Episode 2 A Most Sensitive Nucleus

Curated by Vaari Claffey

Featured Artists: Kevin Atherton,  Karl Burke,  Çayan’s Friends,  Fiona Hallinan/Department of Ultimology, Nathalie Koger, Roy Claire Potter, Eva Rothschild, Patrick Staff, Stanislaw Welbel, Stina Wirfelt.

Episode 2 is titled A Most Sensitive Nucleus.  Reflecting on ageing and vulnerability, it includes works that demonstrate caring and protection, considering the ‘old’ as the valuable, (learned, wise, knowing, familiar) and the ‘vulnerable’ as precious (irreplaceable, requiring protection, delicate).

In this programme we present works that reflect on ageing, on protecting our friends and colleagues who are ill, and on how we balance protection and contact.  At times artworks are the complex, vulnerable and precious things that we want to be around.  We must protect them, even if they are not always benign.

Some of the works have been made or rethought especially for Isolation TV and many others are older works selected for this context.  

‘One could of course argue that this is not the real thing, but then—please, anybody—show me this real thing.’  Hito Steyerl

‘The need for contact is Voracious’ we hear from the woman undergoing treatment in Patrick Staff’s Weed Killer.  Her image flickers in and out of infrared tones that feel both toxic and curative. She doesn’t want to return to the world looking like someone who is not closer to death than those she encounters, or so they think.  ‘I don’t want to pass’ she says, knowingly hitting us with many meanings of the word.  

In Nathalie Koger’s What is Exhibited, a young woman hula-hoops in a gallery full of classical sculptures, holding space and performance while navigating the works.  Later she flings hoops into the space; her movements are methodical and assured but we don’t know where they land.

 Kevin Atherton’s In Two Minds sees him responding as an older man to a one-sided interview film he made many years earlier – the ‘original’ unaware that his respondent would be his older self. ‘Fifty years ago a slip of the tongue passed more or less unnoticed’, says Benjamin.  His fifty years are the ones before the popularisation of psychoanalysis and film, between 1886 and 1936.  There are 34 years between Atherton’s original interview and his response and now the ‘two’ protagonists are vulnerable in different ways. It raises the question  knowing that one is vulnerable make you more or less so?

This work is part of the collection of The Irish Museum of Modern Art.

In Stina Wirfelt’s Tame Time an older woman and her dog (the latest in a long line of pets called ‘Rosa’) navigate the changing landscape of the locale so familiar to her from their walks.  ‘I know the blocks around my house better than I know my own grandchildren’. While she is on holiday, a wall is built across the streets hurtling her into a raging and slippery argument with time and place, helped by her neighbours and the dog(s).  ‘We are in the past’ she says at one point.  For her, the dogs help to ‘Tame Time’.

Emily, by Stanislaw Welbel, is the second in a series for Isolation TV.  Welbel uses a computer generated voice to read the text of Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Because I Would Not Stop for Death’, over a techno-disco track.  The words run over the bottom of the screen like Karaoke lyrics or news from the stock exchange.

Roy Claire Potter’s performed text work Each Day Less Than The Next presents a complex care situation; a man who ‘was’ violent, a son who is violent, a carer tending to intimate body parts, a sense of menace.  Narrated in the first person, it produces a clamour of perspectives, each one both vulnerable and threatening.

Karl Burke’s Union documents a quarry which has resulted from mining in the area, now disused.  The stillness of the space becomes disrupted by someone hurling rocks into the lake that has formed at the site, causing a flurry of splashes and ripples.  After a time the rock-throwing stops and the surface of the water returns to its usual stillness.  This work was commissioned for a festival which ran for a few years close to Union Wood.  The site of the festival is overgrown and the projection screen is gone.

Our Friend Cayan follows a group of friends as they care for their friend, the filmmaker Çayan Demeril.  Accused, with Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, of terrorist propaganda for a film they had made in 2015 called Bakur (North), both were sentenced to 4 years 6 months in prison.  On the day the editing of the film finished Çayan’s heart stopped for 15 minutes. As a result his speech, sight and mobility have been seriously impeded.  He cannot care for himself and so his friends care for him while he fights for his innocence and against the sentence imposed on him.  

For Eva Rothschild’s ‘Boys and Sculpture’ she sets a group of schoolchildren into a gallery space filled with her (delicate) sculptures.  They are left to navigate the works in the space for over 20 minutes.  They begin by looking at the structures, as anyone might.  After a time they behave as they are trained to do in a play situation,  dismantling the works, playing ballgames, sometimes building works of their own.  Eventually, as children are socialised to do, they begin to interact.  Meanwhile they destroy the exhibition, turning its remnants into tools to play with each other.

As ‘intermissions’ Fiona Halinan of the Department of Ultimology has responded with a series of domestically rendered visuals to accompany recordings of threatened or extinct birds, many of whom exist only in captivity. These were first encountered by Isolation TV on a blog called ‘ear birding’ in a post from 2009. One of them is the whip-poor-will, mentioned in a song by the singer Connie Converse. Converse disappeared in 1974 (aged about 50 in search of a new life). ‘I don’t stand in the need of company’ she sang, ‘with everything I see, talking like you’.

Video Production/design Oisin Byrne

Realised with the support of Salzburger Kunstverein and Mary Cremin, (Director, Void Gallery, Derry), The Department of Ultimology, Eoin Dara (DCA Dundee), Golden Pixel, and Kate Strain (Director, Grazer Kunstverein).

Thanks to the artists and to Jesse Jones, Sam Keogh,  Michaela Lederer, Marlies Poeschl and Corbin Poguntkte.

Website production by Brian Mooney