Curated by Vaari Claffey
The gallery will be split horizontally to create two viewing levels, a forced division between the films, performed work and sculptural objects. Like a ‘MacGuffin’, in our story the physical divide becomes the object around which the show orbits but whose intrinsic role is not at its core. The exhibition includes work by Lucy Andrews, Isil Egrikavuk, David Hall, Alice Rekab and Judith Scott.
The first man asks “What’s a McGuffin?” “Well,” the other man says, “It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.” The first man says “But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,” and Alfred Hitchcock answers “Well, then that’s no MacGuffin!”
There is a moment in Samuel Beckett’s ‘Film’ where the protagonist, ‘O.’ (for Object) played by Buster Keaton, draws the curtains in his apartment. They have been used so often as a means to block out the world that they have become nothing more than dangling rags, yet O. draws them and is reassured.
In her objects and installations, Lucy Andrews takes scraps and remainders, things which are transformed or transferred from their original use, and using the support systems for the building’s facilities (plumbing, electricity), gives them another life. David Hall’s ‘TV Interruptions’ are sculptural video works that disrupted broadcast television in 1971. The works interrupted the television scripts of the day, thereby momentarily turning the television into a sculptural object in the living room.
Director J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek) describes the basis of all his work, as a ‘mystery box’ of magic tricks given to him by his grandfather. Abrams decided never to open the box, realising that the not knowing and the box itself held more value for him than its contents could ever have. Judith Scott’s sculptures similarly contain all kinds of unknowable things. Scott collected found objects and wrapped them in yarn, thread and fibres, resulting in amorphous works which appear both tense and light, stolid and assertive. X-rays have revealed the inaccessible and complex collection of appropriated objects held inside the sculptures.
In Howard Hawks’ film ‘Bringing up Baby’, Cary Grant’s character declares to Katharine Hepburn’s character, by whom he is being pursued: “The only way you’ll get me to follow another of your suggestions is to hold a bright object in front of my eyes and twirl it.” The suggestion is that her growing power over him could be transferred into an object which he could then claim to be powerless to resist.
In Isil Egrikavuk’s film Infamous Library, the artist, off camera, hands the protagonist a small unidentifiable object. “And this is the object,” she says in English “the only object that you were able to get out of the library. You don’t know what it is about but you found it in one of the books and you hid it.” She switches to Turkish “This is going to confirm the existence of the library in the eyes of the audience.”
Last year, an independent radio station reported on a form of psychosis wherein the sufferer failed to recognise a person who was otherwise very familiar to them, as a protective response to a traumatic event between them. However, if the unrecognised went to the next room and telephoned, the ‘patient’ would recognise their voice and their relationship could continue in ‘safe mode’ while the relationship to their physical body, the person as an object, was suspended.
In her performance and video works, Alice Rekab re-performs a series of videos designed to demonstrate the ‘alignment of body, mind and energy as a technique for optimising one’s overall condition’, disrupted by the inclusion of a number of sculptural objects.
The exhibition also includes a major structural intervention in the gallery space: a huge piece of fabric which splits the gallery in two horizontally, creating two viewing levels and forcing a divide between films or performed narrative works, and sculptural or kinetic objects. This partition is both pinned down and interrupted by a central weight, an object around which the show orbits, but whose intrinsic properties are unknown and, at first, seemingly irrelevant.
How things meet
Lichens grow slowly. Between 1 and 10 mm a year, if at all – they go dormant if deprived of water. But for a rock, I imagine, the spread of lichen is akin to having a spider scuttle over a naked limb.
Before beginning an installation it is rare to see the gallery space utterly empty. The work from the previous show may be wrapped and stacked or crated and ready to go; a wheeled tool chest, a work-table, and perhaps a ladder may be present, as well as, more often than not, your own work or equipment awaiting attention. Still, it is easy to imagine an empty gallery, even to imagine a gallery with these somehow neutral things in it, as empty. A gallery full of nothing can feel oppressively or thrillingly empty whilst it awaits the first pass of an installation. It is the placement of objects that will fill it with spaces.
If two bodies are separated by nothing, should they not be in contact? How can ‘emptiness’ keep things apart, or have properties such as size or boundaries?
Paul Davies, New Scientist, Issue 2839 (19 Nov 2011), p.51
There are metaphysical questions regarding the meeting of things and how this occurs. Questions including, is space an empty, objective container, or a system of relations? Whether a medium is necessary to allow things to meet is also an issue, be it the luminiferous ether, magnetic forcefields, Higgs bosons, or a God who facilitates contact. Is all One or is everything ultimately isolated in an infinite regress of sub-atomic particles? The question of how matter meets is contentious.
Whilst I was reading a special issue of the magazine New Scientist: ‘Nothing: the Intangible Idea that Rules the Cosmos’, this came to mind:
Q. How do things meet? A. Nothing comes between them.
Perhaps, I thought, it could be argued that there is a distinction between space and nothing. Maybe this variance necessitates alternative means, be they poetic or scientific, to describe the spaces that keep things apart. I began to wonder if this difference, and the experience of it, should be considered in aesthetic terms.
Enormous gaps, uneasy interstices, resounding connections and failures to fit all hove into being when artworks are placed in a room. These spaces have properties in a way that nothing does not. I am not suggesting that empty rooms don’t have character but the introduction of objects into these spaces makes new spaces and even collapses existing ones. Spaces can have an infinite array of qualities – they may be generous, accommodating, discomforting, alienating and enlivening. It is how the non-neutral objects project themselves into the room that gives shape to the nothing between them.
One autumn I spent about ten days in the herbarium of the Natural History department of the Auckland Museum. It holds an unparalleled collection of lichens – more than 27,000 specimens. With a microscope, some reference books and guidance from the exceedingly accommodating curator, Ewen Cameron, I combed through numerous sections of the archive. The intricacy, variety and compelling weirdness of the lichens was absorbing.
Lichens are not autonomous organisms. They are symbiots, an alliance formed by an algae or cyanobacterium (both photobionts which bestow the ability to photosynthesize upon the species) and a fungus. An expert on bryophytes at the museum (whose name I can’t recall) informed me that Beatrix Potter, the nineteenth century children’s author, was an early exponent of the hypothesis that lichens were actually a union of two organisms. Then, unknown as a writer, Potter’s paper was delivered by her uncle to the Royal Society in 1897. The idea that all living organisms were not autonomous was wholly new and shocking. Her thesis was rejected. The first widely accepted proof of lichens’ dual nature was not published until 1939.
I became interested in lichens on reading John Wyndham’s 1960 novel Trouble with Lichen. It concerns the discovery of a cure for aging – a drug synthesised from a rare lichen. The specificity of his choice of lichen and the use of it in the title of the book suggested that there was potentially a notable rationale for selecting this commonplace but easily overlooked organism. It was quite some time later that I ended up in the herbarium. The experience was fascinating but, unsurprisingly, shed no light on the role of the lichen in Wyndham’s novel.
Whilst there I read about lichens, photographed and tried to draw specimens; from the families Parmeliaceae, Haematommaceae, Cladoniaceae and many more besides. I took hundreds of shots through the powerful microscope lens, arresting their multifarious and exquisite strangeness in high degrees of magnitude. Even the storage system for the specimens had its attractions. I took pictures of the meticulously labelled, acid-free, bespoke envelopes in which the lichens are held, the alphabetically ordered boxes that contain these paper troves and the moveable, creamy-white painted, steel, storage racks.
In great part, for me, the value of visiting the herbarium was to bear witness to this amazing collection. Incredible dedication, work and the perseverance of innumerable people had gone into amassing and housing the collection. It is a magnificent manifestation of, and testament to, the spirit of inquiry, and the impulse of human kind to rationalise.
I intended that someday the visit I made there would manifest in work of my own, but I had no specific plans. On the return journey to Ireland the suitcase holding my drawings, watercolours, photocopies and notebook was lost, mistakenly and permanently exiled to an airport no man’s land. A few weeks later my computer and camera were stolen – I had made no back-ups. All physical evidence of my short time in the herbarium was lost.
The observer allows these vain words which tell nothing but the truth to reach him; he notes with some bitterness that these banalities correspond perfectly to reality. The present reality couldn’t ask any more.
Raymond Queaneau, The Bark-tree, Calder and Boyars, London, 1968, p.21
The idea that our experience of reality could somehow be utterly contiguous with the world, a commonsensical realist position, seems to be widespread, excepting within the arts and some philosophical positions. The rancor of the forementioned observer is neither unexpected nor unfathomable to me. A world that is reducible to a limited number of banal concepts is thin. Tension, density and complexity all seem to be absent from this scenario. Poetic, philosophical and perhaps even scientific questions often emerge from the gulfs we perceive between reality and our descriptions of it.
Perhaps as a matter of stubborn adherence to that which is not possible I have, to my embarrassment, not lost the capacity to form attachments to stuffed toys. I favour soft animals with furtive, appealing expressions, and those with small disfigurements: a missing ear or limb (these do occasionally make it to the shop).
Years back I was given a soft white Ikea mouse with black stitched eyes and skewed pink whiskers. M. fills a closed hand in a very satisfactory manner. He travels well and came to New Zealand with me. M. stayed in the huge bedroom of my suburban Auckland apartment. He observed my comings and goings to the herbarium and was present for the making of a magnificent porphyrous bruise the night I slept-stumbled out of bed and, having forgotten the layout of the room, collided with a window box.
On a recent trip to France M. was left in a hotel. A hungover and harried departure to catch a tram to make the train to make the next train to be in time for the lift. It was at least 36 hours and two hotels later when I realised he was not with me. The guilt is inane – but spirals forth not only as a consequence of M.’s potential suffering (a degrading end -imprisoned amongst used tissues, chewing gum, newspapers, tampon wrappers, discs of dirty cotton wool, mini bar bottles and voided tubes of toothpaste – and other diverse detritus of numerous hotel rooms) but because I am careless, drink too much, run late and through my own fault, no doubt, have a deficient memory. Moreover I thought of M’s companions awaiting his return, including an aged bear, older than myself. They will suffer his absence, and, with their enigmatic faces, potentially for a very long time, rebuke me for my shortcomings. How did M. get left behind?
The time of an object, of any artwork, exceeds our encounters with it: an artwork persists in our minds and simultaneously endures in our absence. The time contained in a work is not simply an index of the labour involved in conceiving, producing it and looking at it, there is also the time it occupies in space. The time it produces by being in space.
Objects have their own sets of relations, aspects of which are apparent to us as individuals. The way things meet in galleries is also partly through their audience. If we attempt to extract an object from the time and space that it creates we reduce it to a finished product and disable its other forms of agency. A good artwork or exhibition is a potent thing that has the means to develop in relation with a public. In return for our attention, objects make spaces for brains to inhabit.
The labour involved in making artworks and exhibitions should be regarded as absurd. An immoderate investment of thought and physical effort into producing another (use-free) thing has the potential to be, perhaps liberating, or stimulating or at the very least a resonant exhortation to reflect. Artworks that are temporally, physically and conceptually synonymous are stillborn. The work invested in their realisation is not absurd, it is simply spent and they acquire no extra space in their translation into reality.
An open artwork provides a beginning point for an audience who wants to have an interesting time, who wants to bring discrete things together. Good exhibitions, films, stories and scripts shape nothing into a super-charged space that directs our movements. They draw our attention and remind us of the significance, the importance of objects, entities and their qualities that both seek audiences and attention and shy away from our scrutiny. Artworks and exhibitions invoke and exploit the urgency and the reasoned peculiarity of human compulsions to rationalise, understand and value experience.
Now I often pause to study lichens. Crustose, foliose and fruticose: all are beautiful and intriguing, with different characters, different ways of being in their environment. I regularly take poorly composed photographs of them. They appear to be fragile – clinging onto the surfaces of the outside world, to rocks, trees, gates, rooves. Yet lichens are tough – their capacity to endure is extraordinary, an experiment has proved that they can even survive days of exposure to the vacuum of outer space. I admire their weirdness, tenacity and even their ethics – they will grow anywhere but will not tolerate pollution.
Perhaps it is an aesthetic issue – objects appeal to us and they become placeholders for values and ideas (often with artefacts it is for memories) but usually this function is more complex or nuanced – objects define, explain, or even undermine our relationship with the world. They drive us, nolens volens, determining choices we make and sending us on journeys in pursuit of potentially valuable and possibly absurd experience.
Objects are at the very least both what we think they are and what they are in themselves. Their functions and aspects are numerous: they are repositories, substitutions, embodiments, collaborators and even when they are instrumental, can be impossible to grasp and may get in our way. They entice us, defy us, and we collude with and utilise them to construct networks, to build bridges which we imagine span the gaps between our minds and the world.
The idea of an autonomous organism is no longer shocking; rather the interdependence of objects, the inextricability of things, is taken to be self-evidently true. Perhaps somewhere in France M. physically persists. However I suppose he is no longer M. in practice: M-ness was a temporal aspect, conferred unto that particular stuffed mouse. Most likely his travelling days are at an end. Perhaps he has been incinerated or is one of thousands upon thousands of such toys to be found in rubbish tips all over the world. But, if fortunate, M. has been laundered, and is living with a hotel worker’s child, or younger sibling, settling into a new identity and living in anticipation of future adventures.
A Performance as part of A MacGuffin and Some Other Things
Saturday 28 April, 1.30pm, 2.30pm & 3.30pm.
As part of our current exhibition A MacGuffin and Some Other Things, Project Arts Centre presents MOTILITY, a new performance work by Alice Rekab (performed by the artist and Paul Maguire).
Expanding on the themes in her film-work (currently on display in the gallery) this performance merges original material by the artist with script and choreographed movements from self-help and martial-arts demonstration videos. The performers also stage a live interaction with a number of sculptural objects which appear in various forms in the exhibition A MacGuffin and Some Other Things. This event offers a unique chance to encounter performance, sculptural objects, script and action.
This will take place in the gallery on Saturday 28 April, at the following times-
1.30pm – 1.50pm
2.30pm – 3.50pm
3.30pm – 4.50pm
All are welcome to join us for this one-off event, however please note that places are limited due to restricted capacity and as we are not taking bookings, places are allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
A MACGUFFIN AND SOME OTHER THINGS GALLERY TOURS
As part of First Thursdays join us on 3 May between 6 – 8pm for a tour of our new exhibition A MacGuffin and Some Other Things. These Walk ‘n’ Talks will be hosted by two young artists so come along for chats and insights – questions, questions at the ready…
Lucy Andrews (b. Stoke-on-Trent, England, 1978) is a recent graduate of NCAD where she
studied Art History and Sculpture. She has also studied at the University of Applied Arts,
Vienna. Andrews’ works involve objects which either ‘perform’ or imply a script, often in a
sequence of events initiated by a discrete performance by the artist or a designated agent.
Found objects, household substances and natural matter are used to describe processes of
transformation and entropy, creating an intersection between order and chaos, where what
is very carefully staged also seems to exist as a collection of chance occurrences.
Recent exhibitions include As above, so below curated by Padraic E Moore, 126, Galway,
2012; Transitive Relationships curated by Pippa Little, Limerick City Gallery, 2012; Here and
There, curated by Declan Sheehan, Artlink, Donegal, 2011; and Gracelands: Substance
Abuse curated by Vaari Claffey, Leitrim, 2011.
Isil Egrikavuk (b. Izmit, Turkey, 1980) studied literature at Bogaziçi University, Istanbul,
then went to The School of The Art Institute of Chicago for her MFA. She moved back to
Istanbul in 2008 and has taught contemporary art and media at Bogaziçi, Sabanci ve Bilgi
Üniversites. She is currently working as an instructor at Bilgi University as well as reporting
for a daily newspaper, Hürriyet Daily News.
Drawing from her experience as a journalist Egrikavuk’s video work and performance bring
together the worlds of art and storytelling, through the orchestration of situations in which the
audience is made complicit in the process of both completing the narrative and interpreting
the work. Recent exhibitions include 11 Istanbul Biennial, Turkey; Endgame, LoopSpace,
Seoul, South Korea; Moment of Agency, Kunst Museum, Basel, Switzerland; The Interview,
Boots Contemporary Art Space, St.Louis, USA; Be Realist, Demand The Impossible, Karsi
Sanat, Istanbul, Turkey.
David Hall (b. 1937) works mainly with photography, film and video, to make single screen
and installation work. His first television interventions appeared on Scottish TV in 1971 and
his first video installation was shown in London in 1972. He participated in forming the Artist
Placement Group with John Latham and others in 1966; was co-organiser of The Video
Show (first major international show of artists’ video in the UK) at the Serpentine Gallery,
London in 1975; and was co-curator of the first video installations exhibition at the Tate
Gallery, London in 1976. In the same year he initiated and was a founder of the artists’
organisation London Video Arts (now part of Lux, London).
Appointed Honorary Professor at Dundee University in 2003, he has taught at the Royal
College of Art, St Martin’s School of Art, Chelsea College of Art, San Francisco Art Institute,
Nova Scotia College of Art and many others. He introduced the term ‘time-based media’
through his writings. He has made work for broadcast by, among others, BBC TV, Channel 4
TV, Scottish TV, Canal+ TV and MTV. He has exhibited widely at many venues including
Documenta Kassel, Tate Gallery London, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, National
Museum Reina Sofia Madrid and the Museum of Modern Art Vienna. Most recently, Hall
received the Samsung Art+ Lifetime Achievement Award, and currently has a major solo
exhibition End Piece… at Ambika P3, London (16 March – 19 April, 2012).
Alice Rekab (b. 1987, Dublin, Ireland) is a visual artist living and working in Dublin and
London. She completed an MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths University of
London in 2011, following a BA in History of Art & Fine Art Media at NCAD in 2009. Her work
explores the affective dynamics between subjects and objects of attraction, examining the
performative, the mimetic, the amateur, the viral and the regional, Rekab presents models of
individual and collective response to such objects, be they sub-cultures, visions of the future
or local histories. Her concern lies within the slippage between the private relationship
between subject and object and the externalisation of that relationship through various forms
of creative production and mimesis.
Recent projects include Units of Potential, a public art commission installed at The Lir
Academy Dublin 2011, This is Going to Take More Than One Night at The Model, Sligo,
March 2012, Multiple T at the Barbican Art Gallery, London 2010 and Resonance 1 a
commission for Resonance FM at Frieze Art Fair, London 2010. Her forthcoming solo
exhibition will open at The Return Gallery Dublin in September 2012.
Judith Scott (1943 – 2005, Ohio, USA) was an independent and self-directed visual artist.
Scott produced artworks by wrapping appropriated objects in a tightly woven cocoon of
various fibres. The objects are sometimes suggested by the shape of the sculpture but
largely the contents of the works are unknown unless the work is put through an x-ray
The artist was introduced to fiber art in 1987 by artist Sylvia Seventy at Creative Growth and
produced a remarkable, breath-taking body of mixed media sculptures. Roger Cardinal and
John MacGregor, internationally known scholars and experts in the field, have both
designated Judith an “Outsider artist” as her sculptures reflect little cultural input and are
highly individualistic, reflecting the artist’s own unique personal vision. Judith’s work is in the
collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Collection l’Art Brut, Switzerland,
The American Folk Art Museum, New York, and was most recently part of a group exhibition
at Gladstone Gallery, New York in 2006.
Vaari Claffey is an independent curator based in Dublin. She is the founding Director and
Curator of Gracelands. This project (which takes place over the course of one day and night)
unfolds as a series of live outdoor visual arts events, encompassing commissioned
sculpture, performance and film. Gracelands has run annually in Dromahair, Leitrim since
2008. In 2012, Gracelands will take place at the Milk Market, Limerick as part of EVA
In 2010, Claffey curated Temporarily Shelved with Rana Ozturk under the aegis of Sinopale,
the International Sinop Biennale. Claffey is also curator/producer of the exhibition/ filmwork
This Is Going To Take More Than One Night, for which she invited four artists – Isabel Nolan,
Bea McMahon, Alice Rekab and Sarah Pierce – to produce new work for an innovative
context. The film, funded by the Arts Council’s New Work Award, was directed by Neasa
Hardiman, and is showing at the Model, Sligo and will be screened at the IFI in April in
conjunction with A MacGuffin and Some Other Things.
Claffey is currently developing another film project, Some Structures, with architects Dominic
Stevens and Tom de Paor, and artist Ronan McCrea. This latest work will tour throughout
Ireland and internationally in 2012.
Claffey teaches at NCAD and IADT, Dublin, and is an Associate Researcher at GradCAM.
She is currently organising a seminar on alternative exhibition practices and venues within
Ireland with Francis Halsall.
Closed Sundays & Bank Holidays