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I started this blog in 2007. No one had heard of The Wire and I was making experimental films that a select few saw. My initial tagline for this blog was: 'I write concisely. always. I'm trying to improve this - however, sometimes few words work better'. Then I found Twitter. However, I still post here once a week, so feel free to comment or just to simply say hii.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008 @ 6:44 AM
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Review of 'Heavier-Than-Air Flying Machines Are Impossible' in Frieze Magazine


Heavier-Than-Air Flying Machines Are Impossible

Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, Thailand

image

Fiona Whitty, Waiting Room (2007)

‘Heavier-Than-Air Flying Machines Are Impossible’ comprises seven videos by seven Irish artists, spread between three TV monitors and screened on a continuous loop. The two outer monitors dominated the installation, as they ran one video each so that the three screens functioned as a kind of triptych. Fiona Whitty’s Waiting Room drew particular interest. Set against the experimental approaches of the other videos, this documentary-style interview with a Nigerian immigrant in Dublin was immediately engaging. However, the work ultimately proved too undemanding for its own good: voyeurism (the faces of the interviewer and interviewee were unseen), undemanding questions (‘Why are you here?’) and appropriated footage of black poverty and oppression rendered the video a testament to, rather than indictment of, one of Ireland’s newest spectres of otherness.

The curatorial premise for the exhibition encouraged the viewer to question the veracity of appearance. The title is taken from an 1895 statement by an Irish physicist and engineer, whose claim was disproved in 1903 with the flight of the Wright Flyer. ‘Do we make proposals that cannot be proved? Where are the facts?’, the accompanying press release asked. These questions offered an interesting perspective on Whitty’s claims to non-fiction, but, given all the other artists’ self-conscious approach to representation, I could not be entirely sure about her intention.

Darren Bolger’s Benzo Dreams offered a notable comparison. An account of a Dublin man’s journey from drug addiction, Bolger illustrated the ex-addict’s voiceover with lyrical shots of drug paraphernalia, text, and, finally, images of a rural landscape. Bolger’s hypnotic, if not seductive, use of video contrasted strongly with the confessional narrative and subverted an all-too-familiar and cloying account of self-recovery.

The selected videos functioned as a map of sorts to contemporary Ireland. All the more so because the general propositions of the curator are thrown into relief by the context of Bangkok. Novelist Edna O’Brien once wrote, ‘Ireland for me is moments of its history, and its geography, a few people who embody its strange quality.’ Aside from the contemporary significance of the social concerns of Whitty and Bolger, Anne Maree Barry’s video follows the country roads along which her father rode stolen bicycles in the ‘50s, pinched while their owners sat in mass. Kelly O’Connor takes a child’s view of the bland home she was raised in and that is now due for demolition, while Aideen Barry’s video is of a young woman carrying out ostensibly feminine tasks (ironing clothes, shopping) at great speed while levitating. Finally, there was the vague religiosity of the three monitors themselves.

Brian Curtin

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