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Fading Fast
Millennium Court Arts Centre
Portadown, Northern Ireland
27 September - 18 November 2006

The Second Gordon Bennett
Show and Shine

29 October 2006
click here for info

Click here to download a PDF of these works (2mb in size)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blend-blend tower, 2006
intaglio print

Blend-blend globe, 2006
intaglio print

 

Roger should have stayed in the jungle, 2006
papier-mâché, wood.

Roger Casement (1864-1916), who was of Ulster Protestant stock, was executed on counts of treason having being arrested after returning to Ireland in a German submarine. There is a long standing controversy surrounding the authenticity of his diaries used in evidence against him at his trial. Despite recent forensic analysis the ‘Black’ diaries which contain frank accounts of homosexual activity are thought to be forgeries, created to discredit the reputation of the Knighted humanitarian who had exposed human rights violations in rubber plantations in Peru and the Congo.

 

 

 

 

New Yugo HQ on the M6 near Lancaster, 2006
toner on paper

Textile antennae, 2006
toner on paper

These works on paper show various designs for ‘stealth’ mobile phone masts based around a forestry watch tower, petrol station sign, textile factory chimney, and motorway service station.

 

 
Brian Kennedy, 2006
c-print

Brian Kennedy, former Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, is a candidate for Congress in this year’s elections. He has been photographed standing along the banks of the Rio Grande in Texas at the US border with Mexico during a promotional fact finding mission to do with illegal immigration. As the website www.briankennedy.com notes “in the background, a small boat can be seen crossing from Mexico into the United States”. Brian Kennedy is also the name of a popular singer from Belfast who has his own variety show on RTE 1 television.

Joe Duffy Motors, 2006
c-print

Joe Duffy Motors is located just off the M50 in Dublin on the Finglas exit. The garage has hosted ‘Show and Shine’ events organised through a BMW owners club. Joe Duffy is also the name of a radio personality on RTE Radio 1 who has popular a daily talk show.

 

Prototype Laboratory Zastava Factory, 2006
c-print

This image was shot in the fairly defunct prototype design facility at Zastava Automobili, Kragujevac, Serbia. Car production and design has dramatically fallen since the break-up of the Yugoslavian federal system and subsequent Balkan wars. In 1999 the plant was heavily bombed by NATO forces as the car factory is adjacent to an arms factory. Car manufacturing, in fact, developed from military vehicle production in the early twentieth century.

 

Irish Guards, 2006
mural print in nine sections

This image is from The Daily Telegraph, 12 June 2006 accompanying an article written by UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith titled “Where there is a credible allegation of serious wrongdoing, the rule of law must apply” where he defends the military justice system that has prosecuted British troops fighting in Iraq. The caption for the image reads “Guardsmen Joseph McCleary, left, and Martin McGing after they were found not guilty of the manslaughter of a 15-year-old Iraqi”.

 

Moustache, 2006
papier-mâché, polystyrene

This sculpture is modelled on the moustache on the statue of Colonel Saunderson (1837-1906) located on High Street, Portadown in front of St Mark’s church. As the plaque on the statue notes, Colonel The Right Honourable Edward James Saunderson was MP for North Armagh from 1885 to 1906, leader of the Irish Unionist Party from 1886-1906. Freddie Mercury also had a large moustache.

 

Bennett Island, 2005
acrylic, perspex, wood, metal, inkjet print, paint, oil, vinyl adhesive stickers

Bennett Island is one the De Long Islands in the northern part of the East Siberian Sea. The island was discovered by George DeLong of the tragic Jeannette expedition in July 1881 and named after James Gordon Bennett, Jr., who had financed the expedition. Although Siberia is now known for oil exploration and production, the island was also the site of secret testing of Soviet electromagnetic weapons in the 1970’s. ОСТРОВ БЕННЕТТА is Russian for Bennett Island, taken from a map of the island acquired through an Estonian yachtsman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fino’s RS 2 exhaust blended-in as a branch, 2006
metal, wood, varnish, polish

destroy all messages, 2006
toner on paper

Fino is the on-line nickname of a modified car enthusiast who donated a disused high performance exhaust system for this piece. He responded to a request for exhaust parts posted by the artist on a bulletin board/web site www.manic-motorz.com. The website is a communication forum for car enthusiasts, many of whom dislike the term ‘boy racer’ as it is mainly used by alarmist tabloid media who see them as perfect examples of anti-social and generally reckless behaviour. Much of their activities involve the modification and display of cars and not covert road racing as many assume, although this does indeed occur.

 

 

 

Information deficit blended-in as a tree, 2006
metal, wood, papier-mâché, polystyrene, clay, paint, varnish,
polish, c-print

The photograph (in the corner by the fire extinguisher) shows plaster cast busts of several Irish Nationalist figures from the collection of Limerick City Gallery of Art, photographed in the 1950’s. Many of the busts no longer exist or can not be exhibited because of their fragile or deteriorated condition. Unnamed papier-mâché replicas were made from the photograph and placed on empty library shelving stacks, disguised or ‘blended-in’ as telecommunication antennae.

 

 

 

Bad Glue, 2006
newsprint, PVA, card

This is a page from the Belgrade newspaper ЧИТУЉЕ, from 16 March, 2006. It shows memorial notices taken by mourning supporters of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died while in custody in The Hague during his trial for war crimes. PVA adhesives break down and emit acetic acid vapours which will accelerate the deterioration of the newsprint paper which is generally of poor quality as it contains high levels of acid and lignin.

 

Zaztava Promotional video, 2006
DVD on monitor

This car design is a drawing of the most popular model of car made by Yugo (now called Zastava Automobili) and the only one currently in production from this former giant of Serbian industry. It was made in collaboration with car designer Goran Krstic from the factory in Kragujevac. The car is based around a defunct or out of production Fiat model and is the most common car on the roads (and also the cheapest). The design team at Zastava are working on plans for licensed remake of an early 90’s Fiat Punto, remodelling old blue-prints via computer aided design (CAD) software. Zastava had strong market links with the ‘non-aligned’ nations which the former Yugoslavia was a leading political player. Zastava now hopes to be successful in European and world markets if it can secure the investment finances required for production.

mPress Release Contact: Steve Lally

For immediate release September 2006 0044-2838-39-4415 (ROI) 048-38-394415

Fading Fast: New Work by Alan Phelan
28 September - 18 November 2006

Opening Night Reception

Wednesday 27 September 2006 7:30 - 9:00 pm  

Artist's Talk

Thursday 12 October 2006 7:00 - 8:00 pm

The Second Gordon Bennett Memorial Show & Shine

– Modified Car Event – Sunday 29 October 2006 2:00 - 5:00pm

Artist available for interview

Millennium Court Arts Centre is delighted to present ‘Fading Fast' an exhibition of new and recent work by Irish artist Alan Phelan. The show includes sculptural objects, video, photographic prints and other works on paper. At the core of this exhibition are challenges to masculinity, identity, and perceptions of history. This is articulated through a base concept of ‘blending-in' - a term that comes from a ‘stealth' industry that seeks to modify or camouflage technology.

This term can also be seen as a way of articulating the hidden layers in the works that refer to homosexuality. The artist subtly weaves many narratives together which present aspects of gay identity both as superficial and deeply embedded in various cultural situations. For example the large mural print of two soldiers initially looks like to men embracing, possibly taken from a gay marriage or gay activist context. As the label text reveals it is an image of two soldiers celebrating the acquittal of manslaughter charges related to the drowning of a 15-year-old Iraqi boy.

Overall the works are caught somewhere between language, social engagement, sexuality and nationalism. They provide possibilities for cultural re-engineering, where narratives criss-cross between works to discuss the plight of national or ultra-nationalist memory, masculine car culture, and environmental or engineering motifs.

Other references in the work point to the Serbian car manufacturer Zastava. This was once the industrial giant of the former Yugoslavia and subsequently holds much of the possible industrial might of the black-listed and downtrodden Serbian economy. The large blue-print car design represents a pointless car design for a ‘stealth' vehicle, obviously rendered useless by the overgrowth of pine tree clusters attached. These pine clusters appear also in three dimensional form on a high performance exhaust pipe, acquired through a ‘boy racer' website and also disguising several nationalist historical figures rendered as papier-mâché busts.

This work refers to an ‘information deficit' which can been seen as another form of ‘blending-in', where all the necessary facts are not presented or rather deliberately omitted. The phrase was used by former Irish Taniste Mary Harney earlier in the year to justify the Irish government's legislative inaction leading the release of a sex offender owing to a legal loophole.

There are possible parallels to be made between the reference to Serbia and Northern Ireland as both share complex sectarian cultures and histories. Obviously the two places have entirely different realities, one successfully recovering from years of conflict and the other still caught in the aftermath of being on the losing side and the international suspicion and economic hardships that accompany that.

Again this is dealt with in an oblique rather than direct or didactic way as it is combined with general misunderstandings connected to and encouraged around aspects of ‘boy racer' car culture or oil engineering works, media celebrities, and gay iconography. The inclusion of historical figures complicates these ideas as their identities are often disputed, especially someone like Roger Casement who lead an apparently double life as celebrated humanitarian, covert homosexual, Irish patriot and British traitor.

As part of the exhibition MCAC will host a modified car enthusiast event. This will be “The Second Gordon Bennett Memorial Show & Shine” and provides an opportunity for the larger general public to encounter this modern sub-culture, often derided as ‘Boy Racers', and renowned for its use of macho hardware in disguising or modifying ordinary vehicles to resemble powerful sports cars.

To complement the show a publication accompanies the exhibition titled ‘Bio', which documents Phelan's projects over the past ten years. It traces eleven projects, each documented with a specially commissioned text by eleven different writers, including Maria Fusco, Ciarán Bennett and Nataša Petrešin. These parallel texts do not give literal explanations of the artworks, but instead are inspired by or relate to the content of the work. ‘Bio' is available from MCAC at a special exhibition price of £ 10.00

Funded also in part by The Arts Council/An Chomhaire Ealaíon.

Millennium Court Arts Centre houses two purpose built gallery spaces and has been described as one of Northern Ireland 's premiere art spaces. In addition to this, the centre includes a verbal arts room with a visual and verbal archive library, a multimedia suite equipped fully with video editing and sound recording studio. Within the complex there is also a darkroom, visual arts workshop and artist-in-residence suite, all of which combine to create a vibrant and unique environment in which to cultivate and enhance the cultural environment of the community.

 

Millennium Court Arts Centre

William Street, Portadown, Co. Armagh , Northern Ireland

www.millenniumcourt.org Email: info@millenniumcourt.org

Tel: 028 (ROI 048) 38394415 Fax: 028 (ROI 048) 38394483

 

Stealth Press Release, 2006
photocopied paper

An alternate press release intermixed with the official release issued by MCAC.