“This double movement is a profound one: architecture is always dream and function, expression of a utopia and instrument of a convenience.”
Roland Barthes, ‘The Eiffel Tower’, 1979
This September, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Irish artist Gavin Murphy. Entitled ‘Double Movement’, the exhibition will include new works in film, sculpture, text and photography made by the artist based on his in-depth research into the now defunct Eblana theatre, which was located in the basement cinema of Dublin’s famous central bus station Busáras.
The Busáras building itself was a visionary and contested scheme. At that time, the largest civic building project in post-war Europe, it was lauded and visited by architects from across the continent. Designed by Michael Scott and Partners, the building was envisaged as a kind of civic Gesamtkunstwerk (or ‘total art work’), to serve the practical, social and cultural needs of its public users. Influenced by the Swiss Pavilion at the Cité Universitaire in Paris and by the Salvation Army hostel in Paris (both by Le Corbusier) it was to include a top floor public restaurant which was to become a night-club in the evening, a crèche for children, a bicycle park, and a ‘rather stylish’ cinema theatre in its basement, complete with a big ‘free-standing screen, with a cantilevered platform out in front… which could be used for lectures’. An expression of modern Ireland, the building was also the main hub whereby Irish people would leave the country, travelling by bus and then by boat to the UK and further afield from the late 40s onwards.
Following the much-delayed opening of Busáras to the Irish public in October 1953, the basement newsreel Cinema lay idle, until repurposed into a theatre in late 1959. Shortly afterwards, it was taken on by actress Phyllis Ryan as a base for her Gemini theatre company, who were to become a major producer of new plays in Ireland. At a time when the national theatre was not seen to be supporting new writing, Phyllis and Gemini are credited with maintaining independent theatre in Ireland during the period. The Eblana premièred the work of Irish playwrights including Brian Friel, John. B. Keane, and Aodhán Madden, and brought the work of playwrights ranging from Tennessee Williams to Neil Simon, Alan Ayckbourn to Joe Orton to a Dublin audience. It staged plays ranging from populist revues to experimental works, and covered taboo subjects in Ireland of the time such as homosexuality, homelessness and criticism of the Catholic Church. However the artistic fortunes of Gemini and the Eblana gradually declined, and the theatre was eventually closed in 1995, though it remains – albeit in poor condition – underneath the station.
Since 2015, Murphy has been working with the Irish Theatre Archive and the Irish Architecture Foundation, on an intensive period of research on the history of Busáras, the Eblana Theatre and the programme of the Gemini theatre company, visiting the archives of Arup (in Dublin and London), Scott Tallon Walker, The Abbey, and Dublin City Archives. Underground takes on a double meaning here, where the Eblana has taken on significance for Murphy as a representation of the lifecycle of an artist-run cultural organisation. Using a variety of techniques including documentary film, voiceover, performance and dance, sculptural installation and photography, Murphy’s work seeks to visualise the energy and passion that is needed to maintain a cultural venue like the Eblana, as well as to articulate the significance these types of projects can have in society, only to be almost completely forgotten shortly thereafter. The work in ‘Double Movement’, as well as documenting histories around architecture and theatre in Ireland, highlights gaps in our collective memories, bringing these forgotten energies and social movements to our attention. Art can profoundly change a society from the inside out, and Murphy’s work not only helps us to remember the Eblana theatre as it was, and make its cultural importance contemporary again, but also invites us to contemplate the society in which it was formed, the precursor to contemporary Ireland.
The exhibition also features contributions from many longstanding and new collaborators in the realisation of these works, with thanks to: Oran Day, Karl Burke, Louis Haugh, Michael Kelly, Justine Cooper, Des Nealon, Peter Mulvaney, Eve Woods, Philip White, Morris Deegan and Michael Daly.
‘Double Movement’ is funded by The Arts Council and The Arup Trust, and is supported by The Irish Architecture Foundation and The Irish Theatre Archive, with thanks to Scott Tallon Walker Architects, Dublin City Archives and Project Arts Centre.
Gavin Murphy (b. Dublin, 1973) is a Dublin-based artist and curator with an interest in documenting cultural spaces and histories. His research-based, intertextual practice involves the assemblage of unique fabricated elements, sourced and found objects, images and texts, with an interest in the sculptural possibilities of cinematic structures and mise en scène.
Solo exhibitions include ‘In Art We Are Poor Citizens’ (part of the ‘Sleepwalkers’ series, 2014) and ‘Remember’ (2010), both Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane; ‘Colophon’, Oonagh Young Gallery (2012), and ‘Something New Under the Sun’, Royal Hibernian Academy (2012). Group exhibitions include ‘Changing States: Contemporary Irish Art & Francis Bacon’s Studio’, BOZAR, Brussels (2013), and ‘After the Future’, eva International, Limerick (2012). His work features in several publications including ‘Sleepwalkers’, published by Ridinghouse in 2015, and a monograph ‘On Seeing Only Totally New Things’ which was published by Royal Hibernian Academy, 2013.
He is the recipient of various Arts Council awards, and residencies at Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin; Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne. He is co-director/curator of the artist-run space, Pallas Projects/Studios, and was co-editor of the recent publication Artist-Run Europe, published by Onomatopee.