In the Flesh
January 21 - March 12 2016
In the Flesh is a collaboration between artist Bridget O’Gorman, historian Brenda Malone at the National Museum of Ireland Collins Barracks and writer Sue Rainsford. This new video focuses on the museum store at Collins Barracks and the artefacts stored there - many of which were donated by the relatives of those who were involved in the 1916 rising. In the film these objects are never revealed to the viewer instead they are described through Rainsford's script which gives a voice to the artefacts which have been protected from destabilising atmospheric contaminants, human touch and light.
This 'people's collection' which will be on display at Collins Barracks later in the year, contains many items that tell the history of the object itself and evidence of the person that used it. These include a tea flask used during 1916 that bears the fingerprints of its owner and a felt hat worn by James Connolly that carries the trajectory marks of a passing bullet.
As with all objects related to turbulent times; the fire arms, incendiary devices and printed manifestos of the 'peoples collection' have deteriorated and require conservation in order to stabilise them. The film examines the vocabulary used by museum conservators to describe different types of deterioration. Ironically words such as blistering and weeping are also used to describe injuries to the human body, injuries that could well have been inflicted by the artefacts that are being conserved.
The second video work focuses on the hands of conservator Hannah Power as she carefully attends to the body of a rifle. This representation of conservation asks us to examine the juxtaposition of the delicacy of the work of the conservator with the violence inherent in the gun itself.
Shown alongside this footage are a set of folded aluminium structures, interspersed with objects fabricated from modelling clay, ballistic gels and soaps which are used by museum professionals and police departments to simulate how human flesh reacts to trauma caused by the penetration of fire arm or blade. Amongst those items are a set of pinched sculptures, moulded through the heat of the hand, bearing its fingerprints - exploiting the plastic memory of physiotherapy putty and resistance bands – referencing the human body and its relation to the inanimate material.
Bridget O'Gorman (b. 1981, Co. Tipperary, Ireland) graduated with a BA in Fine Art Painting from the Crawford College of Art (IRL) in 2003. In 2008 she completed an MFA between the Department of Applied Art and The School of Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.
Recent solo and selected group exhibitions include Telling the Bees at the Galway Arts Centre IE 2015, On Beauty at the Roscommon Arts Centre IE 2015, Wade In at Eastern Edge Gallery, St. Johns CA 2014, From a Studio Exchange at Acme Project Space, London UK 2014, If I show you the Roses, Rubicon Projects, Dublin IE 2014, & We Are Suddenly Somewhere Else at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny IE 2013.
She is the recipient of various awards including the Golden Fleece Award Shortlist/Commendation 2015, Arts Council Visual Arts Bursary Award 2014, Fire Station/Acme Work/Live Programme Exchange London 2014, the Future Makers Travel & Training Award 2011 and the Wexford Emerging Visual Artist Award 2010. During 2012 - 13 she her work was supported through the Artist In Studio Residency at the National Sculpture Factory in Cork (IRL). She currently lives and works at Fire Station Artists’ Studios in Dublin.
THE IRISH TIMES
Visual art round-up: The kind of country Irish people have made
Two views of the Rising and the Ireland it helped to create
Tue, Feb 9, 2016, 06:00
A sculpture from In the Flesh, by Bridget O’Gorman
Before, During, After . . . Almost
Galleries II & III, Royal Hibernian Academy,
Gallagher Gallery, Dublin
When the RHA approached photographer David Farrell with an eye to addressing the 1916 commemorations in the context of the war raging inEurope at the time, the subject morphed into something else. That was because he realised that his personal awareness of and engagement with 1916 really began with the 50th anniversary of the Rising. So his exhibitionBefore, During, After . . . Almost is in essence a fascinating photographic essay dealing with, as he puts it "The delayed social and economic revolution of the last 30 years". The Rising, and the subsequent struggle for independence, created a space in which a nation might grow and flourish, but he feels that the process produced "what has been in many ways a failed Republic".
Hence his jump forwards in time, to the Ireland that is still emerging from the eventual modernisation that was just getting going in the 1960s. He turned to his archive, and he accurately describes the making of the exhibition as "an excavation and exorcism of an archive, an attempt to animate an archive". Animate it he certainly does. The work is beautifully presented as a flowing, open narrative, with prints hung at various levels, without frames and on different scales, sidestepping what he terms the "altarpiece" presentation of artworks.
Above and beyond shifts in subject matter, the format illuminates his development in terms of photographic style, especially a move from anecdotal pictorial narrative to more analytical documentation, very much in line with the recent historical trajectory of what is often termed art photography. The layout is not chronological, so that progressing through the show we move back and forth stylistically as well as well as in terms of dates.
Farrell is best known for his award-winning, 15-year account of the search for the disappeared from the conflict in Northern Ireland. The photographs are, in the main, studies of desolate stretches of bogland or other marginal terrain, often with major excavation, on occasion staggeringly large excavation, under way. The work gained from his decision not to leave the original publication and body of work as finished business, but to revisit it, as it remains uncompleted. He attended and documented successive searches on particular sites, often many years apart. He notes the success or failure in each case, together with the identity of the victim in question. As with Paul Seawright’s Sectarian Murder, (for which he revisited the scenes of sectarian murders in Belfast, together with contemporary newspaper reports of the crimes), it is beyond sad. It is grim but important work, it gives a voice to those whose voices have been silenced, and compels us to read the landscape in a more realistic, considered way.
Among Farrell’s other major projects, one addresses the decline in the influence of the Catholic Church in the country (at the anecdotal end of the spectrum) and another the topography of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. But the several series are leavened with one-off images that contribute to an overall richness of texture and the whole is extremely enjoyable to track through two large gallery spaces. By the time you’ve done that, you really have built up a portrait of the kind of country Irish people have made. You’re left in no doubt that it is, as it was when it fought its way towards independence, a work in progress. Until February 21st, rhagallery.ie
In the Flesh
The Lab, Dublin
In the first of a series of five shows that match visual artists with other "research partners and institutions" to make new work in response to the 1916 Rising, artist Bridget O’Gorman has made new sculptural and video works in collaboration with historian Brenda Malone of the National Museum and writer Sue Rainsford. Curator Sheena Barrett was drawn by Malone’s blog about the way workaday objects take on additional layers of significance through their involvement in momentous human events. Rainsford has written on the visual arts and has shown herself to be adept at perceiving unexpected links between words and images, thoughts and bodies, not least in seeing them all as fading, mortal, vulnerable and ephemeral.
O’Gorman has an inspired way with materials, and the free, undulating, swooping lines and dense, polished, concentrated forms of her sculptures guide us indirectly towards the human body: they refer to the materials and methods used to simulate the impact of bullets and blades on human flesh by forensics and museum specialists. The two distinct but complementary videos centre on the National Museum, Collins Barracks collection of material relating to the Rising, much of it donated by relatives of those directly involved.
In the first video, downstairs, we see a conservator working carefully and delicately on a rusted antique rifle, displaying tenderness toward an apparatus designed to maim and kill. Upstairs, the camera offers us views of the museum storerooms where the objects are archived. There is a hint of day dawning and an ebbing towards evening: time passes no matter what. But we do not see the objects. Instead, Rainsford’s alert, wounded monologue plunges us into the inner worlds of the objects in the orderly rows of boxes.
It could be the autobiography of the rifle that we see the conservator working on downstairs. It articulates the role of the material object in the conscious world of human dramas, but always with an awareness of fading and falling. Early in February, it is already a busy year for art that filters aspects of 1916;In the Flesh is a thoughtful, considered example. Until March 12th, thelab.ie
This is a place where vapour rises.
Here in the quiet – in the sizzle and the crack.
I’ve such an ache down my left side, such a hurt where the wet gets in – this is how a body comes to know the way of the slow crawl into careful, cultivated shadow.
My sides, gnawed upon. My edges, worn away.
I’m being ever lessened by the hurtful properties lain latent in the air.
This air, yes this air that settles in your chest without complaint.
It holds for me all manner of ouch, brings out in me a propensity for detriment and for slippery harm.
Such a pain, such an ache and no sign of it ending,
such a soreness and only the sound of the –
only the careful light of the –
I can’t say it.
I can’t name it.
Better to tell you about
this cool dark chamber that rings with the sound of
footsteps, and has always about it a cold water feel,
cold air run like water down the back
down the stippled length of the spine.
Such a slow tear, such slowness to this ever-opening wound. No stoppering scab. No natural seal to clot and keep me whole.
This wound is not a wound like a mouth but a wound like a crackle. It has the thin skin of a bubble and pulsates like a bubble will just before it ruptures – held there, that moment there, where the break is already begun and gathering about itself the first signs of breach when the liquid shine is too great to bear. This is how this wound feels, the point where it gets too bright and it’s upon you, just upon you, that moment where you sigh as if the hurt’s already done.
I live in that moment of initial, constant fracture.
I am a pair of shoulders hunching. I am membrane worn to lace and pretty perforation, worn through and still learning new ways to keep out the light.
I am a thing that was once kept close and so I know about heat and skin.
Even now, in this slow burn, in this forever turning in I remember the grate and whizz of a blade flayed against stone before being put to the taut skin of your throat – the dancing tremble of a pulse there in the soft flesh of the neck, rising and falling like some ballad keeping drum,
and I remember the feel of your tousling hair and the wind run through it like a comb – but not the wind. No, that’s not right. It was a gust of air, a pocket of metal and heat bursting like a sunrise in the street.
These things recalled here in the blue half-light,
in this twilight made in cool, square chambers.
Even now, there comes the popping sound of lead. In the moment of the pop the chiselled droplet of lead has already sliced through the air and the left the story of its arc in bruised skin, in tendril smoke. Heated and propelled, far flung lead that punctured the air like a sheet held taut on the line.
I’m still carrying the tremor of the man who held me. I’m still carrying the shake that lived in his hands and the crescent muscle of his strong arm -- strong still but unable to bear any weight without leaning heavily on table top, on counter or doorframe. He had that shake that comes from being too close to a terrible noise. I remember the noise that berthed the shake. It was so loud it seemed to come from his own heart.
Certain frights won’t fade.
They get inside you when you get close to things that have been shattered, that have been made to break.
And where do the bullets go? The ones that coast through flesh. the ones that come out the other side of a person and land crippled and squat in the divots of the cobblestones, the cracks and holes worn into the much trodden ground. They make people stumble later. Later, when they tinkle under footfall. A little bit of music in the smoky hush of the street.
These are the kinds of things that stick.
Breath stuttering inside lungs and arriving pink and bubbling around the mouth.
A shoulder popped out of place, undone by the clap of a gun. A spot that will ache in years to come, in this instant earmarked for later hurt.
I know things about heat and skin but I also saw the things that held too much fire or glare – the things that would harm the soft white of human eyes.
I sat in a room that was burning and felt the heat undo my boundary line. Patterns that were once diamonds, once ovals: made slack.
I took a bullet into my centre and flaked around it, split around it, fashioned for it a crevice, a place for it to hide.
I shielded the wettening creases of a forehead – a brow collapsing.
Atop a man’s head I shielded his brow as he made for the toppled bench that seemed just then a place of shelter
crouch and wait
wait and crouch
and then bursting, the sound of the burst and the splatter and droplet wash,
bathed in carmine flecks, the crimson pattern moving through the air that is the aftermath of someone’s heart.
That was the bursting of someone’s heart.
In the quiet that follows, that terrible knowing.
Some man has just now given up his heart to the street,
and what’ll keep but this browning stain, this felt and its lining slumped about his head, his quiet head
wilted and heavy and heaving: a sopping bruise
those points where I pucker, where I suppurate – looking more like skin than cloth.
Weathered and buckled and carrying all this old wet, years and years of wet that gives no sign of leaving me
and here I am, in this part, an inch’s width, buckling with the weight of it buckling with the weight of the wet that gets heavier with the years:
fibres and string pulled close in this sodden embrace
too much wet: too much like a drunkard’s kiss
Weep, weep – weep a little more
I know things about footsteps, about a heartbeat that thunders in the night.
Keep close and sizzle, fracture, crack.
What’s that sound? Footsteps come again to deliver me into careful light.
If only I could scratch my back against this smooth cool wall – because this is the place I keep on living, this close space where I’ve learned all one could ever know about footfall.
Cordial-thick is the cold of this cupboard that keeps me safe from my own self, my own propensity t’ward demise, this fractal slipping into the dark:
another inch lost to the black.
But still, no matter the calm and the cool I melt as though trapped inside some slow fire,
as though fire got inside of me, all that heat and burning, got inside and nestled and now I’m forever in decline,
charred decline, flaking decline.
An outline of dust and ash wherever I go, whatever gloved hands I’m lifted by,
I seem to dirty them with crumblings they cannot see.
Unseen also is my quiet bloom that keeps me held captive in cool metal rooms.
Trickling degrees of self-inflicted hurt, small variants of hurt.
Careful, careful touch
you must see it, the
slow creep, slow creep
that is my material decay, a creeping I undertake
without hands a belly crawl
so that I think, despite myself and all the things I know
What is happening to me?
What word is there for this slow death? My life-long death. A lifetime spent dying, come close to complete decay.
Self-inflicted, a kind of requirement, a hurtful marking of time.
Some terrible, interior power wielded against myself.
If too many hushed moments go by there comes a reminder to bleed and ache and hurt and if I rush too speedily into the gloom there comes a reminder to pause and simmer – it isn’t yet the time to burst, it isn’t yet the time.
Slow creep, slow creep
Miniscule and fractal but happening, certainly happening
These seeds planted long ago to bring about
little things that feel like death
Across my belly and my back: a whole climate, a spectrum of dappled corrosion that defies reason, defies the human eye it is so layered and spectacular
Full of trickle and burst
Ripe with perforate and bloom
and yet all it is, all it is
is wear and tear
Footsteps: making loud this metal room
The up and down of a heel on the ground that tells me I’ll soon be bathed in electric light and hands will read my symptoms, will read the length and breadth of me.
Cradling, cupping hands that’ll read my crumble and fade.
No more bands of colour that sparkle like a winking eye,
just creaking strips of one time bright cloth – now brittle, now fading.
No more dance and flap in the wind just this crumbling,
draped like a limp animal between cautious hands.
You used your mouth to cover some stranger’s wound.
You covered the hurt with your mouth, some stranger’s hurt and you thought your mouth might stop the bleeding and between you both a kind of rapture –
Nibbling at my sides, my parchment belly inscribed – torn into with a scratching nib – oh, I remember these markings delicious and deep, seeping and certain, so certain. If left to my own devices I’d curl up like a leaf and sleep and sleep but I can recall with a kind of happiness the stark promise that came coursing through a pen and was laid out across me, the flat recipient sheet –
And now. And now. Dry and flaking.
Words and phrases that give up of themselves no more.