Ciao, no more, 2009

Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise
Press Release
October 2009


Ciao, no more
Ćao, nema više

There is a car factory where production has all but ground to a halt, the air inside full of an oily mist as robots replace employees, and the scent of failure evident in the haze. These are the scenes of a failed economic and political ideology, where the flaws in grand plans have sown the seeds of their demise. Alan Phelan’s photographs are not of a car plant in post-boom America, or even one of the defunct factories across the Irish Sea in the UK but, instead, were taken in the Zastava car factory in Serbia, which the artist first visited while on a residency, and returned to over a period of four years. This is the factory that made the notoriously unreliable Yugo, a car that Slobodan Milošević marketed in the USA in the hopes it would encourage Serbs to outwit capitalism. The Yugo still has powerful meanings to the people of Serbia, and Phelan’s haunting installation hints at the workings of big dreams, and what is left in their wake.

Phelan presents an installation of photographs printed on billboard blue-backed paper which are accompanied by a marble sculpture. This work “The Other Hand of Victory, Hebei version (ontological madness)”, 2009 is a scaled up modelling hand purchased in the German supermarket Lidl, now made in white marble by craft workers at a stone garden ornament plant in China. This piece serves to expand and connect to the Serbian photographs, pointing to the realities of global capitalism, nostalgic for heavy industry yet outsourced to open up a discussion of trans-cultural potential not futility.

Alan Phelan is a visual artist whose practice includes gallery based exhibitions, participatory projects, curating, and critical writing. He works in a diverse range of media, most recently towards sculpture but also including photography, video, and printmaking.

Phelan has discussed how he is uneasy with finalising an artwork, leading him to work in collaborative and participatory situations, positioning the outcome as provisional and even relational. This leaves space for the work to be completed through the act of viewing, with the artist putting together various elements, in combinations that provoke an experience that is not only visual. The provisional object is a stand-in for a finished object, one that defies wholeness, one that still has potentiality. By positioning the artwork as incomplete, it presents itself as unmade but not fragmented or deconstructed. There is often a strong narrative element that brings ideas and materials together, primarily as an entry point to the work.

Born in Dublin in 1968, Alan Phelan studied at Dublin City University and Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He has exhibited widely internationally including Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; SKUC, Ljubljana; Feinkost, Berlin; SKC, Belgrade. In Ireland he has exhibited at mother’s tankstation, Dublin; MCAC, Portadown; Limerick City Gallery of Art, and Solstice Arts Centre, Navan. He was editor/curator for Printed Project, issue 5, launched at the 51st Venice Biennale, and has curated exhibitions at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Project Arts Centre, Dublin, and Rochester, New York. Phelan was short-listed for the AIB Art Prize in 2007 for his work on the new IMMA commission, Goran’s Stealth Yugo, 2009.

Phelan currently has a solo exhibition “Fragile Absolutes” at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin which runs until 1st  November, 2009. The second part of this project will open in Chapter, Cardiff in December.


Exhibition Title: Ciao No More : Alan Phelan
Borrower: Louise Donlon, Director
Dunamaise Arts Centre
Church Street,
Co. Laois

Exhibition Dates: 15 October –  21 November, 2009

The Other Hand of Victory, Hebei version (ontological madness), 2009
marble, edition 2/3
40 x 40 x 60 cms

Untitled (Zastava Factory), 2006-2009
33 photographs, ink-jet on blue-backed billboard paper
Various sizes, cm:

133 x 92 (memorial cards on doorway)

133 x 92 (red car)

133 x 92 (planter design institute)

133 x 92 (hanging car floors)

133 x 92 (green stripped signs)

55 x 41.5 (Belgrade tree)

37 x 26 (red car Kragujevac)

40.5 x 26.5 (interior crazy paving floor)

58 x 38 (interior break room)

62 x 40.5 (Comau robot)

62.5 x 41.5 (yellow machine cords)

67.5 x 44.5 (a-frame cradle)

35.5 x 24 (white car Kragujevac)

68.5 x 45.5 (red car cradle line)

62.5 x 41 (empty cradle line)

62 x 41.5 (cardboard boxes)

62.5 x 41.5 (foundation rubble)

62.5 x 41 (men painting)

73.5 x 48.5 (tree over building)

62 x 41.5 (Yugo building)

94.5 x 82.5 (yellow and red model cars)

43 x 28 (blue coat design institute)

63 x 41 (rusty car design institute)

42 x 28 (red car design institute)

35.5. x 24 (white car design institute)

96.5 x 62.5 (diagonal car on assembly line)

44.5 x 29 (cars on assembly line)

37 x 25 (car without hood on assembly line)

62 x 41.5 (hanging car sides)

72.5 x 48 (car in ceiling assembly line)

44 x 28.5 (Kontrola car assembly line)

42.5 x 28 (fern planter design institute)

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