Caroline Achaintre, Jorge De la Garza, Eleanor Duffin, Barbara Knezevic and Raphaël Zarka
Curated by Tessa Giblin and Kate Strain
Whitewashing the Moon is based on a short story by Edward Everett Hale, originally published in 1869. It tells the tale of the men and women who conceived of the first recorded imagining of a satellite in orbit, and the events that unfolded as they eventually went about creating a ‘Brick Moon’. As well as being a scientifically advanced concept for its time, the science-fiction fantasy that evolved through the story also creates an extraordinary transformative effect. This transformative concept is at the centre of Whitewashing the Moon, in which a twilit garden of sculptures, moving images and other material installations communicate a similar potential for objects. The works of Caroline Achaintre, Jorge De la Garza, Eleanor Duffin, Barbara Knezevic and Raphaël Zarka all explore in different ways the transformative potential of objects and ideas.
“They have gone up!” said Haliburton; “She has gone up!” said I;—both in one breath. And with a common instinct, we looked up into the blue.
But of course she was not there.
Written in 1869, The Brick Moon is a short story by Edward Everett Hale. Originally published as serialised instalments in The Atlantic Monthly, it tells the tale of the men and women who conceived of the first recorded imagining of a satellite in orbit, and the events that unfolded as they went about creating, and pre-emptively launching, their ‘Brick Moon’.Hale’s concept of an artificial navigational device sent skywards to circle the earth’s atmosphere was ultramodern for its time. The idea of positioning oneself in relation to a universal landmark underpins the narrative of The Brick Moon and is one which reappears in this exhibition, Whitewashing the Moon. Raphaël Zarka’s film Rhombus Sectus is a multi-angle portrait of the National Library of Belarus in Minsk, an institution built in the shape of a Rhombicuboctahedron, one of the thirteen Archimedean geometric solids. By happenstance, the Rhombicuboctahedron is remarkably similar to the intended shape of both the fictional ‘Brick Moon’ and to the actual shape of the 1960s Telstar, one of the first artificial satellites.The fictional ‘Brick Moon’ in orbit could be seen through a telescope from earth, but it never took on the sculptural illusion of the white moon which the builders had envisaged. They aspired to ‘paint the MOON, or put on some ground felspathic granite dust, in a sort of paste, which in its hot flight through the air might fuse into a white enamel.’ But before they could amass the finances for such a render, the satellite was launched accidentally. Whitewashing the Moon remembers this small aside in the story – the endeavour to aesthetically transform the artificial satellite into the dramatic illusion of a real moon. Collagist Jorge De la Garza sifts through our contemporary and historical worlds to envision new worlds, suspended in the ideal rather than the logic of the everyday. Works such as Untitled (Missing Links) transform familiar material into visual narratives through aesthetic reconfiguration. Similarly, in Arrangement No.1, the glistening black surfaces of silhouetted shapes present a re-imagining of household bottles into forms altogether more mysterious.Elements of suspension, belief and changing states feature in the works of Barbara Knezevic and Eleanor Duffin. While differences exist between each of their practices – Knezevic’s interest in labour, Duffin’s fascination with geometries – both artists conduct visual enquiries that hang somewhere between scientific logic and intuitive justification. Working with complex organic materials, their sculptures come into being through alchemy and experimentation. Be it Knezevic’s sensitive balancing of heat and beeswax in From them but not of them or Duffin’s striven-for obsidian in Tephra, the artworks exist before us like proofs, ready to be believed in.The work of Caroline Achaintre also plays on the inherently human desire to believe. Looney, Polymum, Two Nails and Wadder are ceramic sculptures with palpable anthropomorphic qualities. Displayed like fetishistic masks, there is magic in their making: they have been transformed at some unknown point from inanimate ideas and fired clay into would-be corporeal entities.
By the imaginative work of the story, an object – once placed in an exhibition or appropriated by a film – is endowed with the potential to alter its own meaning. Through manipulating a material form for a role in a sculpture, the physical object is arrested, its use-value changed and contextualised as something else. As inconceivable a notion as The Brick Moon may have been to an 1870s readership, the conviction and mastery with which the story is delivered breathes life into the possibility of its vision. The reader desires to believe, to take that leap of faith, and to continue to look up into the blue, in the hope (against logic) of seeing that Brick Moon in orbit. This conviction is the foundation of the artistic thinking in Whitewashing the Moon, an exhibition in which a twilit garden of sculptures, moving images and installation, reveals the transformative potential of objects and ideas.
Caroline Achaintre (b. 1969, Toulouse, France) lives and works in London. Having trained as a blacksmith in Germany, Achaintre subsequently studied fine art at Kunsthochschule in Halle/Saale, Chelsea College of Art & Design and Goldsmiths College.Solo exhibitions include Trip-Dip, Arcade, London (2012); Couleur Locale, Arcade, London (2010); Novelty, Mirko Mayer, Cologne (2008); Visor Visitor, Fake Estate, New York (2008); Six Strings, Blow de la Barra, London (2007) and DEEDIE, The Showroom, London (2005). Recent group exhibitions include Imagine Being Here Now, The 6th Momentum Biennial, Norway (2011) Kopf an Kopf, Oechsner Galerie, Nuremberg, (2011); and Newspeak: British Art Now, The Saatchi Gallery, London (2010). Achaintre is represented by Arcade, London.
Jorge De la Garza (b. 1978, Mexico City) lives and works in Mexico City and London. De la Garza graduated from MA Fine Art at Chelsea College in 2007.Solo exhibitions include Nachleben, First Floor Projects, London (2011). Selected group exhibitions include Back to the Future, Breese Little, London (2012); BIO-PHILIC, Arte 256, Tijuana, Mexico (2011); The Marquise Went Out at Five O’clock, Edel Assanti, London (2010) and The Marienbad Palace, Highlanes Gallery & Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda (2010). His work has also been featured in New Contemporaries at Cornerhouse Manchester & A Foundation, London (2009); Late at Tate at Tate Britain (2007) and Wormhole Saloon V at Whitechapel Gallery, London (2006).
Eleanor Duffin (b. 1980, Wexford, Ireland) lives and works in Dublin. She studied at Limerick School of Art and Design and received an MA from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. She is currently an artist in residence at the Fire Station Artists Studio, Dublin. Recent projects include Dark Energy, Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin (2011); Radical Love II, Dublin (2011), Transference, Broadstone Gallery, Dublin (2011); Little Constellation Archive, NUA – New Contemporary Arts and Research, The Republic of San Marino (2011); The Reading Room, Hurth & Walsh, Berlin (2010); Cabin Fever: Tupajumi, Co-prosperity Sphere, Chicago (2010); and Grey_Matter, London (2010).
Barbara Knezevic (b. Sydney, Australia) lives and works in Dublin. She attended the Sydney College of the Arts where she received a Bachelor of Visual Arts and completed her Masters in Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. She was recently awarded the Fire Station Artists’ Studios’ Sculpture Workshop Residency Award & Bursary, and a three-year membership studio at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios. Solo exhibitions include Wish Fulfilment, 55 Sydenham Road, Sydney (2011); Alderamin Rising, Queen Street Studios, Belfast (2011); and In pursuit of a state of uncertainty, Kings ARI, Melbourne (2010). Recent group exhibitions include Gracelands, Circling the Square curated by Vaari Claffey (2012), eva International Biennale of Visual Art, Limerick City (2012); Forårsudstillingen 2012, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2012); None Went Mad None Ran Away, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin (2012), Ached Grew Print Jot, The Drawing Project IADT, Dublin (2012) and Futures 11 at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2011).
Raphaël Zarka (b. 1977, Montpelier, France) lives and works in Paris. He studied at Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, Paris and Winchester School of Art (UK). Solo exhibitions include Les prismatiques, Galerie Michel Rein, Paris (2012); Gibellina, CAN Neuchatel, Switzerland (2011); Le tombeau d’Archimède, Le Grand Café, Contemporary Art Centre, Saint-Nazaire, France (2011); Principles of Roman Knowledge, Pastificio de Cerere, Rome, Italy (2011); Topographie anecdotée du skateboard, Musée des Beaux Arts, Lons le Saunier, Fance and Rhombus Sectus, Bischoff/Weiss Gallery, London (2011). Group exhibitions include D’après Giorgio, Rome, Italy (2012); Les détours de l’abstraction, Collection du MUDAM, Mudam, Luxembourg (2012); Re-generation, MACRO, Rome, Italy (2012); 2001-2011, soudain, déjà, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (2011); Erre, variations labyrinthiques, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France (2011); Performa 11, New Visual Art Performance Biennial, New York (2011) and Le scepticisme du canapé, 4th Moscow Biennale, Art House, Moscow, Russia (2011).
Edward Everett Hale (1822 – 1909, Boston, America) lived and worked in Massachusetts. The son of eminent New England literary parents, Hale was enrolled in Harvard (at age 13) and subsequently graduated second in his class, having won two literary awards. He was an author, historian and Unitarian clergyman. Hale published over seventy works in fiction, history and biography. Notable published titles include Memories of a Hundred Years (1902); James Russell Lowell and His Friends (1899); East and West (1892, novel); In His Name (1873, novel); The Ingham Papers (1869); If, Yes, and Perhaps (1868) and The Man without a Country (1863). He also founded two magazines, Old and New (1870–75) and Lend a Hand (1886–97).
Coinciding with the exhibition Whitewashing the Moon, Project Arts Centre continues its new experimental Grotto series with Here’s To You, a site-specific installation in the cabinet space by Kevin Kirwan (IE). Engaging with the idea of the Grotto as a museological display case, Kirwan subverts conventional display mechanisms in order to activate an ambiguous narrative, constructed around the presentation of a single photograph.
Kindly supported by the Embassy of Mexico in Ireland and the French Embassy in Ireland.
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