|if you aren’t all mine
20 Feb – 20 March, 2015
Opening reception Thursday 19th February
Oonagh Young Gallery is pleased to present “if you aren’t all mine”, the second solo exhibition in
the gallery by Alan Phelan. The show will be the first Dublin presentation of his 2014 film “Edwart
& Arlette”, after exhibitions of the work in Belfast, Stockholm and Treignac, France; as well as the
prestigious Bonn Kunstmuseum “Videonale.15” which opens later this month.
The film “Edwart & Arlette” was developed from Phelan’s first project “Handjob”, exhibited in
Oonagh Young Gallery (2013), which acted like an open notebook of ideas from which the script
for the film was developed. A revised version of this installation is currently on view in “Selective
Memory” at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork until 15th March 2015.
As an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”, the narrative
has been reworked considerably with shot design and dialogue originating from photographs of
hands collected by Phelan from self-harming social networking websites, shown in the original
“Handjob” project. Words and sentence fragments found on these images were developed into
dialogue and remain in the order they were found, forcing the narrative and characters to take
some unexpected turns.
Probably the biggest shift is the removal of the Sherlock Holmes character entirely. The audience
now must piece together the evidence presented, a play on the detective quandaries of much
contemporary conceptual art with its tendency to present riddles. Instead, the central characters
are modelled on a photograph of a French art critic and museum curator, doubling up as a gendershifting
brother/sister, with locations merged to make a more succinct yet different story. As in the
original Conan Doyle text, murder and unrequited or misunderstood love remain key to the revised
plot which is bleakly acted out through hand gestures and attention-seeking garbled dialogue.
The installation of the film in the gallery is within a series of fabric hangings, resembling a
staggered clothes line of sheets, in this case sail cloth which alludes to the Michael Haneke TV
film 1984 “Wer war Edgar Allan”. The Haneke film references Giovanni Moreilli. In searching out
and possibly murdering an Edgar Allen character, he follows Allen in one scene through the rows
of washing hanging in the alleyways of the city. The dialogue from the Haneke film provides the
basis for Phelan’s next project about Roger Casement.
Just as Conan Doyle was inspired by Giovanni Moreilli in his construction of the Holmes character,
so too is Phelan, in demanding that we look at the small detail for clues. The Moreilli technique
was a mid nineteenth century identification technique for paintings – by following the unconscious
traces left behind by the artist, in this instance the rendering of ears or hands, which tend to have
a unique identity, a lot like fingerprints at a crime scene. But as grand narratives and notions of
authorship have been shattered and moreover diffused, the shifting parameters of meaning are
now mandated to embrace chance and intuition in connecting to a real world of possibilities where
meaning is not so pre-determined.
Overall the work interrogates the nature of the narrative in script format, analysing the written
word through the post-appropriation technique of re-narrativisation. As is often the case with
Phelan’s practice, this only encourages conflicting viewpoints through choreographed systems of
chance that, at random moments, move in and out of synch. Like many artists of his generation
he has embraced the hybridity and all-consuming nature of the internet to extract his own story,
one that pushes the original away, yet rooted still in the ‘copy and paste’ culture that surrounds us.
“Edwart & Arlette”
Cinematography by Luca Rocchini
Original score by composer Michael Fleming.