Isolation TV is as a response to quarantine and social distancing, during the Covid19 pandemic and consequent closing of Museums and Galleries, forcing the suspension or cancellation of many exhibitions and trapping works of art in empty buildings, unseen. We are very grateful to the artists for letting us show you their work in this way, and to our collaborators and supporters for responding so quickly and imaginatively to the project.
Vaari Claffey, Curator
Vaari Claffey is an independent curator based in Dublin. She has initiated a number of curatorial platforms including Gracelands, Hazelwood Arts and Resistance is Fertile. Her practice involves working closely with artists to stage and produce immersive, experiential projects which aim to produce a particularly dynamic relationship with the audience. These projects range from low-key self-perfomed moments to very large-scale exhibitions and public art commissions. Recent projects include Gracelands at IMMA, 2014, Magnetism at Hazelwood 2015, People’s Cinema, Salzburger Kunstverein 2016, Laugh a Defiance in the Hugh Lane and The Comedy Cellar 2016, Refuge in Fauxtopia in the Van Abbe Eindhoven 2018 and I Am The Beat at The Irish Museum of Modern art in 2020. In 2017 she was appointed Public Art Strategist for Southbank Melbourne the first commission for which will be constructed during 2020.
Mariah Garnett, SIGNAL, 2012, 7’00”
The script for Signal attempts to organize an archive of SPAM emails collected over a three-year period into a narrative script.
Destiny, Unmanifested; Mariah Garnettʼs Signal
Mariah Garnettʼs film Signal (2012) opens with what can be best described as a series of “drifts.” The camera pans across the scarified, alien surfaces of geological formations that ring a vast body of water, occasionally resting to take in the hirsute face, dad glasses and gentle mien of a plump white middle aged man as he delivers a monologue about settling into a hotel in a foreign country. While he is indeed on foreign soil – the Paiute Indian Reservation in western Nevada – the camera movements resist his ability to settle. They waver in fixing the figure in this landscape. Unlike the iconic 19th century photographs of explorers conquering (read: expropriating) the American West under the banner of Manifest Destiny, Signal takes up the ethos of the drifter, unsettling the subject and questioning in what landscape, identity and body she belongs.
If the 20th centuryʼs answer to the hegemonic spirit of Manifest Destiny was the minimal swagger of Land Art, Signal suggests that any contemporary remapping of the West must be disoriented by the dematerialized terrain of the Internet. She recruited her three nonprofessional actors on Craigslist, feeding them lines edited from an archive of email SPAM she has collected over the last three years. Populated by an anonymous ever-shifting community of the bored, horny and enterprising, Craigslist is a canny virtual foil to the craggy, textured landscape sensitively rendered by Garnettʼs 16mm camera. As a countervailing force against the productivity of the Internet, SPAM also assumes the figure of the drifter, contaminating the flow of so many pertinent memos and missives with its wanderings. In Garnettʼs composition of the text and her direction of the actors, SPAM becomes obscure, abstract poetry uttered in disarmingly awkward and endearing spurts. Vague untethered narratives weave in and out of the soundtrack and are memorably punctuated by lines such as, “You will drill her as good as Michael Phelps swims.”
While SPAM poses little imminent risk to us in the speech we encounter it as in the film, Garnett formalizes its threat to jam our sexual networks and render us unable to differentiate between the real and fake. She does this by mobilizing SPAMʼs chief tactic of impersonation, a strategy taken up to haunting effect in the first part of Garnettʼs film Encounters I May or May Not Have Had with Peter Berlin (2010-2012). In it, Garnett impersonates the eponymous 70s gay sex icon, producing a complicated self-portrait of cross-gender identification made all the more ecstatic by the whorls of color she paints directly onto the film. The actors in Signal do not impersonate; instead, they seem to negotiate the challenge of the script with their own voices, cadences and attitudes towards performance. Signalʼs most powerful instance of impersonation comes in the sudden appearance of the explosive figure of the Fly Geyser roughly half way through the film. Drift gives way to something more violent – a hard cut to a tribe of glommed together exploding cocks stained in an astonishing range of colors by its own ejaculate. Here, the landscape impersonates man. If the threat of SPAM is predicated on the possibility that some man somewhere would sacrifice his bank details to “impress his girlfriend tonight”, the eruption of the geyser is a hallucinatory vision of that desire. The geyser finds its sexual counterpart in the formations that enfold the actors as they deliver their lines. One shot in particular slowly explores an intricately variegated surface in close-up, pulling back to reveal the yawning circumference of its flower-like form. These substitutions are so thinly veiled that their effect is at once egregious and comic and to that extent, the landscape of Signal impersonates SPAM as well.
The decomposing snake quivering in its death throes (a cruel hangover from the male enhancement pills), instructs us that the landscape in Signal is (hopefully) a monument to a regime of sexual difference that is on its last legs. Like the temporary communities that gather at Burning Man (whose empty site makes an appearance in Signal) and the anonymous author of the text featured in Untitled (Eclipse) (2012) seeking recruits for a drifting “polyamorous” poker crew, her films remind us that it is still possible to conjure beautiful, flawed, ridiculous, aggressive, utopian visions in the American West.
Eduardo Padilha, Untitled (Invasion), 2020
Stabilo Pen on watercolour paper, glazed ceramic pots (various).
Mairead McClean, NO MORE , 2013, 15’00″
Máiréad McClean uses material from a diverse range of sources in her films: found footage historical and family archives, filmed performances and televisual media, appear in many of her single screen films and installations. Her work often features people as they cope with forms of control. Whether the camera follows actual events or follows enactments by a performer, people are seen to challenge or circumvent authority or to improvise with their own actions.
No More was acquired for the National Collection of Ireland by The Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2017.
Manuel Graf “Qu’est que c’est la maturité”, 2008, 10’26”
The small sculptures are mirrored as images in the film , 2008 (What is maturity) – a kind of animated Revue theater in three acts. During the first act, tea cups, sugar bowl and teapot, designed as a classical architectural ensemble, spin to a Waltz tempo under a spotlight. The images convey a lulling and sedating effect, as if in the contemplation of a musical box. The second act leads towards the absurd with artificially accelerated and overwound music. An Ikebana construction site grows from nothingness like a design for a plug-in-city from architect group ARCHIGRAM, while ripe oranges weigh on the scaffolding. They are not harvested, but left to rot and fall about. Straight away, fresh fruit is delivered and the process begins all over again. Converted into a carousel, an orange tree goes merry-go-round in the third act, as seesaws are replaced by bonbon-coloured fetishes dangling in the air: high heels on silk ribbons from today and past á la Bernard Rudofsky.
Igor Grubic, How Steel Was Tempered, 2018, 12’40”
Animated film combining animation techniques, film, and photography, shot in 9 abandoned famous Croatian factories. A father takes his son to an abandoned factory where he once worked. The building has long been reduced to a crumbling symbol of the new system. Nonetheless, the space will briefly be brought to life by recorded scenes of workers solidarity, inspiring a small gesture of defiance. That symbolic act will turn into a moment of catharsis and re-establish the relationship between the father and son.
The film How Steel Was Tempered eludes simple genre classification, given that the animated characters are inserted into photographs of abandoned and run-down factories. Over the desolate factory halls which fuse into a single post-apocalyptic space, a father, his son and their dog take us through the production plants and the (film) archive, leading us to an unexpected gesture of reigniting the factory furnace. From the dispersion of a former community of workers to a migrant search for survival, to connecting generations which have nothing but the present in common, to the gesture of reigniting the flame, we are led by our imagination. The characters in Grubic’s film are imaginary, animated on actual frontlines of ruin, and so their gesture is what art makes of real devastation, thus this film offers a manifest, a task for art to open new horizons in the very places riddled by the trauma of their closing. Aleksandra Sekulic
Köken Ergun, Untitled, 2004, 9’17 “
Amidst growing discussions on the headscarf issue, the President of Turkey was holding the annual Republic Day Ball at the Presidential Palace. For the reception he sent one-person invitations to the members of the Parliament whose majority was held by the Islamic Democrats. This was his strategy to prevent their wives, who would naturally wear headscarves, from attending the night. I was outraged by this conservative secularism and wanted to express my personal protest, embodying the stress on the contemporary Islamic body. Köken Ergun
Stanisław Welbel, Meeting point by Louis MacNeice, 2020, 2’47”
Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs):
Time was away and somewhere else,
And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop,
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.
The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise –
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.
The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.
Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.
God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.
Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room a glow because
Time was away and she was here.
Loretta Farenholz, My Throat, My Air 17’00’ 2014
Set in Munich’s petty-bourgeois Westend, My Throat, My Air documents life at home with former Fassbinder actor, Warhol collaborator, and horror movie director Ulli Lommel. Rather than a straight documentary portrait of this bohemian household, the camera prefers to follow the narrative impulses of the family members. Lost in serious play, the kids improvise hypnotic death scenes while their mother claims to come from a planet where everything is “ethereal and incorporeal.” As parent-child relations are un-scripted and re-scripted on the fly, the dilated time of a collective daydream is punctuated by the ordinary sounds of an electric toothbrush, vacuum cleaner, and piano.RS