Fragile Absolutes: Part Two, 2009-2010

Chapter, Cardiff, Wales
11 December 2009 – 17 January 2010

“I know very well that the Other’s culture is worthy of the same respect as my own: nevertheless … [I despise them passionately].”
Slavoj Žižek, The Fragile Absolute

Part 2 of ‘Fragile Absolutes’ is a selection of new and recent works by Alan Phelan inspired by his ongoing engagement with political history, cultural theory, science fiction and photography. Within his practice he negotiates a number of sources and time periods: from found images, psychoanalysis and globalisation to current affairs, world war, popular fiction and boy racers. In doing so, he sets up a complex mix of literal and symbolic references, simultaneously providing background information on many of his subjects, yet leaving them open to conflicting modes of interpretation. In doing so he subtly undermines the certainty of our cultural assumptions and of the truth.

Several new pieces were exhibited at Chapter including the Cabbage sculptures which were made during a workshop working with participants from libraries and archives or with an interest in history. Participants were asked to bring newspaper articles about the Labour movement and specifically the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s. Phelan contributed copies of newspaper articles from the Dublin Lockout in 1914 with references to Labour leader James Larkin. These were made in to small paper cabbage sculptures by participants and arranged in the gallery to reference the Baroque Chapel in IMMA where the exhibition originated.

Other works included a single inkjet print that ran the length of the café at Chapter. Thti rock wie image was a slice of a NASA photo from Mars which showed a rock formation that looked like a human female figure. This form was recreated in red Turkish spaghetti rock. Also working from photography into sculpture a papier-mâché chicken form rotates slowly, powered by a solar panel illuminated by a gallery light. The form was taken from a blurred vintage image, referencing Futurist sculpture in agit-prop materials. The brown painted gallery presented works from the first chapter of the related Žižek text, all of which had popular culture science fiction connections.

The exhibition is a collaborative project between Chapter; IMMA, Dublin who commissioned and exhibited several of Phelan’s works earlier this year, and Limerick City Gallery of Art. The exhibition has received financial support from Culture Ireland.