The Company of Others, 2021

Liberica Coffee Cup, 2019-21
Free posted package of ceramic cup, paint and paint brush
(plus QR code to David Beattie AR work)

The Company of Others is a research art project that was concerned with relationships between colonialism, capitalism, and material culture. It took its starting point from Derry~Londonderry’s history – of the plantation of the city and surrounding area by the commercial guilds of London – but from there outwardly to other contexts and time-frames. The project was especially interested in the material practices of the livery companies that formed the foundations of British colonialism in the Maiden City.

“Liberica Coffee Cup” relates to Roger Casement and the coffee bean variety he acquired in Congo, called Liberica, now held in the collection of the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin. Liberica is also the name of a café chain in Indonesia where the bean replaced the diseased local arabica. Previously used paper coffee cups were hand drawn with the company logo to re-brand and up-cycle.

The project developed in this new iteration by combining other cultural references to explore a different kind of operational sequence common to anthropological discourse. The research initiates a discussion about the interconnections of global capitalism, disposable consumerism, branding, cultural appropriation, empire, nationalism and freedom.

The final research was presented within The Company of Others box; a limited edition box shared with David Beattie. Working with the potter Brian McGee, Phelan created the branded Liberica ‘kulhar’, or clay cup. Made using the “off the hump” wheel-throwing method, an pressed with a rubber stamp of the coffee chain logo during the first event in September 2019. Completion of the project was delayed by Covid-19 during 2020.

Recipients of the box complete the work by painting in the white logo with supplied paint and brush. On the side of the box is a QR code by John Beattie. Reading this code will take the viewer to an augmented reality, available Wednesday 1 June–Wednesday 1 September 2021.

The edition was made available for free sign-up on 1 June 2021 and fully signed up for and gone in 20 minutes. The release was promoted on Instagram stories the week prior and many recipients posted photos back.

Thank you to Sara Greavu, Laura McCafferty, Brian McGee, Brendan O’Neill, Emmet Brown, Paola Bernadelli, Catherine Hemelryk and Jak McGarrigle.

Link to Associated Texts