Theodor Adorno saw the contradictions and paradoxes of art as revealing something about the tensions, conflicts and possibility of beauty and harmony in life. Growing up in Derry in north west Ireland, with its precarious situation between two states has inspired my artmaking on identities and conflict. Doire or Londonderry are words that mean everything and nothing, they are very real illusions. The small city has a high suicide rate and is divided by a river and religions that few follow. Franco Berardi states that there are no longer bourgeois and proletariat in our culture but ‘winners and losers’ – the losers perhaps being the immigrant, the unemployed, the cleaner – and who are the winners? The celebrities we read about who are in reality fretting over their status or the corporations that own the wealth of nations? Or is it all an illusion, paper being passed around – a simulation as Baudrillard would contest?
I am a writer and artist, foundry technician, curator and art tutor. I graduated with a degree in English literature and Politics from Queens University Belfast, an MFA from Manchester School of Art and a PhD from Glasgow School of Art. The research addressed the agency of art and the potential of artist exits. Titled ‘Exodus: Towards a Non-Identity Art, it concluded with the organization of a No Jury, No Prize exhibition where we had hundreads of artists exhibit – in doing so realizing Beuys call that ‘everybody is an artist.’ Today in our digital, social media age, it could however be argued that everybody must be an artist?
In my artwork, I create parallel micro-worlds – either sculptural installations in surreal environments or bizarre films consisting of edited found footage that explore the human condition. Alienation and division are principle themes alongside oppression and the affects of new media. The darkness of such themes are however counterbalanced by humour, light and harmony.
In the theoretical physicist David Bohm’s text, Wholeness and Fragmentation, he develops his scientific analysis into the social and political realm by arguing that we are all divided by race, class, nations, occupations, sexes and so on whereas in reality humanity and nature are all one living, interdependent organism. He sees our thought process as fundamentally flawed in our evolution. While this may read as entirely utopian thinking and impractical, it is also striking in its countering of the illusions and social conditioning under which we all live. Our propensity to group together for a sense of belonging and safety usually comes at the cost of an excluded or vilified other – and this is vastly magnified on a global scale where colonialism’s legacy is ever present in differing guises – a colonialism that exists within the west and within each of us as with the historic European project.
If successful in my application to Glogauair, my proposal will be to fuse my sculptural installations with my writing and film editing to make a stop motion animation to address alienation, divisions and the search for harmony. Inspiration will begin by observing and participating in the life of the area that I live in. Our modern technological world will play a fundamental role in the work. I am not an animator by training and do not seek to create a realistic depiction of the world around me – it will be surreal, it will deal with the unconscious and the aesthetic will be low-fi – it will resemble early silent movies or b-movie cult classics. It will be comical and tragic in parts. Protagonists inspired by the cityscape of Kreuzberg Berlin will emerge and a narrative on their lives will develop throughout the course of the residency.
In my making I am not fully happy with either my film-making or my sculptures and intend to use the residency to engage with other artists and the team running the space to develop my ideas and thinking on art and life and further my journey into developing a media which is ideal for the differing strands of my practice. Berlin’s history and contemporary art scene will of course also inspire me alongside the influenced of German philosophy – specifically the works of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Adorno. The dialectical contradictions and divisions of Berlin – between East and West, communism and capitalism, Christianity and hedonism and so on – where there is no clear good and bad and all are in flux, interconnected and change resonate with my hometown and should prove inspirational.
b. 1977 Ireland
PhD Forum for Critical Inquiry, Glasgow School of Art, 2013
Title: Exodus: Towards a Non-Identity Art
Masters in Research Glasgow School of Art
MFA MA Fine Art, Manchester School of Ar
BA (Hons) Degree English Lit & Politics, Queens University Belfast
A-level Art & Design, English Lit. & Ancient History, St Columb’s College, Derry
Employment and experience
Artist assistant, foundry technician and administrator for public artist Maurice Harron, Burt Donegal www.mauriceharron.com
Substitute Lecturer, Fine Art, North Wesr Regional College, Derry
Wonder Wagon (mobile vintage traveller wagon) sculpture and painting tutor with over a dozen community groups in Derry
2014 – 2016
Sculpture and Painting Tutor Bluebell Arts, Gasyard Centre, Derry
Curator and lecturer at the London Street Gallery, Derry
2012 – 2014
Member of the Open Door 77 Derry art collective
Artist studio, Void Gallery, Derry
Gallery Invigilator, Cornerhouse Gallery, Manchester
No Jury, No Prize, Artlink, Fort Dunree
No Jury, No Prize, Oct/ Nov London Street Gallery
Emerge + See, May, London Street Gallery
Bealtainne, Glasgow School of Art PhD exhibition, Glue Factory, Glasgow
Do Androids Dream of Electric Cats? Social Gallery Derry
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