Great Uncle Joe is a scene setting installation that tells the story of the Malone families lived experience with Artane Boys Industrial School. The installation is comprised of audio recorded phone call conversations, sculptural objects, image-making, text and archive footage.
As part of the Boyle Project, 2019 Fine Art Lecturer and Artist Mark Garry asked Michelle Malone to choose a record from a pile and to delivery and artwork in response to the chosen vinyl. The task was to make a response in whichever way, that could mean materially, musically, with text and so on.
The record Michelle Malone chose had the 1950s song till there was you written by Meredith Wilson and performed by Shirley Jones for the tv show titled The Musicman. Malone recognised the song immediately as The Beatles version of the same tune is one of her families favourite songs. A song that has been played on a guitar and sang at many special occasions over the years in her grandmother and grandfather May and Paddy Malones’ kitchen in Finglas. Michelle Malone had recalled the song being played graveside at her late Great Uncle Joes funeral and it triggered some funny memories of her Uncle killing her pet goldfish and him giving her a fright with a Child of Prague Statue. Malone also recalled that he had received compensation in 2006 for spending time in Artane Boys Industrial school. To initiate research and not knowing the final outcome Malone called her Auntie Anne to tell her the funny memories and to ask her what she knew as she was extremely close to Joe, she also called her father Michael Malone to asks specifically about the compensation part, how it came about and she called her grandmother May Malone to ask about the day her brother had been taken from their family tenement on Parliament street and sent to Artane.
In this installation Michelle Malone presents the recorded phone call conversations in a screening comprised of music, audio and moving archive images of children playing in The Bayno and in the Iveagh baths which is where her late great Uncle Joe frequented as a child prior to be sent to Artane boys industrial school. Additionally there is archive footage of formations and gymnastics from the time in which Joe lived in Artane in late 1940s. The audio is an unravelling account of Joes experience with the industrial school and abuse. Oral histories in recent times have been vital for implementing change and justice. It is Michelle Malone’s belief that it is an apparatus of the state to value written word over oral history. This work aims to demonopolize that system.
Great Uncle Joes story is like many and you have probably heard it before or know somebody who was also a victim of the christian brothers abuse in Artane. As well as presenting the Malone families oral history the installation gives material voice through a presentation of both designed and curated objects. The exhibition ultimately aims to create a space for embodied empathy.