Present Continuous…

Published for It is not on any map, catalogue

There are tricks of the eye that through water are amplified by the presence of opalescent light. A billow of cloud morphs as though a freight train running across the sky and a rock on the seabed can scatter into a thousand small fish before our eyes. Language too shifts and multiplies in its meanings as it passes through endless prisms of subjectivity. Should we try to hold or fix its meanings, it seeps like water through clenched hands. This fluidity of language imbues it with an innate freedom that is plural and paradoxical.

In the context of political, social, economic histories of the past, and present matrices of global capitalist movement, we find ourselves pushed along by powerful forces of language. Historically, strategies to dominate language were embedded within the logics of binary oppositions -where something was defined in terms of what it is not. It wasn’t until advent of Post-structuralism in the 1960-70 that the notion of the essential quality or the dominant relation in hierarchical systems was rejected. Post structuralism set out to deconstruct and thereby expose ‘the dependency of the dominant term on its apparently subservient counterpart’1 within the prevailing knowledge system. In his essay Signification and Sense, Emmanuel Levinas remarked on this emerging field of semantic inquiry: stating ‘that every verbal signification lies at the confluence of countless semantic rivers’2 The postmodern revolution in language saw the elevation of the subject(ed) and the breaking down of authorative superstructures of language. The Yes and No, the Good and Bad dissolved into a third space from which could then emerge a profusion of lost struggles…

We need just flick through the magazine of our minds to swiftly remind ourselves of how language is instrumentalised and internalized via the hegemony of capitalist conditioning. The dialectics of profit or loss, bankrupt or bailed out, sovern or sold, success or failure - identify a familiar vocabulary, structured ‘toward the production of commodities and, therefore the material condition of our very lives’3.

The risks inherent in ideologically over prescribed language as such, manifest as morbid symptoms that empty language of its capacities to generate and bestow new names and categories of experience. ‘The loss of the ability to speak, of ‘language capacity’ thus, means the loss of belonging in the world as such’4.  

How then amid a tyranny of political rhetoric, seduction and persuasion; do we go about unfolding a language of belonging and what form might this take?

Histories’ hold a deep reservoir of meanings, from which the present speaks. Language akin to water continues to pour through the cracks and contours of written social and historical time. To absorb the residues of past events, our thought, memories and imagining’s become the latest incarnation in the afterlife of language.

For language to ignite as a potent force for change, it is necessary to go beyond ‘stitching of the old fabric of binary interiority back together in the form of an imagined outside.’5 A lucid language, an aware language requires that it be expressed reflexively not dogmatically. To negate, the binary interiority of our own discourse, is to cast language continually outside of itself. It then acts as a force, not directed by any inner certainty or center but towards an outer bound where it continually contests itself. Thus creating a space for impossible recognitions and new beginnings. Released from certainty and centrality, knowledge in its archive or production transmutes into a swirling, errant, perplexing and naked potentiality.  Lightened and emancipated from a power that exhaustively reproduces ideologically entrenched images of reality, language unfrozen from these dictates, liquidates the power of perceived norms.

The exhibition ‘It is not on any map; true places never are’ set out to explore the notion of a true place derived from certain coordinates drawn from history yet conceptualised through a language that sought to call forth the outer-bounds of history, in its present and continuous forms… Re-presenting the fata morgana ‘as that which subverts its own taxonomy, as it exists continuously in nature as the contingent and possible’, designated a conceptual strand where histories and the imaginary could converge, merge and spill over into - a new order of the visible.

The exhibition was sited in the context of abandoned Edwardian building (circa 1864). The Edwardian architecture weighted with material designates of the 1800s ideology underwent semantic dislocation. The quite dereliction of 30 years of private closure, its former imaginary status secured by prohibitive metal fencing was thrown open to historical investigation, artistic/critical practice and public intellectual struggle.

The exhibitions participating artists included; David Ian Bickley,  Conor Kelly, Irene Tanner, Johnny Wallace, Aoife Banville,Miranda Blennerhassett, John McHarg, Jack Charite Lunt,Deirdre Southey, Dee O Shea and Siobhan De Paor.  Varying in texture and tone, artists produced visual substitutions on the fault line between the neither here nor there but continuous elsewhere. Unstable and provisional akin to the nature of mirage, the exhibition, for a moment in time infused reality with inner transparencies. Illuminating by what it concealed until in its provisional processes it dissolved and scattered into a vapored lightness of the collective un-imaginable.