“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
Temple Bar Gallery + Studios is pleased to present a new exhibition by Irish artist Gavin Murphy. Double Movement includes works in film, installation, sculpture, text and photography and stems from the artist's in-depth research into the now defunct Eblana theatre, which was located in the basement of Dublin’s famous central bus station Busáras.
The works in Double Movement, document architectural and theatre histories in Ireland, and seek to highlight gaps in our collective memory, shining a light on forgotten cultural movements. Art and its forms can profoundly change a society from within, and Murphy’s work not only acts to help 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, and its relationship to the present. Murphy's research is also informed by an interest in both the cultural and evidential value of architectural structures, which can reflect and focus a wide variety of social facts: from the state of the industrial arts, to the processes of social organisation, and the beliefs and world-outlooks of a whole society. The Eblana takes on further significance for Murphy as a representation of the lifecycle of an artist-run space, and Murphy’s work seeks to visualise the energy 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.
The centre point of the exhibition is a long-form, densely worded film. Narrated by the veteran actor and Eblana regular Des Nealon, it portrays shifting points of view, taking its structural lead from Swedish playwright August Strindberg's A Dream Play. One voice morphs into a dialogue of intertextual associations, beginning with that of Michael Scott, through architectural theory and history, archival extracts, engineering calculations, autobiographical accounts, newspaper reports and theatre reviews, to the voice of Phyllis Ryan, and theatre director Peter Brook's seminal 1968 text The Empty Space. Extracts from plays and stage directions include references to Beckett's Happy Days, Joe Orton's Loot, Máiread Ní Ghrada's On Trial, Eugene McCabe's Pull Down A Horseman, and Fergus Linehan's revue Black Rosie. Installed text, sculptural and photographic works, act as narrative echoes, rhythms, silhouettes to the main feature, spatially extending the film's structure and mise en scène.
Busáras was a visionary and contested scheme for 1940s Ireland. 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, influenced by International Modernism – Le Corbusier in particular – and incorporating the very latest structural techniques courtesy of Anglo-Danish engineer Ove Arup, 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, from a top floor public restaurant which was to become a night-club in the evening, to a ‘rather stylish’ cinema theatre in its basement. An ambitious expression of a nascent modern Irish State, the building conversely became a locus for large-scale Irish emigration to the UK – travelling abroad by bus and then by boat – from the 50s onwards.
The Eblana was repurposed into a theatre in late 1959 and soon after taken on by actress Phyllis Ryan as a base for her Gemini theatre company. At a time when the Abbey theatre was not seen to be supporting new writing, the Eblana premièred the early works of Irish playwrights including Brian Friel, Samuel Beckett, and John B. Keane, also bringing the work of playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon, and Joe Orton to a Dublin audience. The Eblana 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. It remains – albeit in poor condition – underneath the station.
The exhibition features contributions from many longstanding and new collaborators in the realisation of the works, including: Oran Day, Karl Burke, Louis Haugh, Michael Kelly, Justine Cooper, Des Nealon, Peter Mulvaney, John Beattie, and Eve Woods.
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.
The Arup Trust provides support for the advancement of education in all its aspects and with a particular emphasis on engineering education and the built environment.
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 Selective Memory: Artists in the archive, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork, 2015, 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 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.