Ciao, no more, 2009
Ćao, nema više
Dunamasie Arts Centre, Portlaoise
13 October – 21 November, 2009
Curated by Gemma Tipton
There is a car factory where production has all but ground to a halt: the air inside is full of an oily mist as robots replace employees, and the scent of failure is 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”, 2009 is a scaled up artist’s modelling hand, purchased in 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.