In 2013, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios celebrates its 30th Anniversary. The organisation was founded in 1983 by Jenny Haughton, who invited a group of artists to claim space within a semi-derelict factory building in Temple Bar. Through the vision and determination of a number of individuals, over the intervening years the building was transformed into a purpose built complex of artists work spaces and a gallery. Temple Bar Gallery + Studios has been a site where countless new projects, practices, friendships and careers have been created over the last 30 years , and at the same time much has been lost. Memories remain in the minds of the artists who worked and continue to work at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios. Paper files have been discarded, or archived at the National Irish Visual Arts Library. Computer files have been left on old hard drives, never to be recovered.
As part of the 30th anniversary celebrations, TBG+S is producing a book entitled Generation – 30 years of Creativity at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios. In the process of researching this publication, many forgotten stories, images, objects and archival materials have been gathered together to tell a story of the organisation. This story is selective, and based on the material that could be found. There are many other stories that are not represented. While not telling a definitive story, by its publication, the book creates an official history for TBG+S.
In the exhibition False Memory Syndrome, Four artists present alternative histories for Temple Bar Gallery + Studios. These artists were invited, because of their history with TBG+S, to exhibit art works that respond to the gathered research, and to their experiences of the building and its inhabitants.
Sabina Mac Mahon’s work takes the archaeological excavation of 9 Temple Bar in 1993, in preparation for the redevelopment of the building, as a starting point. The work undertakes a mini-exploration of the nature of collections and archives, and the variety of material that can be found in them - both the strange and the ordinary. Mac Mahon worked as the main researcher on the 30th Anniversary publication and has an intimate knowledge of the archival history of TBG+S. Her work for the exhibition describes the often frustrating nature of the TBGS Archive as well as looking at the relationship between TBG+S and Temple Bar.
Alan Phelan’s starting point for his work 50 came from the well-known Multiples project , a series of six curated cabinet exhibitions that took place in TBG+S between 1998 and 2001 (with tours to other venues until 2004). Reasoning at the time sought to balance the presentation of accessibly priced objects that would make contemporary work affordable to a wide range of audience, whilst at the same time raising much needed funds for TBG+S.
The various editions of the cabinets were curated by eight curators and showcased work by a range of over 150 artists. These were both well known and relatively obscure; some of whom would become household names, and others who changed from art making into other careers. Alan Phelan recreates a synthesis of this cabinet of contemporary curiosities, revising 50 of the Multiples (with some originals included). It is normal for Phelan to take a wry jab at the original context and content of works, and with this piece the archive is negotiated through the Phelan’s own practice, functioning as part tribute and part critique.
Michael Boran’s work ‘Far and Away’ is different in that it comes from the artists own archive. Michael Boran is an artist who has been a studio member at TBG+S since 1991. Two years before TBG+S opened its renovated building, the area was used as a stand in for Boston in the 1890s for the film ‘Far and Away’. Boran’s photographs are a curious mixture of document and fiction. In choosing this brief interlude from the history of the area Boran captures some of the architectural facts and sense of the area from which TBG+S emerged, yet it is overlaid with false clues to somewhere else, a more remote past which strangely prefigures touristic expectations and Mary Harney’s famous signalling of “Boston not Berlin” as a development model. As he points out, ‘false history was quickly to become the norm in Temple Bar, as pubs opened with signs proclaiming “established in 1870” , the installation of cobblestones and the general repackaging of the area as a themed destination’. In Boran’s photographs, past and present merge in a strange palimpsest. We get a glimpse of competing pasts and a nostalgia for a more recent time when the possibility of a new cultural quarter in the city was still a blank canvas.
On the opening night of the exhibition, Wednesday 4 September, Sarah Pierce will present a performance entitled Artist or Superartist? based on material drawn from the TBG+S archive.
A round table discussion chaired by Sarah Pierce between the artists in the exhibition and the curator, Rayne Booth, will take place on Tuesday 24 September at 5pm. The discussion will hinge on the subject of institutional memory, fictional institutions, and the archive.
Michael Boran lives and works in Dublin and has been a studio member of TBG+S since 1991. He is part of the first generation of Irish artists to engage with photography as fine art medium.He works with still photographic images, moving between artifice and documentary in exploring the functions of illusion and recording. As photography hinges on this dual nature, so do many of his subjects, opening up a set of reverberations between fact and fiction that point beyond the visible world. He exhibits regularly with the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery.
Sabina Mac Mahon
Sabina Mac Mahon graduated from NCAD with a joint honours degree in History of Art & Fine Art (Painting) in 2008 and since then she has exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions both in Ireland and abroad. Her work is concerned with the creation of visual and factual dilemmas through the appropriation and alteration of objects and images that are (re-)presented as primary sources and historical artefacts. These are accompanied by explanatory texts that outline their fabricated histories. Mac Mahon is interested in museum practice, collections management, storytelling and documentation, and recent work has involved various investigations into real and imagined historical events and the creation of made-up antiquarians, artists and local historians whose biographies exist somewhere between actual fact and legendary fiction. She lives and works in her native Dublin and upcoming projects include Lacuna , the first iteration of a co-curatorial project with David Quinn at Taylor Galleries, Dublin in November 2013.
Alan Phelan studied at Dublin City University and Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. His practice involves the production of objects, participatory projects, curating and writing. These all inform, combine and contribute to an interest in the narrative potential surrounding an artwork. This can be exploited or explored from actual and historical events, ideas, things and places as well as their fictional counterparts. Working in the museum and archive sector has shaped this approach somewhat but more as a counterpoint than agency. He has exhibited in Irish institutions such as IMMA, LCGA, Solstice and the RHA. Internationally includes BOZAR, the Whitney, SKUC, OK11, and Chapter. He has worked on a variety of public art projects, with a permanent sculpture recently completed at Clongriffin, Co Dublin.
Sarah Pierce lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. Since 2003, she has used the term The Metropolitan Complex to describe her project. Despite its institutional resonance, this title does not signify an organization. Instead, it demonstrates Pierce’s broad understanding of cultural work, articulated through working methods that often open up to the personal and the incidental. Characterized as a way to play with a shared neuroses of place (read ‘complex’ in the Freudian sense), whether a specific locality or a wider set of circumstances that frame interaction, her activity considers forms of gathering, both historical examples and those she initiates. The processes of research and presentation that Pierce undertakes highlight a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art: the potential for dissent and self-determination, the slippages between individual work and institution, and the proximity of past artworks.