Oonagh Young Gallery, 20 Feb – 20 March, 2015
Detroit, Stockholm, November, 2014
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.
The exhibition also included a photographic work that used images of the many actors who have played Sherlock Holmes arranged with push pins through their eyes.
At the exhibition for Detroit, Stockholm, an artist run space and studios, curated by Sheena Malone, the film was shown alongside a mock-up of what was to become Our Kind called “Morelli Pages 2014”. The piece projected images onto A3 page print-outs of the time-coded English subtitles from the film Wer War Edgar Allan.
Press Preview: Friday 7 November, 11am
Vernissage: Friday 7 November,6-9pm with artist talk by Alan Phelan at 5pm
Opening Hours: Daily 2-6pm, 8-15 November or by appointment.
Roslagsgatan 21, Stockholm,
“What is the meaning of it, Watson?” said Holmes solemnly as he laid down the paper. “What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable.” The final paragraph from “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”, a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1892
Detroit Stockholm is pleased to present “if you aren’t all mine”, the first solo exhibition in Sweden by Irish artist Alan Phelan which includes his new 2014 film “Edwart & Arlette”, alongside graphic and text works.
The film is an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” which has been reworked into a stylish whodunit with shot design and dialogue originating from hand photographs collected by the artist from self-harming social networking websites. Words and sentence fragments found on these images were developed into dialogue and remain in the order they were found, forcing the Sherlock narrative to take some unexpected turns. In fact, there is no Sherlock, as his character has been removed. Instead, the central characters are modelled on a photograph of a French art critic and museum curator, doubling up as a gender-shifting brother/sister, with locations merged to make a more succinct yet different story. As in the original tale, 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.
Phelan’s work often begins with language – taking a particular text and re-conditioning it for a different context, generating works that occur in a variety of mediums. The transformative trail is often made evident or incorporated into the work – revealing the process, as the artist describes it. The text piece “Morelli Lectures 2014”, on view in the lower gallery, is a developing work which uses the subtitles from the film that inspired the upstairs installation. This text will now form the dialogue for the artist’s next film project which is an imagined future for the Irish humanitarian and nationalist rebel, Roger Casement who was executed in 1916.
Together both galleries interrogate the nature of the narrative in script format, analysing the written word through the post-appropriation technique of re- narrativization. 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. These fall into the artist’s interest in provisional parataxis, hypothetical intentionalism, and discursive narcissism, which are otherwise only elusive fluxes of memories, shifting identities, open-ended narratives, contrapuntal dialogues, diffused authors, and other circulations.
Detroit Stockholm has been located at Roslagsgatan 21, Stockholm since 2007. The gallery is an artist-run, member based gallery with adjoining studios hosting 21 artists. The gallery works as a free, open platform for experimentation, embracing diverse creative and aesthetic disciplines and media, which includes everything from film screenings, experimental music, performance programmes, visual art exhibitions, and also conceptual fashion shows etc. Over the last year Detroit Stockholm has invited artists from the USA, Mexico, China, Ireland, Japan, Belarus, Scotland and Australia (amongst others) to exhibit at their space in Vasastan. Additionally, Detroit Stockholm has hosted the Swedish leg of the Non-Grata performance festival and has collaborated with Fylkingen, Sweden oldest experimental music institution. Since its participation in the Supermarket Art Fair for artist-run initiatives in 2014, it has been attracting a lot of attention within the Swedish national and international art world.