Blending-In Series, 2005-2006

Mother’s Ruin – dangerous obsessions and the culture of excess
mother’s tankstation, Dublin
6 April – 13 May 2006

Fino’s RS 2 Exhaust Blended-in as a Branch, 2006
wood and metal
194 x 60 x 25 cm l x w x h

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 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.

Petri Ala-Maunus, Margrét H. Blöndel, Nina Canell, Ciarán Murphy, Alan Phelan, Garrett Phelan, David Sherry

Mother’s tankstation is pleased to present the first in a series of curated group exhibitions Mother’s Ruin – dangerous obsessions and the culture of excess. This show revels (and we believe that to be the correct word!) in one of the great myths of artistic creativity i.e. that art (and artists) only really function when teetering on the brink of one form of disastrous excess or another; drinks, drugs, sex, madness etc.  From Caravaggio to Damien Hirst, the public – much aided by Hollywood and Romantic literature – has viewed the artist as a darkly brooding yet exciting creature. This embodiment of extreme ‘liberty’, frees artists to indulge the darkest fantasies of the non-art ‘civilian’ population.

The sad reality is that most artists lives are more likely to be dominated by health obsessions, hard work, routine or discipline, but let’s not allow that get in the way of a good myth? Mother’s ruin – dangerous obsessions and the culture of excess, positively encourages dangerously degenerate art about any and all forms of obsession and debauchery by nasty anti-social artists, dangerously close to the edge; Petri Ala-Maunus, Margrét H. Blöndel, Nina Canell, Ciarán Murphy, Alan Phelan, Garrett Phelan and David Sherry.

The title of the exhibition is of course drawn from the name given to the mid-eighteenth century effects of gin drinking on English society, which on reflection, makes the contemporary world’s narcotic indulgence seem relatively benign. Mother’s ruin uses this title metaphorically as a signifier for all forms of obsessive and compulsive behavior, personal and cultural excess. Petri Ala-Maunus (Finland) shows what he gets up to after sunset. Margrét H. Blöndel (Iceland) gets enigmatic and creates painfully beautiful sculptures. Nina Canell (Sweden/Ireland) tortures relatives. Ciaran Murphy (Ireland) has only recently returned from India, so we have no idea to what depths he has sunk. Alan Phelan (Ireland) disguises and hides things, Garret Phelan (Ireland) runs riot with his indelible graffiti marker, and David Sherry (N.I./Scotland) makes life hell for bus drivers. Have we got your attention yet?

So, if health and happiness lies in moderation, then Mother’s ruin – dangerous obsessions and the culture of excess, allows the viewer to live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse, vicariously of course.


Fresh: re-imagining the collection
Pery Square, Limerick
16 June – 27 August 2006

West Cork Arts Centre
North Street, Skibbereen, Co. Cork
18 August – 17 September 2006

Fresh: re-imagining the collection (group show)
Curated by Pippa Little
16 June – 27 August 2006
Limerick City Gallery of Art
Pery Square, Limerick

The other artists in the exhibition were: Amanda Coogan, Jill Dennis, Neva Elliott, Sam Ely and Lynn Harris, Ciara Finnegan and 6th Class JFK Primary School, Marie Foley, Alice Maher, Alan Magee, Linda Molenaar, and Melanie O’Rourke.

A catalogue was published for the exhibition which is included in this documentation package.

The exhibition travelled to Skibbereen Arts Centre but this work was too large for the galleries and a new individual head was made for the show – “Michael should have learned to blend-in better, 2006”.

The piece was shown again at:

Fading Fast: New Work by Alan Phelan (solo exhibition)
28 September – 18 November 2006
Millennium Court Arts Centre
William Street, Portadown, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland

Alan Phelan
Information deficit blended-in as a tree, 2006

metal shelving, archival paper, toner, evacon-r glue, balsa wood, cocktail sticks, varnish, grate polish, framed c-print photograph, (papier-mâché made from pages of the Daily Telegraph)
350 x 200 x 300 cm (h x w x d)
IMMA Collection (acquired 2011 – with materials upgraded to museum quality: cast papier-mâché heads using bookbinding glue and acid free paper)

This sculpture presents five unidentified male heads hidden in a fake tree shelf stack. The work was originally made for an exhibition where artists were asked to respond to the Limerick City Gallery of Art collection. I was interested in the plaster cast copy busts that were no longer on public display. These once punctuated the book stacks when the collection was part of the Carnegie Library (which later became LCGA). The title incorporates two ways of not revealing the identity of the heads. Around the time of making this work the Minister for Health used the phrase ‘information deficit’ to avoid providing specific answers about problems in the health service. This mildly garbled management-speak provided excellent cover for ongoing political incompetence and yet it seemed appropriate to how we deal with history. The ‘blending-in’ of the heads behind fake pine tree clusters comes from the telecoms industry where it’s used to describe techniques for hiding or disguising infrastructure technology such as mobile phone masts, hidden within or as artificial trees in areas of environmental sensitivity. With everything hidden, there should be nothing on display but all these techniques fail revealing more instead in the end.

The work consists of metal office shelving, 5 papier-mâché heads, 70 balsa wood twigs and a framed photograph. The shelving is painted matt black paint and polished with grate polish and configured in a “T” formation to approximate the crown of a tree. The five papier-mâché heads are positioned to mirror the antennae on a mobile phone mast. The heads were modeled on the busts in the accompanying framed photograph. The framed photograph was from documentation of the collection in  Limerick City Gallery of Art, showing plaster cast busts of various Irish historical figures. There were six in the original but one was digitally removed. The piece was made in response to to the LCGA collection on the invitation of curator Pippa Little.

The ‘blending-in’ phrase in the title is used by the telecoms industry to describe techniques for hiding or disguising infrastructure technology such as mobile phone masts, hidden within artificial trees in areas of environmental sensitivity. Former Heath Minister Mary Harney used the phrase ‘information deficit’ around the time of making this work to avoid providing specific answers about problems in the health service. The title, as such, incorporates two ways of not revealing the identity of the heads and as such the information provided in this document naming them should not be presented to the public when the piece is on exhibition.


The work was delivered (to IMMA) as follows:

70 balsa wood twigs in 4 cardboard boxes, each weighing approx 3 kilos:
1)  1 @ 36 x 54 x 52 cm (h x w x d)
2-3)  2 @ 24 x 41 x 40 cm
4)  1 @ 27 x 46 x 48 cm

Metal shelving, wrapped in paper and bubble wrap with small box of hardware – which totals approx 80 kilos
5)  1 @ 32 x 54 x 52 cm
6)  1 @ 92 x 31 x 13 cm (shelves)
7)  1 @ 92 x 31 x 10 cm
8)  1 @ 92 x 31 x 8 cm
9)  1 @ 31 x 150 x 8 cm
10)  1 @ 31 x 96 x 8 cm
11) 1 @ 105 x 9 x 6 cm (uprights)
12) 1 @ 105 x 6 x 6 cm
13) 1 @ 24 x 32 x 23 cm (hardware, nut, bolts etc)

Framed photograph
14) 1 @ 35 x 50 x 4 cm


Details extracted from the LCGA collection database – references to the original plaster casts and the artists who made them:

ID Artist Surname Artist Name Title Material Size
129 Doyle Jones T.P.O’Connor plaster cast 70 x 34 x 50
130 Doyle Jones J.Devlin plaster cast 46 x 24 x 19
128 Doyle Jones John  Redmond plaster cast 50 x 35 x 40
127 Doyle Jones Michael Collins plaster cast  n/a
81 Connor Jerome Head of A.E. George Russell (1926) Bronze sculpture/marble base, 1948 56 x 46 x 36
n/a Connor Jerome Head of A.E. George Russell (1926) plaster cast 56 x 46 x 36



Alan Phelan and Sarah Pierce
Curated by Sandra Grozdanic
SKC Gallery, Belgrade, Serbia
Galerija SKC Studentski Kulturi Centar
Kralja Milana 48, Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro
Tel: +381 (0)11360201
4 -11 April 2006

TEST PIECES AND BLEND-IN MOMENTS was a joint exhibition by ALAN PHELAN and SARAH PIERCE. Both artists are based in Dublin and came to Belgrade on a short residency.

ALAN PHELAN’s practice involves the production of objects, participatory events and projects, curating and writing. These all inform and contribute to an interest in the narrative potential surrounding an artwork, located in an intertextual context. This places process as central to the artwork resulting in provisional or incomplete works, often presented as unmade but notably not fragmented or deconstructed. During his time in Serbia, Phelan has collaborated with car designer Goran Krstic from Zastava Automobili, Kragujevac, to produce a three dimensional drawing of the Zastava car currently produced by the factory. This and other works explore moments of cultural and social translation or ‘blending-in’. This term comes from a ‘stealth’ industry which seeks disguise or camouflage technology, for example disguising a mobile phone mast as a tree. Between language and social engagement the works are possibilities for re-engineering and different interpretations for both classic designs, machinery and car culture.

Over the past three-and-a-half years, SARAH PIERCE has developed The Metropolitan Complex—a project that taps into locality and shared neuroses of ‘place’. She uses a variety of discourses, often opening these structures to the personal and the incidental. In the gallery at SKC, Pierce draws on her interests in the relationship between 1970s radical practices and contemporary models of art-making. She has collaborated with SKC’s archivist Dragica Vukadinovic to explore material related to SKC’s beginnings (1971). This research, along with a display of test-pieces contributed by art students from the Faculty of Art (Sculpture Department) at Beograd University propose a site of formative moments, not quite art, but not in the realm of pure documentation. During the week, Pierce will use SKC as a base to renegotiate these histories in the present, filtering her ‘presence’ in the gallery through an accumulation of meetings and one-to-one conversations.

press release from SKC show PDF

Oba umenika zive u Dablinu i u kratkoj su poseti Beogradu.
SKC galerija
Otvaranje 4. aprila, 20h
Izložba traje od 5.-11.aprila
Kontakt:    /  064 24 916 74

Umetnička praksa ALAN FILANA (Alan Phelan) obuhvata različite strategije: upotrebu pronađenih i proizvedenih predmeta, organizovanje različitih aktivnosti i događaja, Filan je kustos, a takođe redovno piše za brojne publikacije. Širok spektar delovanja koji određuje njegovu umetničku praksu nagoveštava interesovanje umetnika za narativni potencijal umetničkog dela u pojedinim kontekstima. Ovo čini sam proces centralnim delom rada, ostavljajući ga provizornim i nedovršenim, mada pritom ne fragmentiranim ili dekonstruisanim. Tokom boravka u Srbiji, Filan je sarađivao sa dizajnerom, mašinskim inženjerom Goranom Krstićem iz Fabrike Zastava Automobili u izradi trodimenzionalnog crteža automobila koji fabrika Zastava trenutno proizvodi. Ovi i drugi radovi umetnika istražuju ideju kulturnog i društvenog preobraćanja ili usklađivanja (‘blending-in‘; izraz potiče od zahteva pojedinih savremenih industrija za maskiranom tehnologijom – na primer, telefonski jarbol maskiran kao drvo, itd). Okupirajući i analizirajući prostor između sistema komunikacije i društvene angažovanosti, radovi Alan Filana otvaraju mogućnost za reinterpretaciju dizajna, tehnologije i automobilske kulture.

U poslednje tri i po godine, SARA PIRS (Sarah Pierce), razvila je The Metropolitan Complex, projekat koji preispituje i zalazi u ideju lokalnog i neuroze ‘mesta’. U istraživanju ona koristi različite pristupe, često otvarajući te strukture ka ličnom i sasvim slučajnom. U galeriji SKC, Pirs vezuje ovo polje svog interesovanja za odnos između umetničkih praksi 70-ih i savremenih modela umetničkog stvaranja. U saradnji sa istoričarom umetnosti Dragicom Vukadinović, Pirs preispituje materijal vezan za početke SKC-a (1971.). Ovo istraživanje, kao i izloženi probni uzorci stavljenih na raspolaganje od strane studenata Vajarskog odseka Fakulteta Likovnih umetnosti u Beogradu, analiziraju niz pojedinih momenata koji određuju razvoj neke ideje, odnose se na prostor između ne sasvim završenog umetnickog dela, ali ne ni ciste dokumentacije. Tokom nedelje Pirs će koristiti SKC kao bazu za preispitivanje tih prethodnih događaja danas, rafinirajući svoje prisustvo u galeriji kroz mnoštvo sustreta i razgovora.

ALAN FILAN (Alan Phelan), rođen u Dablinu 1968. Studirao na Univerzitetu u Dablinu, a (1989), a magistarske studije iz oblasti fotografije završio na Institutu za tehnologiju, Ročester, Njujork (1994). Izlagao u Irskoj, Velikoj Britaniji, SAD, Nemačkoj, Danskoj i Sloveniji. Nedavno ostvareni projekti:  “GB and the Western World”, Galway Arts Centre, ‘Strata’, Irska/Vels; “Small: The Object in Film, Video and Slide Installation”, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast i Kilkenny Art Festival, Irska. ‘No Respect’, Dablin (2004) and ‘Stand Fast Dick and Jane’, Dablin (2001). Sarađivao je na projektu za DCMNR Broadband i bio kustos izložbi “Felons”, RHA, Dablin, 2005 “No Respect”, 2004 and “Stand Fast Dick and Jane”, 2001. Filan takođe redovno piše za publikacije kao sto su Circa, Context, Source and Visual Artists Ireland, VAN Newsletter, a takođe je bio urednik specijalnog 5-tog izdanja časopisa Printed Project objavljenog povodom Irskog paviljona na 51. Venecijanskom Bijenalu ove godine. Predstavlja ga galerija Mother’s Tankstation u Dablinu.

SARA PIRS (Sarah Pierce), rođena u Konektikatu (SAD), 1968. Živi u Dablinu. Organizuje The Metropolitan Complex, dugoročni projekat koji obuhvata širok raspon aktivnosti: predavanja, arhive, publikacije, izložbe. Pirs je jedna od sedam umetnika koji su predstavili Irsku na 51. Venecijanskom Bijenalu 2005. Nedavno ostvareni projekti:  Monk’s Garden, Scuola di San Pasquale, Venecija, kustos Sarah Glennie, 2006; Compilation in Coalesce/Remix, Redux, London, kustos Paul O’Neill, 2005; Archivo Paralelo, Sala Rekalde, Bilbao kustos Leire Vegara, 2005; You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, PS1/MoMA, Njujork,  organizator Grizedale Foundation, 2004; Paraeducation Department u saradnji sa Annie Fletcher at Witte de Witte/TENT., Rotterdam, 2004; the red archive, Project Arts Centre, Dablin, 2004; St. Pappins Ladies Club 1966-2003 u okviru izlozbe Artists Groups, kustos Grant Watson, Project Arts Centre, Dablin, 2003; i Affinity Archive, Broadstone Studios, Dablin, 2003. Sara Pirs objavljuje The Metropolitan Complex novine i sarađuje sa Sven Andersonom na razradi sajta Pirs je kustos, piše za nekoliko publikacija i trenutno radi na Univerzitetu Ulster u Belfastu gde istrazuje forme kustoskih praksi i dokumentovanja. Tokom aprila boraviće u Stokholmu u okviru IASPIS rezidencijalnog programa.

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