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Untitled II

“The great obsession of the nineteenth century was, as we know, history: with its themes of development and of suspension, of crisis, and cycle, themes of the ever-accumulating past, with its preponderance of dead men... The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein.” - Michel Foucault


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Those thoughts from 1986 seem prescient, do they not? That said, others mused even earlier on our contemporary predicament. You may feel its cold touch already, even when tucked seemingly safely within the lineaments of your everyday, however it is spent: some semblance of a membrane and imagined border, between all you comfortably assume to be open to the glare of public scrutiny and then that which we take for read as securely private, slips away. Realms rendered solid and separated by language, orders and social convention, behaviours learned and only ever put to the test in moments of crisis and trauma collapse into and as one. Scrutiny, in some far off imagined moment and place, was then and there suspended in the gap palpably felt between those spheres of the public and private. That was then, still before electric technologies of power, control, communication, intimacy and exchange spawned to imbricate our innermost lives, identities and outward relations.

Andrew Kearney’s art is no more complex than your daily life. An expectation we each may place on art of any age is that after we experience it we will look at the world differently and see it as other than before. Much writing about Kearney’s art has it at once enthralled with and bogged down by technology while its meaning often remains suspended and elusive. Our lives are really no different. Treat Andrew Kearney’s art as such and the experience may reward dividends. A rational definition of art can be this: art is something someone makes and shares with others to show their place and position in the world. Art is a form of storytelling, but one that relies more heavily on ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’. Kearney’s art is at once fundamentally personal and still resolutely communal. The work before you inevitably derives from his own experience, yet this is one which finds meaning only in as much as it is and can be shared.

The network of place, moment and memory which intersect and give shape and form to Andrew Kearney’s life and work traces a line that crosses back over itself as it leads from Limerick to London and across to New York. These are the

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sites and spaces of much of his working life. Time and chance happens there as it does to us all. It is important to enter into Kearney’s work as an environment where you, the visitor and viewer, are a performer encountering a prepared space and stage. The role offered therein is at once bodily and perceptual.

Enabling scrutiny by lending a semblance of certainty and security, labels often smother art and individuals alike. It may, however, benefit your experience of Andrew Kearney’s art to relate to his practice as that of a sculptor of objects, spaces and experiences.All is treated determinedly as an image. You have entered into a membrane and process in which your own presence and participation is an integral part. Aerosol cans rendered in pristine bone china are scattered throughout the space. Defunctionalised, these hollow decorative objects are ciphers of display divorced from productive use and consumptive desires. New relations, sensations and functions are born from dysfunction. A camera with a highly fetishised finish impregnate the space. Meanwhile two light boxes stripped bare of image cycles randomly through its fluorescent glow. Nature, culture, form and function are treated to inversions and reversals through obsolescent technologies lodged in Cold War radar domes and the camouflaged culture of the mobile phone mast. This is a charged space of radical difference, though one somewhat familiar all the same. The outcome here is, to a degree, given over to chance while certain elements are highly controlled in mix of orchestration and the accidental. This is something of a forced encounter You are not entirely free, but then the only thing holding you in place and set behaviour is your own. Welcome to the epoch of space, of simultaneity, of juxtaposition, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. Welcome to our world. Space is the battleground for the control and surveillance of individuals but, as Foucault reminds us, this is a battle and not merely a question of domination.

John Slyce is a writer and critic based in London.
 
 
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