This is a response to Molly O’Dwyer’s performance/installation A Sequel of Events: Vantage Point Series that was part of the group show, To Come So Far For Beauty, curated by Deirdre Morrisey, at Block T, Smithfield, 12 – 17 November, 2010.
Molly O’Dwyer: A Sequence of Events: Vantage Point Series (2010), video still, Block T; image courtesy of the artist.
It is difficult to pinpoint what makes a space significant to us, as communicating its import to another may seem to be a futile effort. For example, a corner can be more than a corner. It can represent the most basic geometry for seclusion, a private universe for the daydreamer where restrictive physical dimensions fall away – a pocket full of shadows, or the “most sordid of havens.” Similarly, an open vista can be just as closed or private. A turbulent cloudscape may reflect the contemplations or restlessness of the internal subject. It creates the space. As Gaston Bachelard wrote after Noel Arnaud: “I am the space where I am.”
Molly O’Dwyer’s performance installation transgresses over and back between the multi-perspectival cinematic space and the present, physical space of the exhibition. The installation is constructed as one large corner whose exterior juts into the main exhibition space, creating a semi-enclosed area. The two intersecting interior walls are used as the screens for the projections. O’Dwyer uses this simple geometric form as a visual metaphor that alludes to spaces for containment and space for reflection, both real and imagined. Inversely, the installation works as a means of claiming space from the exhibition space for the subject.
The employment of the cinematic medium – to redeploy space, scale and the position of the subject within a multiplicity of angles – drives this work from a phenomenological engagement into an investigative one, beyond the three-dimensional.
Molly O’Dwyer: A Sequel of Events: Vantage Point Series (2010), installation shot, 2010, Block T; image by Chris Finnegan.
The video documents the journey of the artist/protagonist from the domestic setting, into the suburban public space, and then into the wilderness of the Dublin Mountains. At all times O’Dwyer is accompanied by her threadbare antique chair. O’Dwyer tries tying the chair to her back like a homely shell, but the impracticalities of this arrangement soon become apparent. A forerunning shot reveals the garden beyond the interior space, indicating the internal workings of the subject’s inquisitive mind. The chair legs are tied to a stick that she then lobs onto the side extension’s flat roof, before climbing up the adjacent shed wall and towing up the chair. Choosing different seating arrangements, looking into the garden onto road, then facing the house wall, the subject finally gets off the chair and sits cross-legged facing into her unlikely quadruped companion.
As the subject assumes a different direction, the angles of the two projections change to provide a shifting topography in relation to the body’s placement within its architectural situation. The angles become arrangements suggesting the ‘painterly.’ One shot opens up onto a view of the road junction and receding suburban street beyond. Another focuses closely on the figure of the subject, who is at all times the fulcrum that defines the mapping of this local architectural space, (and this fulcrum re-appears as the post production editing artist).
Ritual is also part of the investigation. Actions are undertaken impulsively and progress is made through trial and error. At all times the space and subject are caught in a dialectic that defines one another. O’Dwyer sits on the breached banks of the Dodder in ankle deep water. She rinses wine glasses in the silty overspill before replacing them in a floating black basin. There is a strong sense of the domestic and the feminine permeating this particular vignette. The subject seems to muse as she undertakes the repetitive motion of washing the flutes in the river water. The actions seem to lack impetus and precision. They are dislocated, sapped of their strength, perhaps tokenistic? Or a dim dream-like representation of past actions recalled in memory. As such, they imply a muted psychological dimension. At one point the subject smells one of the glasses. The gesture contests the primacy of visual engagement alone.
Molly O’Dwyer: A Sequel of Events: Vantage Point Series, two-channel HD video installation (2010) from To come So Far For Beauty, Block T, Smithfield; image courtesy of the artist.
The final scene shows the artist sitting on her chair on top of the slopes of the Dublin Mountains. The journey up occurs as a relativised suspension of time. The subject’s footing is precarious in the slippery muck as she drags her chair up an uneven, stoney path. Its weight is exaggerated by her gestures. We see her sitting, watching the vastness of the landscape in front of her, while the intersecting screen shows her feet attempting to navigate the briars. A panning shot of the M50 is partially obscured by the blurred shapes of a barbed wire fence in the immediate foreground. The imaginative interior subject still acknowledges some physical boundaries around it.
The chair that was once carried by the protagonist is retained within the exhibition space, facing into the adjacent corner where the events of the journey are read as if from the pages of a book. This metaphor directly refers to a shot in the video of a book cabinet whose contents are illegible, though the numerical ordering on their spines suggest a sequence of volumes relating to the chapters of the video itself.
Jack Nyhan lives and works in Dublin.
Bachelard, G., The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, 1969, p.137.
Vidler, A., Warped Space: Art Architecture and Anxiety in Modern Culture, MIT Press, 2001, p. 100 – 110.