Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Irish Monsoon Wedding on Newstalk, Stephens Day at Noon :-)

If you missed this first time around, here is another chance to catch my radio documentary:

Irish Monsoon Wedding: Radio Documentary Newstalk 106-108FM,

In this heart-warming love story, The East meets the West, The Sea meets the Hills, and Darjeeling harmonises with the Cork lilt as Eileen and Brendan O’Brien make the long and arduous trip from Cork to the foothills of the Himalayas to give their only daughter Emma away in an elaborate Nepali wedding ritual involving destiny, and many bottles of whiskey… Irish Monsoon Wedding tells what has once again become an archetypal Irish story - of parents coming to terms with the loss of their children to foreign shores, or, in this case, to a far-off mountain-top above the clouds in India.  Bittersweet tears are balanced by the joy of a colourful, intercultural wedding celebration complete with intricate Nepali rituals. This exotic tale unravels against a backdrop of Edith Wilkins’ wonderful Centre for Street Children, and Fair Trade Organic Darjeeling Tea, available for sale here in Dublin and Cork.  Tune in for a monsoon of tears, of singing, of laughter and of course that essential ingredient for any love story - true love.

Noon, December 26th, 2012, on Newstalk 106 – 108FM
A Deirdre Mulrooney Production
Sound Supervision by John Davis

Monday, November 12, 2012

Joan Denise Moriarty: Ballet Warrior, on RTE Sunday Miscellany

I was delighted to be asked to contribute a piece on the mysterious Joan Denise Moriarty to RTE Sunday Miscellany yesterday on the occasion of 65 years of Cork City Ballet, and the centenary of her birth - perhaps (she kept her date of birth a secret).  Here is a link where you can listen again at your leisure, should you so wish:!rii=9:3432719:68:11-11-2012:

I'm in fine company with Martina Devlin, opera singer and writer Judith Mok, poet Michael O'Loughlin, and Siobhan Harte.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dance School Tardis: My Magic Fundit Finale :-)

I haven’t written in here for a while – I have been busy.  Among other things, I underwent a FUND:IT CAMPAIGN! Well, the good news is that I live to tell the tale.  Here is the best bit:

Blue Sky
With one day left to go on my 35 day fund:it campaign, I opened my eyes to see a clear blue sky outside my bedroom window.   Even though it was October.  It was Saturday, October 6th  to be precise.  At the back of my mind, I knew yoga was on in Dartmouth Square at 11am, and Cathy Pearson, a friend of mine since we did the UCD/NYU Scriptwriting Summerschool together many many moons ago was the teacher that week. I hadn’t seen Cathy in a while and had never done her yoga class.  That, combined with the blue sky, and the building inner dread of “Hell and Back”, a sadistic 10k run from Kilruddery Estate, Bray, up the Sugar Loaf, through mud pits, under barbed wire, through ponds and rivers a friend had signed me in for the next day got me out the door to stretch gently in the open air with Cathy.  (And did I mention that those Dartmouth Square Saturday morning yoga classes only cost €5?  Good value! All the more reason to cycle over there, yoga mat on back).

My Fund:it “Adventure”, which started on Monday, September 3rd, would prove to be quite an emotional rollercoaster, with a happy ending eventually thanks to 63 great people - micro-philanthropists all.  Putting oneself at the mercy of the universe like that can be a terrifying experience, believe me. 

Of those 63 fine people, there were only three I didn’t know before, including eminent architectural historian Shane O’Toole who is writing a book and curating an exhibition about one of Ireland’s most important (and forgotten) modern architects, Cork-born Noel Moffett – who was married to the young Margot Moffett, one of Erina Brady’s dancers in 1940’s Dublin (she was also prime organiser of the White Stag Art exhibitions).  We connected for the first time when Shane, who had been following my research for a while (unknown to me - how flattering), kindly contributed to my Fundit campaign.  We subsequently met for a wonderful nerd-fest (I speak for myself when I say “nerd”!), of 1940’s gossip and anecdotes involving Erina Brady and her dancers. It was as if our research constituted the two respective sides of one coin. 

One thing I learned from my Fund:it campaign was, firstly and foremost – dig deep and stay connected with your inner zen.  Some people who you think owe you a favour may let you down.  This will probably happen.  Don’t waste your precious kilojoules on disappointment, or getting angry at them.  The faster you let that go, the better for you.  Move on fast.  For every one of those, several others will surprise you with their affirmation of you and your work.  These good people will emerge delightfully, out of nowhere, and sometimes just as you are about to despair, before you turn in for a night’s sleep and just can't face up to another glimpse at your fundit page and its static balance.  My advice? Focus on them!   

So, getting back to Dartmouth Square yoga class on the last day of my fundit campaign, and just before launching myself kamikaze-style into “Hell and Back” (notice a theme emerging?).  I arrived to pleasant Dartmouth Square, locked my bike, unravelled my yoga mat, and had a chat with Cathy Pearson (, who I hadn’t seen in a while – since our mutual friend Dragana Jurisic’s birthday party a year and a half previously.  Dragana, a wonderful photographer herself, worked with Cathy on her first documentary film “Get the Picture”, about epic photographer and photo editor John G Morris – which, incidentally, was part-funded through American crowd-funding site  Just completed, and now set to premiere at the Cork Film Festival November 2012, Cathy’s film happens to be Indiegogo’s most successful Irish crowd-funding film project to date.  
"Get The Picture?" Temp Trailer from Get The Picture on Vimeo.
I mentioned my own little fund:it project, “Dance School Tardis” to Cathy.  She immediately asked me to send her a link to it, kindly saying that she would like to contribute to it, and to share it on facebook. I said “oh, we have just one day left in the campaign, and we have luckily reached our target, but it would be really nice of you to share it – the more people that know about it, the better”.  So that was that, I was the better for doing the yoga class, the sun stayed out, and much later that night, after seeing “Bird with Boy”, a theatre festival show by Junk Ensemble on Henrietta street, and just before I hit the hay, I remembered to email Cathy the link to the Dance School Tardis fundit page:

Before I knew it, it was Sunday morning and I was making like “Platoon” in the dreaded Hell and Back, up the Sugar Loaf, through marshes and rivers and mud-pits and over haystacks and walls and under barbed wire, and through electric fences – lovingly designed by an ex-military sadist.   

When I got home from that, cold, covered from head to toe in mud, with scrapes, bruises, and nettle-stings (one of our 4-person team even broke her foot), I had a hot shower and collapsed onto my bed for a while.  
Photo by Mark Doyle.  Thank-you Mark! :-)

Then I hobbled to my computer screen, as you do, to share my tale of tribulation and triumph on facebook. 

But first, I noticed that Cathy had kindly done as she had promised and shared my Dance School Tardis fund:it campaign on her Facebook Page, generously declaring:

My Friend Deirdre Mulrooney has just one day left to raise funding for her beautiful film about some of the history of Modern Dance in Ireland. Please help share and support if you can.... we have to hijack the arts by finding new ways to keep it going, this is great. Become a philanthropist for the day, no amount is too small.”

How great was that?!  That cheered me up to no end. 

Beneath her opening comment, I noticed a whole conversation had broken out about my prospective film – starting with: 

“Cathy, you would never believe it.. my mum is one of the little dancers in this film. the little one who turns and looks directly a the camera with the two bunches -). Can you imagine her surprise to see her self on film 70 years later?...”

“at 49 seconds”

Katie, a friend of Cathy’s who I didn’t know (a photographer in Berlin as it turns out), had spotted her 80 year old mother, no less, in the 1943 “Dance School” film extract on my video pitch! (See above). This was the concentrated dancing blonde tiny tot that I couldn't find!   Katie’s mother Ann was overcome with emotion at seeing her younger self on celluloid, and reconnecting to those unforgettable modern dance classes which inspired a life of creativity in her.  (None of the 1943 dance class participants were aware the film existed).  She had even written notes about the classes, and tried to track down anything that might be written about Erina Brady’s dance classes in later life.


Magic. Overcome with enthusiasm for the project, and ready to hop on a plane from the UK to contribute her reminiscences, and creative life story to the film – I was suddenly feeling like one of the luckiest people on the planet. 

Good job I got out of bed and went to yoga the previous morning!  So you see, how Fund:it is about much more than just the money.  Though of course, the money is the essential enabler.  As well as facilitating that incredible connection, both Cathy (who alluded to this heartening anecdote in her talk on Crowd-funding at Dublin Websummit a few weeks later), and Katie kindly contributed to the fund also.  That was my magic finale from Fund:it and the universe.  Worth waiting for. 

And now – the sequel – making the film! I’ll be keeping you posted on that.  In an ideal world, we’ll be screening it on International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2013.  But I hope to have a rough cut of it well before Christmas.  I’ll be keeping a little diary of the making of, here on my blog. Now the time has arrived to invoke the goddesses of documentary film-making.  If you are that way inclined, please, invoke them with me, and watch this space!

One more word of advice for anyone thinking of embarking on a Fund:it crowd-funding campaign – everyone needs a cheerleader/personal coach when embarking into those daunting and unknown waters, to keep "one" going through thick and thin.  Crowd-funding like Fund:it is predicated on people who help each other in any way they can no matter how modest (not necessarily money) - just what is needed to keep going in these straitened times.  Massive thanks to my Mum for filling that unwavering cheerleader role with panache. And to the other great people.  You know who you are :-)
[& just in case you don't, there is also a list of my great pantheon of believers here:] 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Listen again to Doreen: Telling the Dancer from the Dance

Doreen: Telling the Dancer form the Dance was broadcast again on RTE Lyric FM last month - if you missed it you can catch the podcast here:   - about 4th down on the page

Doreen: Telling the Dancer from the Dance - Friday 13th July

In 1927 W.B Yeats founded the Abbey Theatre Ballets with Ninette de Valois, the Irish woman who would go on to create the Royal British Ballet. The school is a largely forgotten movement of huge cultural import to Ireland. It has been neglected by history books and omitted from Yeatsian narratives. This programme sheds new light on Yeats' prophetic vision for dance and features a rare interview with the late Doreen Cuthbert, who danced in the Abbey Theatre Ballets from its inception in 1927 until its demise in 1933.

Contributors include Yeats' biographer Roy Foster, Professor Richard Allen Cave, author of 'Collaborations: Ninette de Valois, W.B Yeats", Professor J.W Flannery, author of "W.B Yeats and the idea of a theatre", and Percy Lovegrove, Doreen Cuthbert's husband. The documentary reclaims this lost cultural history and in doing so tells the dancer from the dance.

A Deirdre Mulrooney Production for RTÉ lyric fm.

Sound Supervision by John Davis. Narration by Pat Laffan.
The programme was made with the support of the Broadcast Authority of Ireland's Sound and Vision Broadcasting Funding Scheme. Additional support from the Arts Council of Ireland.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Spot the Artist: My Irishwoman's Diary from Tuesday July 27th, 2012

Click to enlarge for a proper look at the 1910's Orpen life drawing class, and to read the article.  Thanks to Dora Forster for sharing her family photograph with me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yoko Ono still says Yes, and she's visiting Dublin I hear...

I hear that Yoko Ono is going to be in town on Thursday, at Dublin Pop Up Biennal, at Point Village, to visit her wishing tree installation and inaugurate something else.  That reminds me of the time I bumped into her when I was living in Paris, and she and her friends were reviving the Fluxus Movement.  I wrote a story about it that was broadcast on RTE Sunday Miscellany, and published in the RTE Sunday Miscellany 2004 - 2006 Anthology.  I just rooted it out from an old hard drive - here it is!: 

Yoko Ono Says Yes

After some French and English at UCD, it was on the Number Ten bus, swinging around into Baggot Street that the ‘there has to be more to life’ epiphany hit.  Time to avail of the ‘year out’ option.

Intrepidly browsing Eason’s International magazine shelves an A3-sized magazine called Paris Passion leaped out at me saying ‘Come do an internship in Paris’. Who was I to say no?  22 Rue Yves Toudic, Paris 75009.  I wrote it down.  

No sooner was I comfortably ensconsed in my teeny chambre de bonne on the swish Avenue de la Grande Armee, than I consulted my Rough Guide for the aforementioned Rue Yves Toudic. Well, when I say ‘comfortably’… A little wider and longer than myself, my room consisted of a single bed and one plug-in electric cooking ring on which I cooked porridge for le petit dejeuner, le dejeuner, et le tea.

Map in hand, out of my Chambre de Bonne I marched, down the six flights of stairs, up past the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees and all the way to Place de la République. It was my first foray in Paris.  Before the end of day, I was in the Paris Passion Magazine offices saying ‘hi, I saw your advertisement for Interns, when can I start?’…

I was assigned to the Culture Editor, who in turn assigned me to the Classical Music and Opera Listings.  ‘Great!’, I enthused.  I knew nothing about Classical Music and Opera, but thought it best not to mention that.

For my first assignment, the rather glamorous Culture Editor (I heard she went out with John McEnroe afterwards), asked me to deliver an RSVP to a gallery on Rue de Seine et Bucci.  (Couldn’t they have faxed it?).  ‘No problem!’, I responded cheerfully and set off on my mission like Indiana Jones.   

Beloved Rough Guide in hand, I found the narrow Rue de Seine et Bucci. Confidently, I counted down the numéro’s to find the one I was looking for.  But it wasn’t there.  How could that be?  I paced up and down the rue, trying to figure out the logic of its street numbers. Finally, I resorted to banging on the boarded up entrance of a derelict-looking building where in a causal universe, the gallery should logically be. 

No answer. Picturing the faces at Paris Passion when I arrived back with the letter undelivered got me walloping the boarded-up entrance even harder.

Time passed.  Eventually a door where there was no door creaked open. Within, a little man whispered: “SSShhhhhhhhh,  Yoko Ono and John Cage are in here”.  John Who? The little man led me in to a small brightly-lit space with television cameras, a white ladder against a white wall, and, yes, Yoko Ono standing there in all her understated glory with short hair and big bug-eyed glasses.  It was unmistakeably her. 

I found myself squashed up beside a gentle-looking tall man, who smiled at me benevolently, before moving over so I could lean on the wall beside him.  That was John Cage, I discovered later.  Yoko nodded at me, and returned her gaze to the camera.  I watched on incredulously as she climbed the step-ladder, reached up, took hold of a magnifying glass that was dangling on a piece of string from the ceiling, peered through it at something on the ceiling, and then climbed down the ladder again. She took a moment, before pronouncing delightedly to the camera: “It says yes!“  Miming out climbing actions she elaborated “You see, life’s like that, you’re climbing, climbing, climbing, climbing – and the answer is YES!”

As soon as Yoko concluded her strange display, I handed over the RSVP, and ran out of there as fast as my little legs could carry me. ‘Weirdo’s!’, I  thought.

Back in the safety of Paris Passion’s open-plan office, I sidled in front of my computer screen and returned to compiling my listings.  A while later I mumbled in a throwaway manner ‘Oh yeah, Yoko Ono and some tall guy called Cage were there recording stuff for TV’.  

As if back where I came from - Joyce’s land of the ‘yes, yes, yes’ - this sort of thing happened every day. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bohemians at Ormond Wine Bar for Summer Sojourn.

Enjoy Bohemians: Et Ce Chant dans mon Coeur over a lovely glass of wine in Ormond Wine Bar!  The Bohemians are very happy here, and you will be too.  We are pondering summer solstice bottle and pyjama parties and in the meantime invite you to create your own soiree - under the eye of Dublin's own 1940's Bohemians...  From 1940's Dublin to Paris, 1971, and now back to Dublin 2012: "Et ce Chant dans mon Coeur" 7 Bilingual Poems in French and English by Dancer Jacqueline Robinson, and Images by Basil Rakoczi, founder of the White Stag Art Group. For the month of June, in memory of Ireland's first modern dancer, June Kuhn (nee Fryer). Many thanks to Marie Stamp for help in transferring the exhibition from European Union House.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bohemians: Et ce Chant dans mon Coeur at European Union House until May 30th

"Bohemians: Et ce Chant dans mon Coeur", in memory of Ireland's first Modern Dancer, June Kuhn, was launched at European Union House on May 15th.  You can catch the exhibition from Monday to Friday from 10am until 5pm, at the corner of Dawson Street and Molesworth street.  Erina Brady herself, and her little students, will be dancing out onto Molesworth street on 3 DVD screens in Liam O'Leary's 1943 short film "Dance School" until midnight, each weekday.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

To coincide with Dublin Dance Festival, Dr. Deirdre Mulrooney & Padraic E Moore in partnership with Alliance Francaise present Bohemians: Et ce Chant dans mon Coeur at European Union House (corner of Molesworth & Dawson st), May 9th – 30th, an exhibition of illustrated poetry, written by dancer Jacqueline Robinson, and illustrated by Basil Rákóczi  founder of the White Stag Art Group.  This beautiful series of prints was made in Paris, where Robinson founded L’Atelier de la Danse, inspired by what she learned from forgotten modern dance pioneer Erina Brady when, along with Basil Rákóczi she was one of many Bohemian refugees in Dublin during World War Two.

This exhibition of rare 1971 prints, is in memory of Ireland’s first modern dancer, the recently deceased June Kuhn
(née Fryer), with whom Jacqueline Robinson trained, and performed in many Dublin venues including the Abbey and Peacock theatres, and the Mansion House, as well as in the Archives de la Danse in Paris, and at the Rudolf Steiner Hall in London in the 1940’s.  Jacqueline Robinson was subsequently awarded a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government for her contribution to Modern Dance.  

Liam O’Leary’s rare 1943 short film “Dance School” featuring Modern Dance Pioneer Erina Brady and her Irish School of Dance Art pupils - with an open air dancing sequence in the Iveagh Gardens - will also be screened on a loop in the windows of Europe House, alongside b/w photographs of Brady’s 1940’s choreographies.
In partnership with the Alliance Francaise and Irish Film Archive. With special thanks to Walter Kuhn for sharing his private collection of prints, a personal gift from the artists.

Women watching themselves dancing in Liam O'Leary's 1943 film "Dance School", 70 years later! (Photos by Roman Zdanonv).

What a lovely crowd :-)

H.E. Emanuelle d'Achon, French Ambassador to Ireland, speaking about this Dublin-Paris connection.
That's Ann Walsh (nee Fryer), in the background, in Erina Brady's 1943 Modern Dance Class. She was also at the exhibition opening. (Photo: Angel Luis Gonzalez)
'This is the best of Europe, and the best of ourselves', says TD Richard Boyd Barrett, whose grandfather Cyril Cusack collaborated with Erina Brady in Austin Clarke's Lyric Theatre Company at the Abbey Theatre in the 1940's. Austin Clarke's son Dardis Clarke was also in attendance.
Framed poetry, how lovely.

Photo: Angel Luis Gonzalez

Dancing 'clouds' in the Iveagh Gardens, 1943, out on Molesworth street, 2012.

Erina Brady's dancing 'clouds', Iveagh Gardens 1943, transposed to Molesworth street, 2012.

Happy Erina Brady, in her Irish School of Dance Art Studio, 1943, filmed by Liam O'Laoghaire

I chatted about this exhibition, the Dance Festival, and Dance in Ireland in general, in a broad-ranging discussion with Vincent Woods and guests on RTE Radio One's "Arts Tonight" last Monday - you can listen back to the podcast by clicking here.
A snippet of our conversation was also played back on RTE Radio One's "Playback" show on Saturday morning.  Happy Days.
Thanks to Village Magazine for running the above Advertisement
Thanks to the many people and institutions (particularly Claire Bourgeois and Francoise Brung at the Alliance Francaise; Karen Wall at the Irish Film Archive; and Alessandro Lentini, Roman Zdanonv, and Pedro at European Union House), who contributed to, and turned up to this event, and supported the forgotten Bohemians! Vive la France :-) ...
Much appreciated.

Monsoon Wedding on Dhalti Sham Bollywood Radio Show!

I enjoyed a great afternoon last Thursday week chewing the fat with Siraj Zaidi on his Bollywood radio show "Dhalti Sham" on Dublin South 93.9FM, as he re-broadcast my Irish Monsoon Wedding documentary.

Should you be curious to have a listen, here are some links to follow:
Here's a copy of the first part from 2pm -  3pm

Here's  a copy of the second part from 3pm - 4pm

Eureka! Catalogue Note

From a thermo-electric generator project in Malawi to a science-themed Art show in Dublin!... I also spent a lot of time over the last few months getting my head around The Blue Leaf Gallery's current show in their groovy new space at Whitaker Court (behind the Maldron Hotel, at Grand Canal Dock until July).  An eclectic bunch of thirteen artists, all loosely themed around the topic of science and technology.  There was an avalanche of trans-Atlantic emailing back and forth between the artists and I, none of whom I had ever met, in my endeavour to pen catalogue note, and press release.  As I was writing, and thinking, and conversing with the many artists on where they were coming from, it struck me that my pal New York-based Irish artist Catherine Owens's sidereal and 3D work would sit really well among them.  So we invited her, and this led to her stunning piece "Space Junk" getting into the mix, which elevated me to the high status of a contributing curator to the show.  Anyway, here is the opus, or should I say the catalogue note.  Pix to follow which will make this easier to read.

Meditations on the light and dark sides of discovery in science and technology as explored through the eyes of three Irish, and ten American contemporary and emerging artists.

We this people
On this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living.
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing,
Irresistible tenderness,
That the haltered neck is happy to bow,
And the proud back is glad to bend.
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines…
From “Space Junk” by Maya Angelou

Exploratorium Founder Frank Oppenheimer called artists and scientists “the official ‘noticers’ of society,” adding that “they notice things that other people either have never learned to see or have learned to ignore, and communicate those ‘noticings’ to others.
Eureka! Is a term generally referring to discovery. But, discovery and awareness is not always beneficial. It can, in fact, be lethal.  Science and Technology has its dark side.  J. Robert Oppenheimer invented the atomic bomb, and his first revelation was from the Hindu text, "I have become death, a destroyer of worlds".

Anxiety underlies much of the American artists’ work in Eureka! – from Rick Newton’s spitfires and Dali-esque sci-fi lobster pincers emerging out of a clear blue sky; to Kirsten Deirup’s mounds of non-biodegradable rubbish, to the spray-paint feel of Jean-Pierre Roy’s apocalyptic atomic mushroom cloud paintings, and the polish of Bethany Krull’s porcelain pets (which might be in conversation with Damian Hirst’s sharks and calves preserved in formaldehyde).

But the world of science and technology can also be a fun, affirmative, and playful one, as in Kyle Trowbridge’s ‘paintings that text’, Allison Schullnik’s retro stop-motion claymation music videos and Catherine Owens’ sidereal wonder.
If “Science” is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment” (OED) and Technology, from the ancient Greek Tekhne, which incidentally means ‘art, craft’, is defined as ‘the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes’ (OED), then Artists are naturally to be found at that intersection, performing their own alchemy on the edges between humanity, technology, and science.  That is where the cutting edge of science has lived since time immemorial, pushing the limits, dreaming, imagining the previously unimaginable – and sometimes bringing it into being, for better or for worse.

Similarly, the artist as explorer/ searcher/ expeditionist is constantly striving towards that Damascene moment, where like Saul, the scales fall from their eyes and new visions are beheld, new connections, opening a door to transformation, and maybe even enlightenment (Pauline or not).

That’s the point where the scientist exclaims Eureka! “A cry of joy or satisfaction when one finds or discovers something: from Gk Heureka ‘I have found it’, said to have been uttered by Archimedes when he hit upon a method of determining the purity of gold (OED).

Equally, each artist has their own Epiphany “a moment of sudden and great revelation”, which, most crucially they communicate to us via their work – whatever form that may take.  In this eclectic exhibition the forms are myriad. 

Across the planet, from mobile phone charging huts in African villages to technology super-stores in downtown New York, everybody knows that our love affair with pervasive technology ‘the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes’ is at an all-time high.  Inextricable to what sociologist Raymond Williams calls the ‘structure of feeling’ of our society, we can’t leave home without it - there it is, in our pockets, subtly, and sometimes insidiously embedded into the fibre of our very existence. Like a Trojan Horse, ubiquitous technology has infiltrated into the very matrix of our human “being”, as we mediate the world through smart phones, communicating through truncated text messages, cartoon-esque emoticons, relying on this intangible, virtual world for intimacy through disembodied skype on lap-tops, desk-tops, tablets and i-pads.  This, too, can be both good and bad. 

Have you ever stopped to think how (say, compared to previous generations, who had nothing mediating between themselves and their “”live experience”), we negotiate and navigate the world mostly through small rectangular screens?  In Eureka!, artist Patrick Jacobs playfully subverts and interrogates this with his quaint, circular, 18th century Claude Frames. Think how anthropologically fascinating it must be to an onlooker, how we tap, gaze into, and even pet our rectangular screens like we might  a beloved dog or a cat.  Which brings me to Bethany Krull’s exquisite, yet somehow disquieting porcelain pets. 

These days, going outside the front door sans mobile phone can produce separation anxiety of a most intense nature. Without the mobile phone, though we may actually be in the outside world, we feel cut off from it.  In a variation on this theme, in her “Frankenstein’s monster” type oeuvre artist Bethany Krull raises the issue of how warm, cuddly – and terrifying - technology has become.  She puts this to us in her polished, porcelain current series called “Dominance and Affection”, revealing how we have tamed wild nature, and genetically modified it to suit our inner control freak. ‘In today’s nature-deprived society, our most intimate connection tends to be with plants and animals that we have drastically altered through the process of domestication.  Instead of us succumbing to our role as part of nature, nature must bend to our will, and it is science and technology that makes this happen”.  Far beyond Stanley Kubrik’s prophetic Hal in “2001: A Space Odyssey” - have we finally lost our last shred of humility where nature is concerned?  What ever happened to mystery?

“We have turned wild animals into companions, genetically sculpting them into sweeter, cuter, less dangerous versions of themselves”, says Krull. “We shower our pets with love at the same time we cage and contain them and it is this affection contradicting complete control that I am interested in illustrating in my work. For no amount of love lavished upon these creatures will erase the fact that the success of the relationship lies in our complete domination over all aspects of their existence.”

“Zoology (the study of animals) and Ethology (a more specific study of animal behavior) play quite significant roles in my work as I am constantly exploring the ways in which the human animal interacts with other species (which is often informed by the psychological sciences as well as ethics) and how wild species come to be domesticated. I am interested in the complicated and often contradictory attitudes our society often maintains with other species as well as the human species propensity to dominate.”
Meanwhile, in her Claymation music videos, artist Allison Schulnik brings us back to the earth Patrick Kavanagh deifies in his 1942 poem “The Great Hunger”, with his opening gambit “Clay is the Word, and Clay is the flesh”. Schulnik’s “Mound”, “Hobo” and “Forest”, bring us back to the joy of primordial goo. Abandoning the blatantly hi-tech because it is disconnected from the physical aspects of what makes a sculptural artist a creator, her paradoxically luddite claymations, are populated with Apichatong Weerasethakul type creatures, UFO’s, primordial slime, hobos, clowns, and the occasional extra-terrestrial.  Her stop-motion animation, with plasticine clay, where objects are constantly adjusted by hand and photographed to create movement on film - are striking for their gloopy colour-burst painterly quality, going back to the child-like basics and wonder of squeezing raw colour out of a tube of paint, and mushing it around on the palette.
Here, she introduces the elemental science of dancing: spellbinding Martha-Graham esque choreography is conjured out of this colourburst slime to mesmeric effect.  Schulnik’s sculptural claymation music videos – with the occasional UFO – bring us back to a reassuringly earthy world of yore.

In “Metathesiophobia I Irish Sculptor Margaret O’Brien’s gorgeous, part unctuous, part crystalline “Gallium” plunges us into the old-fashioned science of Mechanical Engineering, and the feel of being back in school science lab. Developing her own alchemy of slow and repetitive changes in temperature, O’Brien allows various forms of the metal Gallium, whose state and form is constantly in flux to invite metaphorical exploration of the relationship and boundaries between the physical and the psychological.  

“Metathesiophobia I uses the physical properties of the metal gallium to explore the relationship and boundaries between the physical and the psychological, with particular regard to the experience of objects and conditions of space” shares O’Brien. “Gallium is one of five metals whose physical state is unstable at or near room temperature and, due to its physical properties, it does not solidify into the same physical form twice but reforms with each change in state. With the changing nature of the material, the relationship of the viewer to the ‘object’ is destabilized as familiarity with its form is continually undermined.”

Constantly in a kind of Heraclitean flux - due to the changing nature of the material, the relationship of the viewer to the ‘object’ is destabilized as familiarity with its form is continually undermined. This results in the viewer’s referencing through association being constantly challenged and redressed.

“I use science or technology to introduce the possibility of malfunction or technical failure into the work, as a formal condition of the work that informs and renegotiates shifting boundaries between the physical and psychological. The language of the works is anchored on the interstice between operational and breakdown so that the work embodies a condition of impossibility within the threat of technical failure, and endless conditions of possibility or potentiality within the realm of its functioning or semi-functioning capacity. In doing this, the experience of the physical and psychological is interweaved within the experience of the work. “

From there to the playful science of games: have you ever wondered, if abstract painting could text, what it might say? Wave your mobile phone in front of Kyle Trowbridge’s Piet Mondriaan Style painting and find out! Like a Trojan horse, Kyle Trowbridge has embedded messages into his scannable painting, so the viewer experiences this oxymoron of literal text emanating out of abstraction. “Much of my work in the past has been based on buried subtext… It’s the idea that things are never what they appear to be that I am truly in love with.  So when you pick up your phone and scan my paintings, you can see the literal message it conveys.” This work could trace its lineage to morse code, which, in its day was high technology indeed.

“I think at its root, the idea of using codes can cloak meaning in such interesting ways. Leaving my art to perform like a wolf in sheep’s clothing or is it a sheep in wolf’s clothing!”

“I do not believe these to be a far stretch from the literal definitions of the terms science and technology” he elaborates. “These are technologically based because the very foundation of these paintings relies on the structuring of the QR code. but it does not end with the painting itself. To unlock the full potential of these paintings one must again rely on their smart phones to decipher the code/painting. Technology by way of the computer is used to convert my text and generate a coded version. It is then technology once again that is used to translate this digital language. Technology itself mirrors current social trends greatly. It is the computer and its heavy interrelation with life, society, and our environment, that further increases the drawing upon such subjects as computer science, engineering, and applied science. The Quick Response code is one more excuse to pull out our phones and justify their existence!”

“Colour theory and the science of colour plays a great part in the creation of these works as QR codes are designed to be mono chromatic. This of course is because there are inherent limitations in the smartphone camera lens that is to act as a scanner for these codes. Believe me I have spent many hours struggling with certain colours to keep these paintings scannable. There are so many variables (hue, chroma, saturation, intensity, value, clash, simultaneous contrast, etc. etc.) that only the breaking down of colour to a science can help overcome / manage them.”

Meanwhile, in another scientific realm, at the forefront of experimental film and media since the 1980’s, Leslie Thornton’s kaleidoscopic Ant Video, Bluebear, Fish, and zebra lure us into a hyper National Geographic type of environment.

Deconstructing the ubiquitous rectangular screen our 2012 world is framed in, we see Patrick Jacobs’ hallucinatory mushrooms emerge in trippy perspective through an anachronistic Claude glass – a circular optical device popular in the 18th century used to frame the picturesque.  The quaint yet disorienting combination of the pretty frame –– coupled with Jacobs’ negative focal length of the concave lenses and sculptural foreshortening all combine to create an illusion of infinite depth within a narrow space.  Ingeniously, the artist has made you a magic mushroom, and a teeny fairy ring, revelling in the beauty and pharmacology of the nature his art mimics. 


“A kind of pseudoscience often characterizes my work in which the everyday conspires to transcend to the supernatural”, he says.  “We have always attempted to understand the world around us through a mixture of scientific fact and cultural assumptions, wishful thinking or even magic.  The fairy ring fungus series centers on a folk-tale which held that dark grass and mushrooms growing in a circle followed the path made by fairies dancing in a ring.  An ordinary natural phenomenon - the bane of lawn owners and gardeners - thus becomes the object of wonder.   Each work consists of a constructed, three-dimensional diorama lighted from within and viewed through a circular window of glass lenses.  Recalling the Claude glass, an optical device popular in the 18th century used to frame the picturesque, and Chevron's Ortho home and garden brochures, the lenses also invoke the invisible eye of the wary homeowner searching a landscape for imagined interlopers.  Installed within the wall, the physical diorama vanishes and we struggle to ascertain an image which can only exist within our mind.   The combination of the negative focal length of the concave lenses and sculptural foreshortening creates the illusion of infinite depth within a narrow space.  Blurring boundaries between painting, sculpture and photography the works present the viewer with a spatial and perceptual conundrum;  we are drawn into a space at once determinate and infinite, natural and contrived, prosaic and otherworldly.   In the foreground, we behold a detail of a cluster of mushrooms tenderly recreated with a degree of botanical accuracy.  Then, our gaze is drawn deeper into a space with an impossible bird's eye view of a distant, fantastical landscape.  The unwanted, or mundane become synonymous with a disorienting even hallucinatory experience”.

The Salvador Dali-esque, anxious world of Rick Newton, where spitfire planes and lobster pincers emerge out of the sky rhymes with the age-old Shakespearean sentiment ‘like fies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport”.  Inspired by scientific textbook illustrations, and incorporating Cold War imagery, Newton has created a personal mythology concerning the future of the planet – with a generous dollop of post 9-11 angst. 

As regards how science informs his work, Newton offers: “If the applied science of technology is perceived as an icon for the modern desire to provide for human growth, then my work is informed by this ideal trajectory.  For me, technological innovations signify change and the climate of opinion from the various epochs artificially imposed by scientific inquiry.  For the modern period, change over time can be traced via technological innovations”.

Science has become the beacon for ‘Revelation’ in Jean-Pierre Roy’s painterly, post-divine, materialist world. “Classical Western Art traditions often have at their core a desire for "Revelation", he offers.  “As the material and existential unknowns formally relegated to the realm of the "divine" give up their secrets to the small, unwavering and clarifying lens of rational investigation, "Science" has become the beacon for this act of "Revelation" for a post-divine, materialist world-view.”  

“The day to day evolution of the state of the scientific conversation makes its way into my work- from Geology and Meteorology, to Thermodynamics and Particle Physics.  On a macro-level, my work seeks to evoke a place for the viewer to contemplate the act of discovery itself.  The Enlightenment gave rise to schools of sculptors and painters that sought to codify the "old world-view" shattering ideas of Christiaan Huygens, Galileo and Tycho Brahe.  Artists like Casper Davide Friedrich and painters from the American Luminist Tradition sought to move the sublime mysteries of the world out of the damp confines of the cloisters and pews of the church and out into the light of the now Sun-Centric planetary system and the dappled star light of a much larger cosmos”.

“Drawing on these traditions of light as a metaphor for the rational mind, my work continues to explore the luminous boundaries between the known and the unknown, or as 19th century mathematician Georg Cantor put it "the chasm between what he had seen and what he knew must be there, but could never reach."  

Lenny Campello gives us a virtual wink as he brings us back to the retro technology of Tube TV and old soap operas in his installation.  Featuring 1950’s couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in a classic bedroom farce moment from iconic series “I Love Lucy”, Desi walks in and catches Lucy in the arms of his fellow Cuban – Fidel Castro.   Storytelling and narrative will always be part of the fabric of what it is to be human, and Campello reminds us that technology, is often but a tool to plug in to this innate and ancient human need. 

“My work has always been about the narrative and/or storytelling”, he says. “My marriage of a traditional and well-established genre of art (such as drawing has been for centuries), with a modern form of technology is an attempt on my part to extend the narrative of the artwork via embedded videos or powerpoint presentations. The digital technology thus expands what the visual imagery offers via drawing and it adds more information, more clues, a deeper agenda, etc.”

Finally, out of all the sidereal, technological and scientific wonder in this exhibition, and on this ‘small and lonely planet, travelling through casual space, past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns’ in “Space Junk”, U2 collaborator, and 3D pioneer Catherine Owens invites us to consider Maya Angelou’s heartening assertion:

When we come to it, we must confess
That we are the possible,
We are the miraculous,
We are the true wonder of this world.

So go on, put your miraculous self in the vortex of the organic conversation that emerges between these eclectic art works, and perhaps experience your own epiphany.  Claim your own Eureka! Moment.