Despite the rain and slow public transport we managed to make it to Draíocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown on time to catch most of the Suzanne Walsh’s performance at the opening of Lost State on Thursday. The first floor gallery had its lights dimmed, and Walsh was standing in a spotlight with Draíocht’s large wall of windows as a backdrop. More spotlights were directed at Hugh McCabe’s prints and the space was vibrating with the sound of digital distortion.
Does darkness have a shadow?
With a soft, feminine voice, which felt completely intentional in its tones and pitch, Walsh was reciting directions, questions, coordinates, sending the imagination to a cinematic future of a hospitable A.I. showing the way. Then she asked in that same intonation ‘Does darkness have a shadow?’ and the understanding of the 21st Century as it was depicted in the previous millennia was clarified. In the real 21st Century a feminine GPS voice with an English accent gave us the wrong driving directions. In the real 21st Century the images, both still and moving, of buildings/circuit boards were paired, in my mind, with the violent term “surgical strike”. To that extent, the performance was juxtaposed with the exhibition. As Fiach Mac Conghail mentioned in the very interesting opening talk, the installed work communicated detachment. 21st Century’s own version of detachment, the same detachment which allows us to destroy a place and its occupants without ever stepping foot there.
McCabe’s moving images depicting blue-shaded search party spotlights searching for someone or something, accompanied by Walsh’s performance and android-like philosophical wonderings made me think of 1982’s Blade Runner version of 2019. The not-quite-automated-or-is-it-a-robot vocals felt reassuring and directing, if sometimes disturbed by distortion, mechanical or otherwise. So here we are, in a present not quite our past’s real future, simultaneously lost and found by technology. Sharon Murphy’s curatorial text speaks of ‘harnessing
Lost State, in combination with Elaine Hoey’s The Weight Of Water downstairs, which uses 3-D technology to create a sense of witnessing the other’s plight, the curatorial choice made by Murphy can easily be described as thought provoking. These three artists use the aesthetics of image, audio, tech, and performance to comment on and bridge the gap between the 21st Century we were promised and the one we live in, for better or worse. The exhibitions run until 4th November, don’t miss it.