“The reason I use CGI in my videos is that the works are talking about the future, and about certain technologies and what our relationship to those technologies might be, and so it makes sense for the medium to reflect that.”
Interview by: Natalia Gonzalez Martin
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I grew up in Dublin and I studied at Goldsmiths and the Royal College of Art, both in London.
You work primarily on digital media and installation. When did this start?
I’ve always built installations, since I was at college. In terms of digital media, I started making video work about two years ago. But still, the videos are always part of physical installations, as opposed to purely digital.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
I’ve just this week moved out of a studio in Dublin, where I’ve been for the past year. The studios themselves are in an amazing, beautiful space in Temple Bar. For a work environment I like as much empty space as possible. My new studio I’ve just moved into is almost empty. Of course, I envy people whose studios are the opposite, but for myself I need order. If I’m trying to think things through, I want to choose the things I’m stimulated by, and it’s too easy to be influenced by what’s around me. So, to work well, I need a white space with only the things which I’m working with at the time, usually books or magazines and my computer. I don’t often build things in the studio because most of the pieces are too large. Unless I’m working on a smaller sculpture, I’m basically just designing. The space is more like an architect’s office. It’s not very exciting for other people to visit, I’m sure.
In an age where most of the information we receive is digitalized, what are the challenges of using that medium? How do you feel the viewer responds to it?
Honestly, I’ve no idea how any audience feels about anything I make. But what’s important for me is that the material reflects the subject. The reason I use CGI in my videos is that the works are talking about the future, and about certain technologies and what our relationship to those technologies might be, and so it makes sense for the medium to reflect that. The most recent video is a CGI recreation of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, but most big museums do this kind of thing themselves anyway, with virtual tours and spaces and so on. The aim was more about making the CGI look like filmed video, in as convincing a way as possible. I started with stock 3D architecture models of the building, then created new interiors with CGI sequences to look filmed within the museum, which I’ve redesigned to house a cryonics laboratory. Maybe it’s better to say a kind of luxury body augmentation facility. The ultimate aim of cryonics clinics is of course to eradicate death – they’re selling immortality. But right now, the technology isn’t there. Cryonics exists but the science isn’t anywhere even close to bringing frozen people back.
You recently had a solo exhibition at Block 336, where you presented a not-so-hard-to-imagine future to us which could be interpreted as a mockery towards our contemporary mentality. Where do you think this hyper-consumerist society we are currently living is leading to?
I wouldn’t want to guess what our contemporary mentality might be, but the text in that work all comes from online forums, like Reddit and other places, so they aren’t my words. It’s all out there already. I can say I’m definitely not interested in mocking cryonics or any other technology. It’s an area of science where money and resources are being poured into it on a large scale, and I think that has potentially huge implications for our relationship with death, not least in the legal sense. The fourteen-year-old who won the right for her body to be cryogenically preserved three years ago, against the wishes of her father, would be one example.
Literature and movies have also tried to imagine what the future would look like, which writers or directors have influenced your practice?
Ballard is a writer who’s inspired me, perhaps not surprisingly. Mainly because of his focus on architecture, more than other things. Architecture is the thing which impacts on me the most, on a daily basis. A few years ago, I lived in the Balfron Tower in London, which is one of Ballard’s source materials for High-Rise, and Ernö Goldfinger who designed it was the basis for Ballard’s architect Anthony Royal. So, I was a resident in the Balfron for a few years and I also had a job at the Barbican, and I got to know a man who was on the residents’ association there. He was a good example of how these kinds of spaces gradually come to obsess the people who live there, until their existence and the space become almost indistinguishable. When you’re inside the Barbican, you realise that Ballard isn’t particularly fictional. Those things go on every day.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I was in Vienna last year, where Franz West’s work is all over the city. To see his works there, in Austria, was just amazing. His furniture is in the MAK museum. People are sitting on his couches and chairs, which are just part of the architecture. And walking through the city, you seem to be surrounded by his sculptures. I’ve always loved his work, especially the furniture, but to see it in that way was a completely new experience.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I have a show coming up in Frankfurt that will happen sometime before the end of the year, but apart from that since moving into my new studio I’m just really looking forward to making work for a while. I am also involved in a group called CrossSections Project, curated by Basak Senova. Last year I showed with them in Vienna, and this year we’ll have exhibitions in Stockholm and Helsinki.
All images courtesy of the artist and Block 336 Gallery
Publish date: 02/04/2019