Artist Talk: Wait ‘til I tell you about the warp-spasm … Conversation with Farouk Alao, Michelle Doyle, John Higgins and RGKSKSRG
- 24 March 2022
Oh My Demigod is an exhibition that revisits key scenes from Ireland’s national epic, the Táin Bó Cuailnge, and re-situates them in today’s cultural landscape. At the core of the saga is the teenaged demigod Cúchulainn, fighting for honour, glory and friendship, despite the inevitable peril and loss entailed. The age-old story of the Táin is inextricably linked with mythological Ireland; a heritage, a fiction, a brand and a tourist destination. But how can we who dwell on this island read it, relate to it, or even retell it today?
At the centre-point of Oh My Demigod is a selection of Louis le Brocquy’s (1916 - 2012) Aubusson Tapestries, Atelier René Duché, 1998/2001, depicting le Brocquy’s brush drawings originally created for Thomas Kinsella’s 1969 translation of The Táin. The six tapestries featured in the exhibition focus particularly on the role played by the young Cúchulainn, who, when he was angry, was said to have entered into a state of fury, a terrifying battle frenzy, or ríastrad (translated variously by Thomas Kinsella as "warp-spasm" and by Ciarán Carson as "torque"). This ferocity, this warp-spasm, is what has inspired the exhibition, where le Brocquy’s iconic imagery merges with newly commissioned, adapted, and existing artworks, giving voice to contemporary issues that resonate vividly with Cúchulainn’s ancient rage.
Newly commissioned work includes Farouk Alao’s hyper-contemporary take on how we project attitude, persona, belonging, and legacy, and Michelle Doyle/Rising Damp’s evocation of raw anarchic feeling – with jarring levels of humour and camaraderie - through sound and voice. Dancer and choreographer Oona Doherty’s honed embodiment of aggression, swagger, and vulnerability on the streets of Belfast, is shot through the lens of filmmaker and collaborator Luca Truffarelli. These artworks are shown with the le Brocquy tapestries via four distinct cycles in the gallery. The atmospheres of the space transform sequentially through light, sound and movement, shifting from a classic hang of the tapestries to a darkened projection installation, to an agitated soundscape of noise, and so on.
The full running cycle of the exhibition is one hour. This timed choreography works in response to the site of Temple Bar Gallery + Studios within Temple Bar. From shirt factory to cultural beacon, the building itself bears witness to daily and nightly transformations, with its immediate environment morphing from everyday heritage site to drunken tourist destination to ecstatic dance-club zone. Over the past two years, with the global pandemic jolting the usual energy of Temple Bar out of kilter, the site has revealed its grittier edge alongside its vulnerability. Oh My Demigod echoes these various states and cycles of transformation.
RGKSKSRG was awarded the opportunity to curate this exhibition through an Open Call held in 2021.
Farouk Alao solves problems and creates Art. Born in Lagos, raised in Dublin and made in Limerick and London, Alao is currently based between Dublin and London. An emerging artist, designer, model and brand consultant, he finds inspiration mainly from daily interactions with the world. He creates art to better understand the world around him and hopefully help others understand theirs better too. He utilises 2D and 3D design tools and methodologies as well as photography, focusing on humanity, questioning the things we think we know about ourselves.
Since graduating from Limerick School of Art and Design in 2020, Alao has worked as a freelance Graphic and Motion Designer. He has worked on projects with clients such as M&C Saatchi, Unthink, Ormston House, Department for Education UK, Limerick Council, and British Council, amongst others. His work has featured in numerous exhibitions and publications, including Shaped By Limerick, Limerick City (2021), Discover Our Stories - Farouk Alao, Limerick City and County Council (2020), ‘MODELS REFLECT ISOLATION’ in Fword Magazine (2020), and ‘Self-Confidence, not Self-Comparison - Farouk Alao’ in Fac Magazine (2018).
In addition to his graphic, motion design and photography work, Farouk has founded initiatives like 858, a creative platform; and Somint, a NFT art marketplace focused on introducing artists to the space. He is also a board member at DesignOpp, an initiative focused on championing diversity in Irish design.
Michelle Doyle is an artist and musician based in Ireland. Her work critiques technology, politics and innovation through new media. This has seen her work with pirate radio, coding, spatial sound and compositing. Doyle’s work can be found in both institutional and extra-institutional spaces, and is ultimately about questioning the power dynamics found within them. For a live performance on 28 April by Rising Damp, as part of Doyle’s presentation for Oh My Demigod at TBG+S, the artist will be joined by percussionist Sarah Grimes (September Girls and Grave Goods) and synth player Ivan Pawle (Fulacht Fiadh and Seadog).
Doyle was recently awarded the Fire Station Artists' Studios Digital Media Award (2019–2021), and is a previous recipient of the Sirius Residency Award (2019), and A4 Sounds Artist in Residence Award (2018). Doyle has exhibited extensively around Ireland, and in Canada, the Netherlands, and Poland. She collaborates frequently with other artists and musicians such as the Lads Society, the Digital Druids, Repeater and Isadora Epstein. She has exhibited with Repeater with Athrá Titim Gach Rud and the Digital Druids with Yoga For The Eyes.
As well as Rising Damp, Doyle makes music with Dream Girls and punk band Sissy. She has released work with Brass Neck Press, an independent art publisher of artist editions, t-shirts and printed/digital ephemera.
Oona Doherty was born in London and in 1996 she moved to Belfast. She studied at St Louise’s comprehensive college Falls Road Belfast, The London School of Contemporary Dance, University of Ulster and LABAN London. She has a BA Honours and Postgraduate in Contemporary Dance Studies. She has been performing dance-theatre internationally since 2010 with various companies, including: TRASH (NL), Abattoir Fermé (BE), Veronika Riz (IT), Emma Martin/United Fall (ROI), Enda Walsh & Landmark Productions (ROI).
She created her first group piece Hard to be Soft – A Belfast Prayer in 2017, which was then voted no.1 UK dance show of 2019 by the Guardian. She created Lady Magma: The Birth of a Cult in 2019. 2021 will see Oona Doherty’s first collaboration with (La) Horde, collective at the helm for Ballet National de Marseille (FR). She is now working on a new piece for 12 dancers, called NAVY BLUE (working title) to be premiered in August 2022.
Oona Doherty was one of the Aerowaves 2017 selected artists, a Prime Cut Productions REVEAL Artist and The MAC Theatre Belfast HATCH Artist in 2016-17, an Associate Artist at Maison de la Danse de Lyon (FR) in 2017-18, an Associate Artist at La Briqueterie Vitry-sur-Seine (FR) in 2017-19. She is Dublin Dance Festival Artist in Residence in 2020- 2022. Oona has been awarded from the Venice Biennale Silver Lion in 2021.
Luca Truffarelli is a freelance photographer and video maker based in Dublin. Since 2011, he started experimenting and challenging himself in the field of visual arts. Over the past few years he has been involved in contemporary dance and theatre works as a photographer/video maker, visual/set designer and artistic collaborator.
Louis le Brocquy (1916 - 2012) was born in Dublin and is considered one of Ireland’s foremost painters. In 1943, he became a founding member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. He represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 1956, where he won the Premio Acquisito Internationale. He was elected Saoi by members of Aosdána in 1992. In 1998 he received the IMMA Glen Dimplex award for a sustained contribution to the visual arts in Ireland and was honored with the Freedom of Dublin City in 2007. Acknowledged by museum retrospective exhibitions worldwide, including France, USA and Japan, his work is represented in numerous public collections, from the Guggenheim, New York to Tate, London.
RGKSKSRG is the paired curatorial practice of Rachael Gilbourne and Kate Strain. Based between Dublin and Aughrim, RGKSKSRG commission, present and contextualise contemporary art. Through linking with sites, communities and institutions, RGKSKSRG work to create new contexts for engaged encounters between artists and audiences. These contexts can involve new commissions, solo and group exhibitions, live events, curatorial residencies, talks, interviews, performances, texts, and artworks.