema event, not just in Dublin (where until this year almost all of our screening events had taken place) but around the country more broadly. The desire to foster a sense of community around this work also informs how we approach the aemi newsletter, which we send out by email to our subscribers every month, highlighting not only events that we are presenting but also festival submission dates, exhibitions and screenings taking place across the country. Signing up for the newsletter is the first step in our aemi affiliate programme which provides Ireland-based moving image artists with access to our free oneto-one advisory sessions, through which we offer feedback or advice around work-in-progress, new work or exhibition strategy. The affiliate programme will develop further in 2020, with the introduction of a regular series of aemi ‘Rough Cut’ events, where artists will also have the opportunity to present newly finished work or work-in-progress to a small group of peers as well as an invited producer, critic, curator or academic who will moderate the event. Working on aemi has meant that I have had the privilege of viewing a wide range of artist and experimental moving image work produced in Ireland in recent years and this has informed a number of projects and screenings that I have curated in an independent capacity. While the artists I’ve worked with represent just a fraction of what is being made here at present, to some extent they offer insights into the varied landscape of contemporary Irish artist and experimental moving image practice. In autumn 2018, I curated ‘The L-Shape’, an exhibition featuring a new presentation of Going to the Mountain (2015) by Jenny Brady and The Invisible Limb (2014) by Sarah Browne – two moving image works that offered portraits of radically different subjects. In Going to Mountain, Brady’s study of three pre-verbal babies, the viewer is given a perspective divested of sentimentality that provides instead the opportunity to tune into the infants’ physical gestures and movements, often reflected in mirrored surfaces and made to appear unfamiliar through the use of slow motion and syncopated editing. An equally absorbing process of defamiliarisation is also at work in Browne’s elegiac, The Invisible Limb, a film letter addressed to deceased German artist Charlotte Posenenske that considers her work and enigmatic withdrawal from practice as a sculptor in 1968, in relation to Irish stone carver Cynthia Moran, an artist with

a very different trajectory whom, it transpires, was born the same year as Posenenske. The uniquely challenging existence of the artist is also a concern in Laura Fitzgerald’s tragicomic Portrait of a Stone (2018). This was one of the films included in ‘Between Structure and Agency’, a screening of Irish work I curated last year for the Irish Film Institute and Culture Ireland, that will tour the UK with LUX. Fitzgerald’s split screen video piece contrasts footage of her father shot in his native Kerry, obligingly taking direction from his daughter behind the camera, with a steady flow of often humorous on-screen text in which the viewer is addressed as a presumed artist and presented with a multiple choice questionnaire in which every option spelt out is more ludicrous and desperate than the last. Also featured in the ‘Between Structure and Agency’ programme was Doireann O’Malley’s A Dream of Becoming 24 Eyes, 4 Parallel Brains and 360° Vision, a film that reveals a similar level of intimacy and vulnerability as explored in Fitzgerald’s video work, albeit in an altogether different tone. Shot on Super 8 and 16mm film, and drawing on material from the artist’s personal archive, the title references the anatomy of the box jellyfish and expresses, as O’Malley recently described in an interview for Vdrome, “the faint hope or dream of transcending the limits of human embodiment and perception”.2 Likewise Bea McMahon’s sublime silent 8mm Film of Octopuses (2013) – which featured in a screening I presented at the IFI in 2017, entitled ‘As We May Think’ – uses the camera to offer or imagine a vision not of an octopus, but instead an impression of what an octopus might perceive. These contemporary Irish film works then each demonstrate an impressive culture of practice that is experimental, both technically and conceptually – a culture that is deeply rewarding to engage with, as a programmer and film curator, and deserving of wider attention. Alice Butler is a film curator, writer and co-director of aemi, a Dublin-based, Arts Council-funded organisation that supports and regularly exhibits moving image work by artists and experimental filmmakers. Notes 1 Maeve Connolly, ‘Archiving Irish and British Artists’ Video: A Conversation between Maeve Connolly and REWIND researchers Stephen Partridge and Adam Lockhart’, MIRAJ 5.1&2, 2016, p.208. See: 2 Doireann O’Malley in conversation about A Dream of Becoming 24 Eyes, 4 Parallel Brains and 360° Vision for the online exhibition platform, Vdrome. See:



Artist Interviews: Photography

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019


Pádraig Spillane: Each of you maintains what could be described as a ‘hybrid’ practice, engaging with both analogue and digital photographic techniques, while pushing the parameters of image-making and display. Perhaps you could introduce some of your working methods? Roseanne Lynch: I am living in Leipzig temporarily and making new work with the Bauhaus Foundation, Dessau. Initially this new work was a response to the Bauhaus school building (designed by Walter Gropius and built in 1926), as well as the Buildings and Materials Research Archive. However, the work has progressed. Now, I am bringing my practice to the principles of the Bauhaus school’s preliminary course, which emphasised starting anew and experimentating with materials. For this, my main medium is the photogram. I place objects on light sensitive paper in the darkroom, shining light onto them to create traces, rather than photographs of the objects. Geometrical forms and materials associated with the Bauhaus architecture and the medium of photography are my subject matter. I am looking to understand the grammar of materials.

Darn Thorn, Aggiornamento, 2018, still from 16mm film, black & white; courtesy of the artist

Darn Thorn: For me, the idea of hybrid practice means utilising particular media, as a means to issue a provocation or elicit a response in the viewer. My work often engages with historical subject matter: ideas of utopia and the impact of cultural trauma. By combining traditional and contemporary processes in my practice, ambiguity is created, where the image is neither ‘old’ nor ‘new’ but something less classifiable – perhaps even something mutant. Also, for this reason, the choice of media I employ changes with each project. Róisín White: I describe my practice as primarily lens-based, using archival and found photography, combined with collage and sculptural techniques. Photography is the jumping-off point – be it images I have created, or images I have found in magazines, online auctions, or in life situations. Each circumstance of finding sparks something different in the work. I’m never satisfied when it is ‘just a photograph’. I use collage to change and intensify the image. I reproduce images on different papers and materials, to see how they respond to these surfaces. I am looking for supports that give an interesting edge, once torn. I like to print multiples, rip them up, move and fix them. This intimate and tactile engagement with the materiality of images is vital to my working process. I am trying to expand my practice into sculpture, by incorporating photography with 3D objects, without it just being an image on an object. PS: Expanded photographic practice highlights how images act – how they are created and consumed; how they can be altered by networks of dissemination, storage and access; while also addressing the power structures that intersect via images. By taking on a performance-based role, images can transcend categories, or render them permeable. How do you approach image-making within these porous boundaries? RL: My practice connects different territories of the medium. Although I work mainly in the darkroom, I am not puritanical with regard to analogue photography. I scan my negatives and photograms to make larger digital prints than my body physically allows. I use whatever strategies the work needs. My interest is in leaving questions unresolved, while allowing active exchange between work and viewer. For this reason, I have been printing on aluminum and using reflective surfaces in installations, which reference the viewer’s gaze and bring attention to the image structure in unexpected ways. The photographic print as sculptural object is another expansion I am working with. In the darkroom, I apply the standard fold of an architectural blueprint to a sheet of photo paper. I unfold the paper and light it with a torch. What is produced is a representation of itself. It is evidence of the situation of its own making, nothing else.

Roseanne Lynch, Untitled [26.3.1], 2019 40 × 50 cm, silver gelatin photogram, unique print; courtesy of the artist

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Artist Interviews: Photography

DT: I think it’s this very capacity – this other life that expanded practice creates for the image – that interests me. One power structure that can limit the remit of the image is the institutional categorisation of photography and what constitutes expanded practice. For example, there are excellent institutions and publications here in Ireland that focus on photography, but don’t really have the scope for moving image or installation content. Expanded practice can eschew the parameters of the conventional photographic series. It doesn’t always work in the photobook format and, in many cases, needs to be encountered as an installation. RW: I am benefiting from these permeable boundaries. However, I still dread that question: “so what kind of photography do you do?” My practice is so varied, it can be hard to explain as an ‘elevator pitch’. It is rarely a single image work. When I work on projects, a central pillar of research will inform the production of all of the artwork. I may work on sculptures for a few weeks, then go back to images, and see how they can cross-pollinate. This process-based approach to image-making is liberating and productive. While most of the work in the studio never sees the light of the gallery, or even my website, I enjoy being able to share snapshots of my process on Instagram. This has allowed me to test pieces and share behind-the-scenes shots with people from all over the world. Equally, I get insights into their work. While many things I share do end up being exhibited, there are versions of work that only survive on Instagram. I use the platform as a public notebook that is open to critique. I find it a useful way of keeping my peers in the loop with my practice. PS: Images (and our relations to them) are entangled in a complex array of competing and affecting influences. Can you discuss how your work takes shape and manifests? RL: My works offer viewers insights into my inquisitiveness regarding photographic processes. My interest in photograms is that they only concern themselves as a surface, object and material. A new approach to my photogram work is drawing geometric shapes with graphite onto the surface of exposed and processed semi-matt photographic paper. I then apply a wet paintbrush, changing the surface of the graphite and the print again. It reflects light differently, depending on the angle of view. Like my previous works printed directly onto aluminum, what a viewer sees depends on where they are positioned in relation to the work. DT: In the theatre, a director can make the decision to use a conventional stage, where the action happens behind a proscenium arch that operates as a frame for the drama. In this situation the audience is a passive observer. In photography, the parallel is the photobook or the framed image. As a display format, both can work well, mostly because they conform to our idea of what a photograph is. However, what if the work demands us to activate the audience, proposing that they have a different physical interaction? What if we consider the photographic image in three-dimensional space? I think that this has influenced me to use unconventional media – wallpaper, commercially-made vinyl banners, 3D glass etching, and so on – as a way of questioning our assumptions about what a photographic image can be.

Róisín White, from the series ‘Cross the Child’s Palm with Silver’ (detail), 2019, pigment print; courtesy of the artist

self-reflexively to express internal abstract feelings that come through making strategies – fragility, uncertainty and other emotional resonances. My practice investigates historical discourse, tracing the impact of photography on our interpretation of images, and on our lived experiences. I use the process of making photograms to disassemble the photographic process into its component parts: light, time, light sensitive surface and object. I am questioning how we perceive what we recognise, when we look at photographic surfaces.

PS: Photographs are part of our everyday exchanges and interactions, produced frequently and habitually on devices that are almost part of us. How do you see your practice operating amidst this abundance of democratic image-making?

DT: By using the pseudonym, Darn Thorn, the idea of authorship in my work is automatically called into question. It’s a joke, made at my own expense, about the notion of ‘artist as singular genius’. Technology has made the production of high-resolution images easier; what was previously only possible with specialist equipment and professional training is now, at least theoretically, accessible to many. In our present moment, news media prefers amateur footage to the photo essay. In this context, I wonder what a conventional photo series has to say? Self-published photo books are a democratising phenomenon; but there is a tendency for the associated photo festivals and publications to lean towards an editorial approach. They often promote a type of photography that shares the continuity of narrative that we see in photojournalism. I respond to these considerations playfully, by making works that only survive one installation, or are too awkward to be easily sold. I want the audience to question what is going on. In this sense, there is a performative element to my practice. By making large-scale images of monumental architecture or landscapes, I’m proposing something slightly absurd to the viewer. These works carry a sense of drama and significance but are deliberately hard to decode. They invoke ideas of the sublime, partly invoked ironically: How can something so big and apparently significant be so hard to read?

RL: Photography is mostly understood as a medium for documenting the external world. However, I use the medium

RW: My practice draws on pre-internet printed matter, from a time when images needed to be an object to exist. I use the

RW: I have recently been working with the idea of how an image can be built. I design and construct sculptures, with the intention of photographing them, so that the photographs act like subjects or stage sets. I am interested in how this can create surreal and uncanny images. While the viewer may just see a ‘photograph’, what takes place with the image-making is so much more. Perhaps it is the physical labour required in creating an image that is rewarding; or knowing that a photograph consists of more than meets the eye.

abundance of printed images that exist from a past when we used to print our photos to share – or when we bought magazines, newspapers and illustrated encyclopaedias, to see other places and things from around the world. What attracts me to found images is the appeal of different aesthetics, as well as the lure of a time when I was not present – with these images becoming a repository of meaning. With the advent of camera phones, we are now collectively producing more images per day than we used to in a year. These digital images are so fragile. They exist on devices that are not built to last more than five years. I wonder how will we find images in twenty or fifty years’ time?

Roseanne Lynch is currently based in Leipzig making work for a group show at Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Australia, and a solo show at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris. Darn Thorn works with photography and installation. Recent exhibitions include EVA International 2018 and ‘2116’ at the Glucksman Gallery (Cork) and Broad Art Museum (USA). He teaches at CIT Crawford College of Art and Design. Róisín White is a visual artist based in Dublin. She works in lens-based media and found materials, with recent exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Photography of Ireland, and the Finnish Museum of Photography. Pádraig Spillane is an artist, curator and educator, teaching at CIT Crawford College of Art and Design. He works with photography, appropriation and object-based assemblages, with work featuring in an upcoming group show at The Complex, Dublin.



Artist Interviews: Photography

Locky Morris, It’s you, it’s you, it’s you, 2017; courtesy of the artist, photograph by Paola Bernardelli

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Locky Morris, Feather film, 2019; video still courtesy of the artist

Joanne Laws: How do you approach research and what are some of the prominent themes within your photographic practice?


Ciarán Óg Arnold: I usually take photographs within a very short distance from where I live – I don’t travel far, and I do a lot of walking around. Ideas come into my head, but there would normally be a bit of time between conceiving a photo and actually taking it. I also read fiction books that have nothing to do with photography, and I watch films. I normally take documentary photographs and then try and edit them into some sort of narrative or dreamlike sequence that reflects the kind of atmosphere I’m trying to create – whether that be claustrophobia or psychological isolation. I studied film at undergraduate level, so I’m very much influenced by that. I approach editing a series of photographs in the same way that I would edit a film – by considering movement through space, while creating a body of interconnected images. Dragana Jurišić: My practice is research heavy. I tend to spend between three to five years on a project. I need time to test ideas before I feel there is enough material to make a multi-layered work. The prominent theme that keeps reappearing in my work is the influence of photography on memory, as well as questions around identity and photographic representation. Locky Morris: Whenever I see the word ‘research’, I kind of recoil. I tend to think of research as something more formal, like proposal writing. I suppose my photos are a form of research in themselves, but I don’t theorise about them in that way. You might attend a really interesting lecture, but then you step out into the chaos of the world, and you realise that the theory doesn’t really reflect what it means to live. I came to that realisation about 30 or 40 years ago, which gave me the germ of how I now operate as an artist. Sometimes when you’re taking a photograph, you’re trying to unlearn what you’ve been taught, to a degree, and maybe also losing some of the cynicism in the process. There are philosophical threads and ideas running through the work, but generally, I’m just reacting instinctively, noticing gaps or exploring different things. I enjoy the element of surprise and how things can reveal themselves over time.

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Artist Interviews: Photography

Dragana Jurišić, from the series, ‘14 Henrietta Street’, 2018, archival pigment print; image © and courtesy of the artist

Ciarán Óg Arnold, from the series ‘Fever Dreams’, 2019; image © and courtesy of the artist

JL: Can you outline some of your technical requirements – such as access to equipment or processing/editing facilities – and how these impact on the format of your photographs?

DJ: I am more worried about digital technology and how we properly archive our digital work. The number of failed hard drives I’ve had over the years is scary to contemplate. I am constantly backing up work. I am also trying to carve out time to properly digitise my old archives.

COA: All of my photography is on 35mm film. I just use a point-and-shoot camera, but a high-end and discreet one that works for my kind of practice. I develop my own black and white film, but I don’t have the facilities to develop colour. There’s a shop in Sligo that still develop colour film with analogue machines. I then scan these colour negatives at home. I own a decent digital camera, but I don’t like the aesthetic at all, and I just can’t get used to being able to take so many photographs. I find that when you’re limited – to say 36 shots on a roll – you have to think about what you are doing. I find I become incredibly undisciplined with a digital camera. The machine-gunning process produces so many shots of the same thing. In my view, this detracts from the subject or cheapens it somehow, becoming throwaway images. I’ve always preferred film, particularly the graininess and colourcast of 35mm film. DJ: I work in variety of ways, including medium format photography, digital photography and mobile phone technology. I generally like to play with formats and sizes. I need access to high resolution scanners, black and white darkrooms, as well as an adequate Lightroom set up, which I use to edit digital images. My studio resembles a library or an office – it is a place to think and plan. LM: Mostly I use an iPhone camera. Often these images aren’t great resolution and can’t be printed very large, but they have other qualities. I have other larger cameras, including a compact Canon, but I don’t seem to get the same immediacy, intimacy or arresting quality that I do with the phone. The larger cameras are more formal, and those images seem to create layers of distance. I took a beautiful short film of a feather floating weirdly on the iPhone recently. If I’d had the big camera, I never would have gotten that footage; by the time I’d got everything set up, the moment would’ve been lost. Some photographs are superbly composed and framed, but they just become a kind of mode or a genre – all of sudden, they’re dead. There are no surprises. I want to keep the flux and the sense of possibility, without fixing it down. That’s the joy of the working process for me – you’re in it, and you escape for those few seconds, into this other zone. JL: From an archival perspective, how have you dealt with photographic formats and technologies becoming outmoded over the years? Do you have any thoughts on the merits or limitations of analogue and digital photography? COA: I remember watching an interview with a guy who is fairly high up in Google, who said that all of the digital images currently circulating will be lost, as formats change, or as people upgrade their computers. Just two years ago, the owner of the shop where I buy my film stated that film was becoming obsolete; yet a few weeks ago, he told me that film processing is on the rise again, all over the country, among people of all ages. I think it is the physicality of the medium. With celluloid film – and the fact that it needs to be developed, scanned and printed – you end up putting a lot more effort into a single image. When you look at photo albums from my generation, in contrast to looking at family photos on a computer screen, there’s no comparison. The photos our mothers would’ve taken may not have been great, but whatever you have in the family album is so treasured. Nowadays, people take so many pictures that they’re looking for the perfect image but end up not liking any of them. Whereas within the old-fashioned family photos, each one is completely precious.

LM: A previous solo show at the Naughton Gallery in 2016/17 was the culmination of ten years of exploration into photographic display mechanisms. I used photographic lenses, light boxes, high-street-bought picture frames, TV monitors, slide projectors and a digital photo frame to present different images within assemblages. I’m very conscious of the physicality of looking at things, rather than formally displaying photographic prints on a wall, which most of the time, does nothing for me. In a gallery, I try to design viewing encounters with photographs as objects – as sculptures, physical propositions or questions. I’m constantly surprised by how differently people look at things – it’s really quite a complex process. JL: Perhaps you could discuss your current work and any future plans? COA: I want to get back into film again and am currently trying to write a short film that I can work on within my means. I’m doing a lot of editing at the moment on iMovie. I’m shooting footage with the digital camera and taking photographs as well, while trying to edit sequences that are quite abstract. Atmosphere and movement will be prominent themes. I find that iPhones are ideal for video, especially if you’re on the fly, and the quality is great. DJ: Currently, I am working on a project about borders for an upcoming exhibition in the Gallery of Photography Ireland and also for Dublin City Galley The Hugh Lane. In addition, I am leading a six-month-long workshop in the National Gallery of Ireland with residents of Direct Provision. We are looking at ideas of home by investigating the National Gallery’s archives and permanent collection. The aim is that the workshop participants will co-author a new film about the process. I have quite a demanding schedule of exhibitions and artists talks – most recent was a talk on censorship in the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, in August. Next year I will present solo exhibitions in Dublin (February) and in Malmo, Sweden (August). Meanwhile, I am trying to complete a novel and develop research for my next film project. LM: At the moment, I’m undertaking a residency at Art Arcadia in Derry, where I am developing artworks around the old graveyard at St Augustine’s Church. The project, titled ‘these frail monuments’, is loosely based on an extract of text I found on one of the huge broken gravestone slabs there. I am also presenting a solo show, ‘Mergers and Acquisitions’, at Glebe House and Gallery, County Donegal, from September to October. Ciarán Óg Arnold is an artist based in Sligo.

Dragana Jurišić is an ex-Yugoslav artist based in Dublin since 1999.

Locky Morris was born in Derry City, where he continues to live and work.

Joanne Laws is Features Editor of The Visual Artists’ News Sheet.



Artist Interviews: Photography

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019


photography, we are exploring the artist’s ability to examine the human condition through their representation of subject. A photographic image fundamentally helps us to deconstruct and understand its subjects from multiple perspectives. Fanfa Otal Simal uses the camera as a ‘second plane’, capturing her subjects as they perform in everyday and familiar environments. In contrast, Vera Ryklova enlists the camera as an accomplice in her experiments with identity, where she is present, both as performer and image-maker. Although contrasting in their approaches, both artists primarily deal with the relationship between subject, performance and photography. Becks Butler: Fanfa, your choice to make pictures with disposable cameras, the color aesthetic and framing style, heighten the viewer’s sensorial experience. Can you tell us more about these choices and how the act of photographing is part of the work? Fanfa Otal Simal: The disposable camera liberated me. It was my solution to achieving realistic portraits. I discovered that these cameras were nothing more than little toys for my subjects. They never feel restrained by them and therefore don’t pose. Generally, I don’t look through the viewfinder or have the camera by my face. I interact with my subjects when I have them in front of me. This way, I get imperfect and more realistic angles. I am interested in the colours and the light that plastic lenses produce. It gives the pictures a more organic and tactile quality. BB: You describe the camera as a “second plane” between you and your subject. Throughout your series, ‘Cocorro’, your father goes in and out of playfully performing, either for you or for the camera. I’m interested in how his awareness of your presence with a camera heightens his multiple identities. Can you elaborate on how this approach affects the performance of subject in your imagery? FOS: I usually make environmental portraits, and, in this work, I look for unique qualities of the subjects to understand their world and my relationships with them. The portraits become a new form of dialogue and the camera simply registers that in the form of images. I have slowly managed to see my pictures in an objective way. ‘Cocorro’ began spontaneously two years ago as a way of communicating and developing closeness with my father. He is aware of my presence, but not as an image maker. His behaviours are raw and real. He only performs when he gets tired of me taking pictures, by pulling strange faces. Time is an important element in my projects. I need a routine with my subjects, I need to see them often and not always to take pictures – this is key, as this is what makes us united. The pictures come after. I believe I need to understand each person in their own context, their habitats and everyday environment. BB: Your edits portray multiple angles of your father in personal and public environments. How do you feel these spaces allude to representation? FOS: In ‘Cocorro’, there is a series of photos in which my father is working in the field surrounded by animals and nature. These images transmit physical and mental strength – qualities which also represent his character. However, when he arrives at his house, he relaxes, lets himself go, softens; his whole demeanour becomes more vulnerable. In public spaces, he plays theatrically for other people. All of these traits are locked within the framing of the image and somehow both environment and subject become one, building a greater understanding of my subject.

Top: Vera Rylklova, Untitled #7009, from ‘Aesthetic Distance’, 2015, medium format film Middle: Fanfa Otal Simal, image from ‘Cocorro’, 2018, 35mm film; courtesy of the artist Bottom: Becks Butler, .july, 2018, 35mm film; courtesy of the artist

BB: Vera, how did you come to use yourself as a subject within your work, and how do you decide to represent yourself? Vera Rylkova: I’d say there have been two phases to this process. The first time I ever held a camera was when I was 15. At that time, I understood the photograph to be reality,

and I photographed literally everything, with no specific concept in mind. Having few photographs of myself (as my family did not own a camera) and wanting to observe my appearance, I photographed my reflections in mirrors. I was merely looking at the world and myself through the camera’s lens and I was completely taken by it. Then, when I was studying photography, I used myself as a model for the first time, as a quick solution. Though I did not realise it at the time, this predicted the direction of my current practice. I found it cathartic. That was the turning point. Having said that, I do not necessarily see self-portraiture as my only way of working. But the self is still a subject I want to continue exploring in my work while confronting my emotional state and challenging the issues that strongly occupy my own self, as they define my role in our (post) human society. BB: Can you discuss your approaches to image-making? VR: Firstly, I aim for the audience to realise that a photographic image refers to and represents reality. What has been framed in the image is what has been created. Choices about what to include or to exclude from the frame (the audience’s view) form the basis of any artwork. I construct the image. It is like a collage. But my ‘collages’ are created during the process of execution, as I go through multiple experiences, while exploring my subjects. The act of composing happens outside of the frame. In my new work, the places where I execute the work act as props for the creation of the portraits. They assist me in communicating the specific themes I’m exploring. BB: We spoke about origins as being a driving force in the development of your work. Your photographs layer elements of place, costume and persona – which you describe as ‘a combination of things that don’t work together’. Can you discuss how these elements may deconstruct the subject or be interpreted by the viewer? VR: My origins are often associated with Eastern Europe, which has a strong political connotation for me, as the term refers to traces of belonging to a former region in the era of the Iron Curtain, rather than to the actual geographical location of the Czech Republic in post-communist Europe. The misinterpreted stigma associated with my cultural background, I felt, has caused a barrier, which was something that I had the urge to address. And I did, in my project, ‘Aesthetic Distance’ (2015). Although conflicted by my frustrations, I try to confront them with a sense of humour. I trust the audience recognises this and understands my strategy. For example, the self-portrait, Untitled #7009 (2015), has earned a comment that it looks like “an American spaceman with a Soviet head”. Which quite sums up my lived experience of the Cold War I conveyed in this performance. I observe contradiction in myself, which I think is an inherent human condition that deserves to be embraced. That is what I try to bring to the work too – to understand humans as they are. In my images, I subconsciously layer elements of my past and present, which together build a subject. I wish to provoke the audience to think and get them interested in what has not been disclosed in the frame, to let their own life experiences impact the reading of the work. Becks Butler is a recent graduate of the MA Art + Research Collaboration (ARC) programme at IADT.

Fanfa Otal Simal is a visual artist based in London.

Vera Ryklova is a Dublin-based visual artist, working in lens-based media.

This is a continuation of a conversation between the artists which took place on 13 July, as part of the PhotoIreland Festival 2019.

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Artist Interviews: Moving Image

Magnetic Earth JOANNE LAWS INTERVIEWS ARTIST CLARE LANGAN ABOUT THE THEMES AND INFLUENCES IN HER FILMS. Joanne Laws: The most immediately striking aspect across your films is the tension between interior and exterior realms. Vast, timeless, almost biblical landscapes are contrasted with abandoned domestic spaces that have somehow been taken over by nature. Are these barren landscapes a metaphor for human struggle? Clare Langan: My earlier work is very much about this kind of tension between mankind and nature. The human figure is always represented as being really small, in comparison to these huge inhospitable landscapes. The interiors represent our imprint on the landscape and how nature is taking back the interventions we’ve made. In later work this is even more pronounced. For example, The Floating World goes from the remote and extreme landscape of the Skellig [Islands], to Dubai’s futuristic cityscape in the sky, to Montserrat, a modern-day Pompeii with completely devoured interiors. JL: Your films also seem to grapple with environmental issues using the Classic elements – fire, water, wind and earth. Are there any formal or symbolic reasons behind this? CL: The trilogy, Forty Below, was very much about those symbolic elements and in every aspect, they were pronounced. In Glass Hour there are elements of Dante’s Inferno, creating quite disturbing representations of hell on earth. Quite a lot of works use water; for me, there’s something symbolic about water. It’s also an instinctive thing, as it relates to the underworld and to the dream world. It is a life force, but it can also devour us. River was created for the new digital hub at NUI Maynooth, and I really wanted to bring nature into the building in the most simplistic way, to remind students that creativity is all around us. River was filmed in a very slow-motion, painterly, almost meditative way, to draw the viewer in and have a calming influence. A ten-metre-high photograph of a waterfall is also installed in the stairwell. The wind has a certain life force within my work as well. One of the sequences for The Winter of 13 Storms came about when I was driving behind a truck on a really windy day and all of the leaves were blowing upwards. I was mesmorised by these upwardly floating leaves and was thinking how I might recreate the scene indoors. In the semi-derelict hotel with the flowery wallpaper, we were trying to recreate claustrophobia, suffocation and a feeling of entrapment. In The Winter of 13 Storms the performers were asked to treat the air as if it were liquid. In the final scene, when they were trying to get up off the sand, the instruction was that the ground was magnetic, so they couldn’t get up, no matter how they tried. JL: Perhaps this sits in contrast to the buoyancy happening in other films. Flight from the City is a very moving film. Was there an intention from the outset to harness emotion? CL: Yes, we did initially talk about ideas of love and connection, letting go and transition. Flight from the City was filmed in Iceland and features my friend Tristan, who was previously a performer and is now a meditation teacher. Tristan’s father had recently passed away, so she was still trying to come to terms with that. Her daughter, Leila, was only seven, but she’s a natural performer and she understood exactly what I was asking her to do. The film is about love and the connection between mother and daughter, but it’s mainly about something more universal. We were all children at some stage, and we all have parents or relationships – it’s a film about humanity. It’s the only film of mine that’s fully online, because that was the arrangement I made with [the Icelandic composer] Jóhann [ Jóhannsson]. Jóhann had developed the music for The Floating World and, in exchange, I made Flight from the City for him, to accompany his music for a new album he was making, which was Orphée. So that film for me is a collision of three things: there’s Tristan and Leila’s story; Johann’s music and his story; and there’s my story as an artist and director. I also did the editing on that film myself. It’s still shown widely in galleries – that was part of the deal I had written into the contract. My gallery in Germany first showed it at an

art fair in Canada and people were standing there watching it and crying. The film was groundbreaking for me, because I had my guard down. It wasn’t made for the art world, it was made for Jóhann, but it encouraged me to work more with performers and to be brave about working with emotion. JL: You previously stated that your films resonate more with cinema than video. Can you say something about the cinematic sensibility in your work, perhaps in relation to elements such as narrative, dream sequences, musical scores and Science Fiction? CL: I am influenced by video art nowadays, but I wasn’t when I first started making films. However, I was very drawn to cinema – I was looking intensively at Tarkovsky in particular, and other Russian filmmakers like Sokurov. So, all those things you mention are in there – the sound, the narrative, the cinematography and so on. I also worked in the industry for several years, on feature films and a few Hollywood movies. It’s the best education you can get really, because you’re on set and you begin to see cinema as a complex multidisciplinary thing of moving parts, with everything working together. Sometimes I found the solo nature of being an artist very frustrating, so I began working more collaboratively. Working with performers or choreographers is really interesting, because you’re discussing things as they evolve. I’ll go and look at what I’ve shot, and we’ll assess what is really working and take it to the next level. I’m standing there with the camera and they’re trying different things and suddenly something works. It’s not unplanned – that’s part of the collaborative process. I think the Sci-Fi element is something that became more present in my films from around 2013 onward. For the earlier work, I definitely would’ve looked at a lot of dream sequences – Tarkovsky would’ve been a big influence there as well. What you see onscreen is not always what you are going to hear, so that already places them in an unreal, dreamlike setting. I’m not so much looking at that now, but definitely in the beginning, dreamscapes were an important influence. I suppose now, I’m more concerned with the world of Speculative Fiction. What fascinates me is looking at something that doesn’t necessarily look real but could be real. The earlier works weren’t altered in post-production – they were always shot in places that actually existed. But it’s how you edit it together, to create the narrative that becomes a form of fiction. I wouldn’t be interested in things that are too ‘fantastical’. JL: As well as cinema, some of your films also seem to have strong art historical resonance. For example, the strikingly beautiful sequences of The Human Flock call to mind nineteenth-century paintings, such as Millais’s Ophelia, or Géricault’s Raft of Medusa. Other films use intense spotlighting, echoing the high drama of Baroque. CL: Yes certainly. The black and white interior scenes of Too Dark for the Night reference Dutch interior painting and great masters like Vermeer. The Human Flock features figures emerging out of the composition, in the style of a Caravaggio painting. I acknowledge that there is something almost biblical or religious about some of my films, especially my use of the triptych or trilogy format, but this is not something I strive to do. I’m interested in the spiritual aspect of things, not any particular religion. I think there’s reference to the marble sculptures of Rodin in The Human Flock and Flight from the City, but I only see this retrospectivally. I look at a broad range of things for inspiration, including things like Blue Planet and painters like Gerhard Richter, but I’m never trying to emulate anyone or anything. These references often come afterwards, and from other people’s interpretations of the work.

Clare Langan, Flight from the City, 2015, HDV, 6 mins; film still © Clare Langan

Clare Langan, The Floating World, 2015, HDV, 15 mins; film still © Clare Langan

Clare Langan, The Floating World, 2015, HDV, 15 mins; film still © Clare Langan

Clare Langan is a film artist based in County Cork.

Joanne Laws is an arts writer and Features Editor of The Visual Artists’ News Sheet.

Clare Langan, Flight from the City, 2015, HDV, 6 mins; film still © Clare Langan



Artist Interviews: Moving Image

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019


Bassam Al-Sabah, Wandering, Wandering with a sun on my back, 2018, CGI film; film still courtesy of the artist

IN SEPTEMBER 2017, Bassam Al-Sabah presented his first

solo exhibition in Dublin’s Eight Gallery, titled ‘The dust carried me into the watchful summer’. It featured work produced during the artist’s year-long residency in the RHA, awarded as part of their Graduate Studio Award, following Al-Sabah’s graduation from IADT Dún Laoghaire. The exhibition saw Al-Sabah investigate the blurred boundaries between fantasy and reality, adolescence and adulthood – themes that were further explored in his subsequent exhibition, ‘Illusions of Love Dyed by Sunset’, at The LAB, Dublin, in 2018. That show featured the emotionally evocative film, Fenced Within the Silent Cold Walls, which examined loss through the digital recreation of his former family home in Iraq. The artist’s largest solo show to date, ‘Dissolving by the Worm Moon’, opened on 31 August in Solstice Arts Centre, Navan. As well as the continuation of these core thematic inquiries, the show resumes Al-Sabah’s poetic approach to titling. “All my work is made at once, including my writings”, he notes. “It then collides into itself. I like the idea of the works being poetic; they’re not didactic but offer a poetic view of something”. Al-Sabah embraces a broad range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, video and installation, with the current show at Solstice also featuring textile rugs. “In my practice, I’m interested in seeing how something like a rug interacts with 3D printed sculptures”, he explains, “and then, in turn, how they interact with digital images or film. When you enter into a medium-specific show, your brain is in that mode; but when you’re constantly shifting back and forth between different ways of making, you try to figure out how they relate to each other, mimicking the shift between fantasy and reality. Artworks don’t necessarily have to be well-made; they just have to sit there and be proficient, pretending that they’re an object – but they don’t need to function like an object to do that.”

Grendizer – a robotic anime character, created in the 1970s – reoccurs across Al-Sabah’s practice, including in his latest film. The robot featured in 74 episodes of UFO Robot Grendizer, and while the initial Japanese run of this series ended in 1977, it became a staple TV show in the Middle East for decades to come. “Everyone knows it”, he states: “It’s been on since the late 70s; the last episode would air, then the next day, the first would start again.” In Iraq, the series ran during a period of turbulence that included the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The artist rarely discusses his personal experiences of violence, instead focusing on his innate perception of childhood. “I’m aware that people have a knowledge of what happened”, Al-Sabah explains. “I don’t need to repeat that – people died, and I don’t need to tell you that it was wrong. I’ve lived in Ireland for 15 years and was in Iraq for 9 years, so I’m not in a position to speak for an Iraqi public, as I have no relation to that anymore. My experience was very parochial: my home, my school and my relatives’ houses. With the work, I’m aware that people have basic knowledge of the country’s recent history, so it’s about trying to say: well actually, there’s this other thing”. Al-Sabah’s vibrant, and at times, lurid colour palette sits alongside the more grotesque and violent elements. His broad medium choices and fantasy-themed subject matter, produce a distinctive aesthetic experience, fusing cultural references, that, while alien to us in Ireland, still have a sense of familiarity. Al-Sabah’s artistic sensibility partly stems from his interest in a ‘post-internet’ aesthetic: “I was interested in watching works that were termed as post-internet. I’m not a fan of the term, but I think of it as a set of tools to critically look at something – as a way of thinking about a generation who have grown up in a media saturated environment, with the internet making that media more malleable, allowing people to float in and out.” The artist’s exhibitions can generate a sensory overload,

through the use of intense platforms and a preoccupation with chronological incoherence. “In my experience, the most interesting exhibitions tend to be conceptually messy”, he muses. “It’s great to be confused in front of an artwork – that’s the best place to be. It’s nice to walk into a show and feel like you might miss something if you’re only there for ten minutes. As an artist, I want the audience to want to be there; to sit and absorb it. I like the idea of exposure to a lot of different things. I don’t come from a culture that views aesthetic purity as apex. I’m interested in the overwhelming feeling of childhood, so why not make that part of the exhibition?” In his latest solo exhibition, Al-Sabah continues the frenetic pace established in previous shows. New works, as well as reconfigured older works, are installed across three gallery spaces in Solstice. These nods to past iterations reflect the artist’s commentary on nostalgia as a powerful force in modern advertising and content creation, which sees these things becoming “part of a cultural memory; even if you never directly experienced them, you still have a sense of nostalgia about them.” Al-Sabah leans into this issue, questioning rose-tinted views of the past. He is particularly interested in thinking about “what childhood, with all its references, means to someone who is an adult now”, noting: “ I don’t necessarily want to live it again – I’m not commemorating it; there’s not a sense of yearning for it.” Instead, the artist finds nuanced ways to reference his own personal landscape through his work, allowing for universal readings and intimate experiences. Aidan Kelly Murphy is a writer and photographer based in Dublin, and Associate Editor of CIRCA Art Magazine. Bassam Al-Sabah is an artist based in Dublin. ‘Dissolving by the Worm Moon’ continues at Solstice Arts Centre until 26 October.


Artist Interviews: Moving Image

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Myrid Carten, Study for Fox Cry 1, 2018, 35mm; courtesy of the artist

Barry McHugh: What are some of the major themes that have emerged in your moving image practice to date?


Eoghan Ryan: I find what comes up a lot, are these complex relationships to the institution: the way identities are administered; and the power dynamics that come into play, when you try to manipulate or pervert the social relationships within western art discourses. If you make a documentary about your real-life relationship to your father, that can also be a commentary on the prevalence of patriarchy within art history. I’m also interested in disassociation and how video can be a way to combine incongruous things – for example, a really crisp sound can totally change the viewers’ relationship to an image. That’s something I like to manipulate in my work. Myrid Carten: My work is about how people find themselves (or lose themselves) in their relationships with others. It’s about agency, and boundaries: how and where do you draw lines around yourself (especially in chaotic relationships)? How do you decide what to keep to yourself and what to share (both as an individual and as a filmmaker making public work)? How do you think about truth when relationships always present different versions? Moving image allows me to explore this in both documentary and cinematically experimental ways. The film I’m working on at the moment explores my own complicated and impinging family story, asking a question that refuses to go away for me: in what ways do we belong to one another, and what is the cost of that belonging? Emily McFarland: I am interested in the construction of shared cultural narratives, identity and moments of collective resistance at particular periods in history, as well as their portrayals in cinema, television and theatre. To date, my practice explores and reflects on those representations using film and video. For my first solo exhibition, ‘The Complex Seer’, at CCA Derry~Londonderry in 2017, I became interested in using Brechtian theatre techniques and strategies as a method to restage structures and narratives, while re-appropriating articulations of cultural authority. I find myself continuously referring back to particular literary references. For example, I really like feminist writer Kathy Acker’s approach to the ‘cut-up’, as an adapted method for think-

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

ing through and renegotiating ideological structures of cinema and recoding particular cinematic conventions. BMcH: How do you approach research (for a new film) and how do these methods reflect your intentions for the work? ER: For me, research is about trying to establish a framework, because the subject matter in my work is hugely varied and quite episodic. I divide my time between two aspects of research: gathering material and editing it. I might do four months of gathering material – whether that be performative research, like dressing up and performing at a carnival in Europe, or more typical research, like reading – followed by roughly four months of editing. When I’m editing, I try to keep the mindset I developed during that gathering phase: Who was I when I was doing this research? I ask myself that a lot, when I’m making a cut. MC: My films are personal and familial, so my research is essentially a project of give and take with friends and family. Research helps build trust, so ‘subjects’ become collaborators. However, I also find resistance valuable, to situate myself and to probe easily given or concealed truths. The power of the camera deepens these exchanges, creating a constant tension between its ability to bear witness and its capacity to alienate or entrap. I like to research around different psychological themes and let them seep into the filming and editing process; right now I’m interested in the work of Jessica Benjamin, Louise Bourgeois, Gwendoline Riley and Josephine Decker. EMcF: Usually, the impetus for new work comes from something I’ve encountered whilst researching other projects. I generally begin with a reference and have a fluid structure in mind, to leave space for unexpected elements to emerge – either through expanded research, collaboration, filming or the editing process. I like Carl Jung’s observation of “the hands solving a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain”: the sense that sometimes, through the process of production, ideas can emerge in unexpected ways. Most of my films are part of a broader, ongoing enquiry, building on ongoing research interests, with a layering of previous references, even if that might not be explicit within new work.

Artist Interviews: Moving Image


to belong? The film contrasts an observational documentary approach with cinematic sequences to explore the fragile nature of home. The piece has emerged from a period of heightened focus, generously supported by the Next Generation Artist Award. I hope to secure further funding and finish the piece in 2020. I am showing another new work in the Regional Cultural Centre Donegal this November. EMcF: I am currently developing new work for EVA International 2020, as part of their Platform Commissions initiative, which provides support to develop an ambitious new work, to be exhibited at the biennial next year. Last year I was awarded the PS2 Freelands Artist Programme, a two-year-long project, culminating in a solo exhibition at PS2, Belfast, in 2020, and a group exhibition at The Freelands Gallery, London, in 2021. I am also very excited to have been recently selected for the Artlink Residency in Donegal and will spend one month developing a short film at Fort Dunree in October. Eoghan Ryan is an Irish artist currently based in Amsterdam, where he is undertaking a residency at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, with the support of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Myrid Carten is the recipient of the Firestation Digital Media Award & the Arts Council’s Next Generation Artist Award 2018–19. She has screened work internationally.

Emily McFarland is an artist currently based in Belfast and Glasgow and is a past co-director of Catalyst Arts. Barry McHugh is an artist and writer based in Sligo who currently runs the blog, Painting in Text.

BMcH: Can you outline some of your technical requirements – such as access to production equipment or editing facilities – and how these impact on the format of your films? ER: I try to play with hierarchy a lot, in terms of different emphasises and feelings. For example, how pixelated CCTV footage does something that is more affecting than, say, a slick re-enactment of an event with state-of-the-art cameras. Essentially, I film and use equipment performatively. The work comes from the position of a constructed subject. With that in mind, the question becomes: how do you integrate your position as a performer or actor when making the work? That might take the form of using my phone or filming a screen while I’m editing. I’ve also found myself recently degrading footage more and more – things like this. MC: I have a small DSLR camera (Sony A7Sii), which is non-obtrusive, light to carry and great in darkness. This is ideal for capturing intimate footage. My family call it my third eye. I edit on my laptop with Final Cut Pro X, but intend to move to DaVinci Resolve (it’s free!). For the staged sections of my work, I collaborate with cinematographers and have started shooting on 16mm (via a Cinelab London sponsorship). I work with my friends as actors and musician friends as composers; Saint Sister and Rachael Lavelle made the music for my last piece. In post-production, I work with a colourist and sound mixer to unify the various elements of footage, establishing a cohesive tone between raw documentary footage and cinematic footage.

Eoghan Ryan, Are you trying to make me say the word?, 2016; film still courtesy of the artist

EMcF: My technical requirements can vary from project to project, depending on the work. In the past, I have used footage gleaned online and personal video archives collected over the years, so in that case, the main production requirements were an editing programme on my laptop. Often, I will work with friends, if I require more specialised skills or assistance. I really enjoy that collaborative element of filmmaking. Last year, I was awarded a commission that provided an opportunity to realise a film on a more ambitious scale and enabled me to shoot on 16mm celluloid for the first time. I was also able to collaborate with a cinematographer – an exciting process and learning experience that wouldn’t have been possible without funding. BMcH: Perhaps you can discuss your current work and any future plans? ER: I’ve been in Amsterdam since January, doing a residency at the Rijksakademie. I plan to do one work each year while I’m here. Right now, it’s a larger project because the parameters allow it, and next year I will do something different. I’m currently mid-production. I’m also trying to shift the way I work, slightly altering my methods. A lot of it is about proximity – how you can inform or imbue a performance with a different kind of narrative, by keeping the gap quite close between film and actual real space. I’m working on a piece with several dancers. It’s as much a performance for video, as it is a making of the performance. MC: I am deep in development on an experimental documentary, No Place Like Home. Rooted in a landscape with its own complicated history, the film asks questions relevant to us all: How does a family disintegrate? What gets passed down? What does it mean

Emily McFarland, ‘The Complex Seer’ (20 May – 8 July 2017), installation view, CCA Derry~Londonderry; photograph courtesy of the artist


Artist Interviews: Moving Image

Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019


Left: Kevin Atheron recording ‘In Two Minds Puppet Performance Version’. Middle: Kevin Atherton with the two puppets (finished stage); both photographs by Anthony Hobbs Right: Frances Hegarty & Andrew Stones, ‘The Land That...’, 2019, installation view; image © and courtesy of the artists

Joanne Laws: How do you approach research and what are some of the prominent themes that have emerged within your moving image practice to date? Kevin Atherton: The ‘research’ word has entered the vocabulary of visual artists when they talk about what they do, resulting in a conflation of practice and research, which has led to a lot of posturing and confusion. I hear artists’ talk about doing their research and frequently what they’re referring to is old-fashioned ‘resourcefulness’. As regards my research, I’m not sure whether I do research at all or, alternatively, that I’m doing it all the time. My 2010 Visual Culture PhD – titled: Atherton on Atherton, An Examination of the Self-Reflexive Role of Language in Critically Examining Visual Art Practice Through a Consideration of Kevin Atherton’s Work – was intended to contest the relationship between the written and the visual. It was also intended to challenge the notion of visual art research. The prominent theme in my work over the last fifty years has been identity. Frances Hegarty and Andrew Stones: We don’t have a tidy research-to-outcome approach. We have constantly to reconcile two individual perspectives, each with its own complexities. We allow for some disorder, and a lot of ‘working out’ or testing of half-formed propositions. One of our projects – ‘Tactically Yours’ at Butler Gallery (23 June to 29 July 2007) – was partly about this process. Typically, we begin with a site or object that has sparked our joint interest (such as a plot of land, or a destroyed factory). We usually find that we have different investments in the object, but we establish enough common ground to devise, say, a durational image, or a series of performative gestures, specific to it. Our early energy thus goes into action that produces something new (usually recordings of some kind). We interrogate the emerging material with reference to what could be called a joint body of knowledge. Either one of us might have to incorporate elements that seem counter-intuitive, or antagonistic. For instance, we’ve each had to question our individual senses of national and cultural belonging – our own nostalgias. Many ideas do not survive in their original form. For exhibition we want, primarily, to create an involving field of affect, to engage the viewer in a thought and felt response to the ideas that have occupied us, whilst making the work.

some of my early films and videos. Re-entering my earlier works can sometimes feel like standing on a moving Möbius strip, where the past and present intertwine and become very complicated. I feel that as the maker of some early examples of ‘Expanded Cinema’, I set certain things in motion in the 1970s, and that I’m catching up with them again now. This means that I need a good technical person, both to record and edit what I do, but also someone who ‘gets it’ and ‘gets me’. FH and AS: Our video and audio production is in-house and digital. As artists who worked with tape in hired edit suites, we really enjoy having a fluid, ongoing moving-image practice that’s not reliant on up-front production funds. However, our finished works are highly dependent on their manner of exhibition. It’s necessary for us to be at least as engaged with technologies of planning and installation as with video/sound editing. Our latest exhibition ‘The Land That…’ at The MAC, Belfast (12 April – 7 July) involved nine video feeds, with as many screens, multiple audio feeds, objects and automated lighting. We had to think in terms of parallel timelines, and degrees of synchronisation and slippage, as we sought to animate multiple spaces without the whole becoming confusing to the senses. Whilst we were editing video and sound, we used a virtual 3D model to visualise the whole work in the gallery. In the final phase, we drew on the commitment of the exemplary team at the MAC to realise in reality what we’d modelled in virtual space. JL: Each of you has films that feature in the LUX collection. How important are international archives and distribution agencies in the promotion of artists’ moving image practices and discourses? From an archival perspective, how have you dealt with film formats and technologies becoming outmoded over the years?

JL: Can you outline some of your technical requirements – such as access to production equipment or editing facilities – and how these impact on the format of your films?

KA: In the 1970s, I used London Video Arts (who became LUX) to distribute my work and, more unusually in the1980s, to produce it. Now LUX has copies of these and other more recent works of mine in their collection. I have been in a couple of group shows at the Whitechapel Gallery and the ICA in recent years where the work was sourced from LUX but despite this, I don’t feel that they actively promote me. If a curator was pursuing a particular theme, then I like to think that LUX might point him or her towards my work. The future proofing of time-based work isn’t an issue restricted to technical concerns. For work to prove to be prescient, its subject matter will determine its relevance in the future.

KA: I worked out fairly early on in my career that my position as a film maker was in front of the camera lens, rather than behind it. Since 2014, I have been making videos that include

FH and AS: Even when they’re legitimated on grounds of inclusiveness, archives can still be used very selectively. If the discussion of ‘archives and distribution’ includes ‘history

and exposure’, then it also involves power and representation around artistic culture more generally. Do the rules of inclusion/exclusion that apply to art in general also apply to moving image? Should it be a special case? On a practical note, we don’t know of an archive that’s really met the challenge of representing multi-screen installation works after exhibition. Further, if the focus is on mere media-specificity (it’s film, it’s video) or the technical issue of ‘future-proofing’, then the detailed cultural context around the archived work can be neglected. As far as we can tell, having work in archives has not brought us much exposure, in terms of exhibition. Our work is discussed in academic writing, often on the basis of its concerns and effects, as much as its being film or video. To respond to that kind of interest, we try to maintain our own archive, to keep our works accessible in digital form. JL: Perhaps you could discuss your current work and any future plans? KA: Last year I collaborated with the Museo internazionale delle marionette Antonio Pasqualino in Palermo on a puppet version of my on-going video/performance piece, In Two Minds (1978–2019). I worked with a skilled puppet-master at the museum who made two marionettes for the project. These puppets of me at the age of 27 and me now as an old man, are dressed identically but the younger one still smokes. Having had the two puppets made to be in a new video, I’m now interested in using them to make my work for me. I am eager to see what ideas they might come up with. FH and AS: ‘That Land That…’ at the MAC is the culmination of several years’ work. It can be reconfigured for other spaces. We intend a compilation film of works made “in and of ” Ireland: Overnight Sensation (Belfast, 2001), Ex Machina (Carlow, 2006) The Land That… (Donegal, 2010–15). That would be for cinema screening, with surround sound. Meanwhile, Frances is embarking on new studio work, involving large drawings with related texts; Andrew is working on twin and single-screen video works, audio and musical works, and an online collaboration with Derry-based artists Locky Morris and Conor McFeely. Kevin Atherton’s video work has been exhibited in key historical exhibitions, such as ‘Changing Channels: Art and Television 1963-1987’, MUMOK, Vienna 2010. His work, In Two Minds (1978–2014), is in the collection at IMMA. Frances Hegarty and Andrew Stones each have individual practices spanning several decades and have worked collaboratively since 1997.

Visual Artists’ News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Artist Interviews: Moving Image



Byrne is known for his complex film installations that displace sequential narratives with non-linear playback systems. Byrne’s films often incorporate multiple viewing planes, where episodic reenactments extend across the gallery space, running parallel to one another, encouraging the audience to explore the space, while piecing together the fragmented narrative. A notable example is A thing is a hole is a thing it is not (2010), which charts separate episodes in the history of minimalism, including: a radio conversation between Bruce Glaser, Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin; Robert Morris’s 1960 sculpture, Column; and Tony Smith’s career-changing epiphany on the New Jersey Turnpike, which led him to minimalist art. Other works assume modular structures of indefinite duration. Taking cues from the serial qualities of minimalism, In Our Time (2017) takes place in a radio studio. Using the modular structure of commercial radio broadcasting as temporal framework, the film is played in sync with the opening hours of the gallery. Byrne graduated from NCAD in 1991, just as ‘media art’ was about to experience a monumental shift from analogue to digital. As we discuss the evolution of Byrne’s working methods, he mentions a range of formats, including 16mm, VHS (and VHS-C), Hi8, Betacam SP, MiniDV, SD digital video, HD, 4k, and beyond. With this expansive collection of material, comes questions of storage and preservation. For Byrne, this has generally involved fastidious processes of digitisation and archiving, so even works created on analogue tapes (and kept safely in physical storage), also now exist on hard drives, making them more readily accessible. Giving a ballpark figure, Byrne estimates that he has over 100 hard drives of material. When I ask whether he has any advice for other artists on how they should digitally archive their work, he cautiously states: “Well, first thing I would say is, if you want to get advice on that, an artist is probably not the best person to ask. You’re better off asking somebody who manages data […] It’s not an art question. What I do for myself, is that I label all my hard drives in a very systematic way. They’re given a number, which goes up sequentially. The label also states the size of the drive and whether it’s an A or a B drive – the idea being that the B drives are backups of the A drives, so I usually try to have drives in pairs, if possible. And ideally, of course, you have a third backup. I also use a piece of cataloguing software called NeoFinder, which scans hard drives and makes an inventory of what’s on the drive. That catalogue is then accessible without the drive being connected. So if you’re looking for a specific file, you can search across all of the catalogues and find out which drives it’s on.”

Byrne has been working with non-linear digital video editing programmes since the mid-‘90s, when he was a postgraduate student at Parsons School of Design in New York. Then he was working with early versions of Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer; now he works with programmes like Final Cut. The project files for these programmes are equally important to archive, so that old video edits can be accessed for re-exporting and upgrading. However, Byrne concedes that, unfortunately, “software makers have no interest, or minimal commitments, to the idea of backwards accessibility”. This essentially means that unless you have a specific version of a piece of software (and the correct operating system on which the programme will run) you won’t be able to access that project anymore. Byrne gets around this situation by using hard drives to clone certain operating systems that will run specific pieces of older software, such as Final Cut 7. This clone drive can then be booted up from a computer, when he needs to access something. But this isn’t the end of the problem: “it’s also inevitably going to mean archiving physical computers, because it’s going to get to the point where certain operating systems are just not supported by newer computers. So, the only way you’ll be able to boot from them is by having an older computer… It’s farcical that you’re trying to save access to a file and that means you have to archive a whole computer.” Byrne has been dealing with archival problems like these for the past 10 years or so. With many of his major works in international collections, he’s been fortunate enough to discuss these issues with digital conservationists working in museums around the world. Digital conservation is becoming a professionalised field, with outside consultants advising both private collections and publicly-funded galleries on how to tackle the problems of storing and accessing digital formats. But Byrne admits: “In all the conversations that I’ve had in my travels, I’ve realised nobody really has definitive answers […] I don’t think anybody can do anything more than be reactive and try to make good choices.” These conservation challenges aren’t just limited to the digital domain. As well as guarding against the obsoletion of computer software, installation hardware also needs to be ‘future-ready’. Byrne’s installations require meticulous levels of thought and design, incorporating both bespoke software and specialist hardware. Byrne’s collaborator, Sven Anderson – who works tirelessly as the primary technical designer for Byrne’s projects – has been a lynchpin in devising these systems. However, with the necessary complexity required to playback the works, a number of potential problems can arise. Firstly, the component parts of his installations, and the fact

Gerard Byrne, A thing is a hole is a thing it is not, 2010, installation view, Lismore Castle Arts; courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nordenhake

that they can modulate in structure, duration and layout, lead to challenges when finalising the works for collections. There is a process of “delimiting the work in a very material way” that needs to take place before it can be handed over to a museum. Secondly, hardware, files and other interconnecting parts pertaining to an artwork needs to remain accessible and functional in years to come. Re-showing works that are less than even a decade old, can become problematic, if hardware breaks down and needs to be replaced. And thanks to a rising culture of ‘planned obsolescence’, replacement might be the only viable option, when things are impossible to repair. File formats can also become unsupported if new hardware is introduced. Such dilemmas can spiral, unless all aspects are carefully thought through. Indeed, the creation of these works involves a stringent period of development and testing by Byrne and Anderson. The first major project they worked on together was A thing is a hole is a thing it is not (2010). They decided that the best way for the work to be delivered to collections was as a “ready-to-go, verified system”. As Byrne recalls, this was a huge amount of work, with Anderson writing a 50-page manual to accompany the artwork, outlining all aspects of the installation, from set-up and running, to troubleshooting. For all the flexibility and increased convenience that digital technologies afford, they also introduce a set of challenges. “Migration between formats is actually a very natural quality of the digital environment we live in – that media can migrate between formats fluidly, and fluently – that’s kind of anathema to museums. At least in a historical sense, a lot of orthodox thinking around museums is an anxiety to change in relation to a work. To lock it down.” While custom-made presentation systems are currently only used by a minority of artists, they are becoming more common, as technology becomes more increasingly accessible. The role of museum collections in preserving these pieces of hardware is therefore likely to become a prescient issue, with Byrne concluding that: “As museum conservators’ knowledge of media and the technical side of media art advances, I think they’ll have more specific questions for artists.” Gerard Byrne is an artist and lecturer based in Dublin. He is represented by Lisson Gallery, Galerie Nordenhake Stockholm and Kerlin Gallery.

Christopher Steenson is Production Editor of The Visual Artists’ News Sheet. He also works as a studio assistant for Gerard Byrne.

Gerard Byrne, In Our Time, 2017, film still, unifxed duration; commissioned for Münster Skulptur Projekte; courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nordenhake


Visual Artists' News Sheet | Special Issue: September – October 2019

Artist Interviews: Moving Image


Atoosa Pour Hosseini, Kinetics (film still), 2018, 16mm; © and courtesy of Experimental Film Society

Suzanne Walsh: There are often themes of time and repetition in your work. For example, in Refining the Senses (2016), you used old footage, as well as new footage filmed in the same place. Is time an important source of inspiration for you? Atoosa Pour Hosseini: Yes, very much so, I like to experiment with time, space and memory. With Refining the Senses, it was very much about the persistence and fragility of the moving image. It was mostly found-footage in that project – 70% of it was 1970s footage from Klosters in the Swiss mountains, and in 2016 I went to the same place with a small cast and crew to shoot more material in standard 8mm and Super 8. I came back and worked on the footage in the studio, painting on the film strips. SW: What is your usual process for finding the themes and direction of your projects? APH: I normally don’t plan or think too much; it’s intuitive – it’s very much the process directing me. But for the last project, Kinetics in Blue (2018), it was a little more concrete. I had to put the ideas together for an application, so I had some plans and themes, but then it can often go in a completely different direction. While working as co-producer on another film, I had to research islands around Ireland and became very interested in the Blasket Islands off the coast of Kerry. I decided to propose this as a place to go and shoot. I had a very simple idea, to think about ‘displacement and alienation’, but when I got there, it was very different. The landscape itself was very strong; it somehow directed us. SW: Kinetics in Blue seems like a departure from your usual modes of performing and showing film, as it included more sculptural elements. Do you feel you will engage more with this approach in the future? APH: I actually started my practice as painter twenty years ago and for a long time I was into classical figurative painting, but when I moved to Ireland everything changed. I became more interested in movement and sound and began working with animated drawing and ceramics. I then started to work with DSLR digital and GoPro cameras but I always felt something was missing. I think I found my voice with film, celluloid and analogue material and enjoy the physicality of the medium. For me it’s like a clay – you can touch it and paint on it, so this is really my medium.

Atoosa Pour Hosseini, Kinetics (film still), 2018, 16mm; © and courtesy of Experimental Film Society

SW: Would you say you like to make the viewer aware of the materiality of film through the editing process, rather than through more immersive experiences? APH: I like to shift people between these two spaces. At the start, I was into structuralist experimental filmmaking with a formalist approach, but then some curators suggested that there is an element of narrative within my work. I had never thought about it before – maybe there are abstract ways of looking at narrative. I believe all the works have narrative in their own way, however they’re not so much about storytelling.

you feel you can explore different things in each sphere? APH: With film, I think very much about cinematic spaces – this space is very dominant. I approach exhibitions with a different sense of duration and tend to think more about sculptural ways of presenting moving image works. When talking about gallery spaces, I refer to my work as ‘moving image’, but when working within cinematic spaces, I use the term ‘film’ or ‘experimental film’. When I present something in the gallery, I love to play with the monitor, or the way that the viewer sits and observes, but in cinema, I prefer to present a film that viewers watch from the start to the end.

SW: Moments in a story? Something to do with memory? APH: It’s very much to do with images of memory – or memory of the images. But I try to actually include elements to create a universe that can stand on its own. When we were planning to go to the Blasket Islands, I didn’t immediately decide to have a strong character in Kinetics in Blue; I think making a character is something new for me.

SW: As a filmmaker, is it important to have the support of the team you are working with? APH: I don’t think I’d be able to do without the Experimental Film Society (EFS) – filmmaking is so much about teamwork and collaboration. I made three films in the last show, including one called Kinetics, which is very much a ‘film’ work. It’s going to travel to some film festivals, but the other two are looped and designed for gallery spaces. Kinetics was very much a collaboration with EFS. It was the first time I wasn’t the cameraperson – Michael Higgins and Jann Clavadetscher were. I don’t think I could trust anyone else, as I’ve worked with them for so many years. Rouzbeh Rashidi was also there and he gave us some direction and advice during the shooting, as well as Katie O’Neill, who was amazing.

SW: Does this also perhaps signify some sort of return to figurative painting? APH: No, not exactly. I met Katie O’Neill and I thought she was very performative, and I thought I’d like to develop something with this, so I think in this piece (compared to my previous films) the character has become more important. Actually, the bird mask was partially inspired by your work with birds. SW: You often collaborate with musicians and performers (like me). In your film Antler (2018), you worked with composer Karen Power. How do you form these relationships and is collaboration important to you? APH: Three years ago, Karen approached me about the possibility of collaborating together. We ended up doing a performance in Cork Film Centre Gallery and she saw how I interacted with moving image and with other sound artists. We started to chat about these things, and she said let’s do something, and six months later I decided to make Antler. I asked Karen if she would like to participate and she rose to the challenge, so that’s how we started. SW: You seem to cross over between the film world and the artworld. Do you think these worlds are connected, or do

SW: What’s next for you? APH: At the moment, I am working on a research project about women avant-garde filmmakers. I am engaging with major European film museums and archives this year, such as: The Cinema Museum, London; La Cinémathèque Française, Paris; Cinemateca Portuguesa-Museu do Cinema, Lisbon; and EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam. I’m also working on a formalistic series of 16mm landscape films, which will be produced in Ireland and Iran. Atoosa Pour Hosseini is an Iranian/Irish visual artist and experimental filmmaker based in Dublin.

Suzanne Walsh is an artist and writer who works with music, performance and text.

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