Presented in collaboration with Domobaal Gallery, London.
Ailbhe Ní Bhriain works with film, computer generated imagery, and sound to create immersive multi–screen installations that play with ideas of representation and displacement. Her films depict archetypal or generic locations that have been transformed into a dream–like theatricality. Whether a flooded library inhabited by birds of prey or a disused airport housing a rudimentary landscape, these works represent an altered reality in which our expectations of time and place come undone.
This exhibition comprises two film installations, Reports to and Academy in Gallery One, and ‘Window’ and ‘Departure’ in Gallery Two, as well as a selection from the on–going photographic series 'Inscriptions', which is installed in the mezzanine space.
Reports to an Academy is a four screen installation that takes its title from the Franz Kafka short story 'A Report to An Academy'. In the story an ape recounts his deliberate acquisition of a human identity as a means of survival in the aftermath of captivity. The work takes this idea of identity as performance and explores it through multiple locations: an archetypal West of Ireland landscape, a natural history museum, an artist's studio and a library. It questions the assumptions around authenticity and representation suggested by these locations, with each setting ultimately revealed as being equally mediated. Using film and computer–generated imagery, landscape, museum, library and studio are reimagined as stage sets in which identities might be constructed and false realities forged. The four films in the installation are looped and of varying length, creating a changing set of image combinations. A single soundtrack links all four screens.
In Gallery 2, Window and Departure are characterised by a series of slow, continuous tracking shots through which pictorial and geographical instability gradually unfold. The tension between stillness and movement and between real and constructed space is key to both films. Camera motion is achieved using stop motion animation and virtual cameras within reconstructed still images, later combined with CGI, 3D scanning and chromakeyed imagery. Window and Departure conjure uncertain places, caught between interior and exterior settings. Set within abandoned architectural interiors, an unlikely ‘other’ place is suggested by projections, rudimentary props and glimpsed exteriors. It is left unstated whether these elements are imaginary ideals in the process of being constructed or the remnants of a place or vision come undone.
The work is loosely based, in terms of its thematics and the landscapes referenced, on the story of Antonin Artaud’s ill-fated 1937 trip to Ireland – a journey that began as visionary pilgrimage and retreat and ended as an episode of degradation and deportation. Of interest is the idea of what remains when the ideal collides with the real in this way, and the resonance of this to the contemporary representation of landscape.
The photographic series Inscriptions continues the practice of combining imagery from disparate sources – in this case museum artefacts, expansive landscapes and studio debris. Simple collage techniques are used to collapse the binaries and conventions of the source imagery in order to imagine a series of new and permeable connections. The work takes its starting point from a text by Samuel Quiccheberg entitled ‘Inscriptions of the Immense Theatre’. This is the earliest published text on museology and outlines the methods for the collection and categorization of objects, images and artefacts from across the world. The collection or ‘theatre’ is defined as ‘a repository of artificial and marvelous things’ and is intended to operate as a stand in for ‘the globe in its entirety’. In contrast to the presumptions and aspirations of the original text (which clearly speak of an imperialist western agenda), this series imagines a theatre of aftermath - one in which the categories and certainties espoused by Quiccheberg have broken down and where narratives must be constructed anew from the fragments of representation.
Ailbhe Ní Bhriain is a Cork based artist. Recent & upcoming exhibitions include solo shows at Domobaal Gallery, London (2017); Galway International Arts Festival (2017); and RHA, Dublin (2016), as well as group exhibitions in The Broad Museum, Michigan; The Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork; Paris Photo, Paris; Podroom Gallery, Belgrade; Boston Manor House, London; and Oodaaq Festival, Nantes.
Ailbhe is currently the recipient of a Visual Arts Project Award from The Arts Council of Ireland and her work is represented by Domobaal Gallery, London.
Presented in collaboration with Domobaal Gallery, London
Images by Paul McCarthy