Just Keep Sweeping

This article was originally published in The Visual Artists’ News Sheet, Issue Jan/Feb 2017. PDF: van17_justkeepsweeping_jfoley_2016

Image by Frank Abruzzese, featuring Marjorie Potiron, Lisa Hoffman and Kate Strain.

At night the whole of Wexford seems to settle like an ocean in the dark beneath the mountain, dancing with the lights of fishers and anchored seafarers. The cattle breathe and stomp into the warm dark air of the corrugated sheds. In the grey-green light of a sleepless moonful night the rooster woke you twice. You came here to wake up after all. Here belongs to the side of the Blackstairs Mountains in County Wexford, home to the O’Gorman family farm for over 200 years and the Cow House Studios since 2007. Today is your final day on the residency called The Centre for Dying on Stage #3 and you are looking back through your notebooks where you have been making observations, like:

It is sunny. The leaves are autumnal. The wind wintery. Terracotta cows move over the green grasses in a complimentary trance.


 It is challenging to work together. It can be beautiful to agree not to do so. I am here in my studio, listening at a distance to these other voices finding the notes of an idea they can play together. It is all storytelling. And before storytelling it is experience and sleep and dreams.

You came here to wake yourself from a tyranny of analysis and critique. You came here to remember your intuition, to regain a creative process. Your notes say that the purpose of staging contemporary art must be to energise each other to think creatively and critically, to become more lively and to seek inter-inspiration with others, to tell stories and share experiences through words, objects, movements and stillness.

The late afternoon sun is shining and all the surfaces of the farmyard are awash with golden light. The inner spaces of the Cow House Studio playfully counterpoint those of the farmyard with a bursty kind of order. You have become fond of one of many boxes tucked high into the shelves of the main art room labeled “sentimental clothing”. This is the tidiest farm you have ever seen. Strangely, the place reminds you of the context of your own growing-up, though you were never a farming daughter. It’s a place where the agency of matter is perceived for what it is. An instance of this is the sloping field by the forest near the hay-shed, the one that kept flooding and was gradually acknowledged as a pond, duly excavated and kitted out with a small jetty, life-buoy, a kayak and some carp. Since your arrival on the farm you’ve watched their shadowed bodies rippling the surface tension many times, thinking how the tranquility here betrays a human preoccupation with prediction and control. One of the conversational slogans that emerged during the residency was ‘just keep sweeping’.

You recall the challenges of the previous five weeks, working to create rhythm within this community of strangers in order to bring something to the stage at Wexford Arts Centre[1]. Sudden rituals were established in the group, playfully yet with conviction. Three of five artists began to train together, going running every morning around the 4k loop, down and back along the hillside from the farm. At first, you didn’t quite relate. You were amused, yet somewhat anxious, at the fanaticism. You followed from a safe distance considering what was going on. Slowly, you began to get the levity of it. All this training was something wildly serious: a commitment to the process of art making as intuitive, spontaneous and systematic. Something quite trustable yet unpredictable. Training for the stage was training for life.

Image by Frank Abruzzese.

 Ordinarily, you work in a context where engineering researchers devise telecommunications “networks for the future” between the worlds of industry, business and academia. The research center where you work is called CONNECT[2]. When a colleague emailed to ask how you were getting on at The Centre for Dying on Stage #3, you replied that it was ‘distracting’. This blunt assessment was not a complaint. It was the most relevant word you could think of, in that moment of correspondence, to describe the diffractive effect of different creative processes coming into relation and tension with each other, an effect troubled and intensified by flashes of cruelty and fear.

In CONNECT your creative and collaborative process has been described, sincerely and without malice, as a distraction. Quite directly, you have been named an ‘interruptor’, so called after an algorithm that interrupts electrical circuits when a fault occurs in the system. In that context the negative connotations of these words had become affirmatory, constituting a local vocabulary to describe healthy relations of difference. Now, on the final day of your residency, you see that all along you have been wondering what it means for you to describe the experience of The Centre for Dying on Stage #3 as distracting?

From the edge of your empty square white table, set at a diagonal to the white walls of your studio in the Cow House, you intuit this question. In every aspect of your experience on the residency, you intuit this question. You walk the loop walk daily and intuit this question. You go shopping, make and eat meals with the others, converse and share gestures and ideas with the others, and intuit this question. You pet Dolly, the farm cat, and intuit this question. You observe George, the farm peacock, and intuit this question. You sleep and dream and intuit this question.

You think, then, as the final day of your residency draws to a close under the orange light of a navy night, that The Centre for Dying on Stage #3 intends to distract. It institutes forms of distraction that seek to draw the minds of artists and audiences alike away into the tingly bodily presence of a mysteriously shared agency, with the will to fail and death acting as a decoy for a keener will to love and live. For that is what it means to distract: to draw the mind away… away from the obsessions, envy and fears mirrored endlessly in the narcissistic infrastructures of our time. So, after more than five weeks, wouldn’t you say that the interruptions there were rarely too intimate, that the jokes were cast in earnest, and that any distractions performed or provoked became, in the end, a rather ‘beautiful mess’[3]?

Image by Frank Abruzzese, featuring Marjorie Potiron and Kate Strain.

Jessica Foley is an artist, post-doctoral researcher and writer-in-residence at CONNECT, Trinity College Dublin.


[1] One of the stipulations in the open call for The Centre for Dying on Stage #3 was that the selected artists would present some aspect of work developed during the residency through the public forum of Wexford Arts Centre, specifically by using the infrastructure and resources of its theatre. The invitation to engage with the discipline of theatre and to explore modes of performance and performativity was one of the things that made this particular iteration of The Centre for Dying on Stage so compelling. On the 12th of November at 3pm, two performances took place on the stage at Wexford Arts Centre. The first, How Soon Gone is Gone, was by Alex Mirutziu, and the second, First Glue/Stage Business, was by Jessica Foley, Lisa Hoffmann, Marjorie Potiron and Steven Randall.

[2] Visit www.connectcentre.ie for information on CONNECT’s research.

[3] This is how Marjorie Potiron and Lisa Hoffmann describe the purpose of their artistic process, to systematically generate a beautiful mess.

The Centre for Dying on Stage 2016

First Glue/Stage Business – Magnetic Mountain Scene, Image courtesy of Alex Miritziu, 2016

A group of strangers, international artists with diverse backgrounds and practices, came together to exchange ideas underpinned by a shared interest in matters of life and death, performance and disappearance.

Working under the aegis of The Centre For Dying On Stage, and based between Cow House Studios, Rathnure, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the five participating artists assembled on residency for five weeks of developing ideas, texts and gestures before performing their findings live on stage.

Participating artists Jessica Foley, Marjorie Potiron & Lisa Hoffmann, Steven Randall, and Alex Mirutziu AKA The Artist and Himself at 29 (TAH29), and curator Kate Strain are delighted to present this experimental performance work at Wexford Arts Centre, on 12 November 2016.

Commissioning a ‘Grey Area’…

CTVR are a leading national and international telecommunications research centre headquartered at Trinity College Dublin. It’s also the location of my PhD research. While CTVR’s research focuses on communication technologies and infrastructures which will shape the communications networks of the future, we are keenly aware of our broader material and ideational influence within human society and of our ecological impact upon the planet. We want to develop better ways for thinking through these influences and impacts, and so we have been developing a practice called Inreach to this effect. (Developing Inreach has been the focus of my PhD research)

For the past number of years CTVR have been working with artists, media practitioners and theorists, social entrepreneurs and researchers from an array of disciplines and practices. Currently we have several artists and one social entrepreneur in residence at CTVR, and several collaborative projects are in development.

We are particularly excited to have the support of artist Seoidin O’Sullivan and architect Karol O’Mahony for one of these projects. We have commissioned Séoidin and Karol to develop an iteration of their work Seating System within CTVR, on an unoccupied fourth floor landing within Dunlop Oriel House, which we have provisionally dubbed Grey Area. This will be a major work. It will enhance the research space for researchers within CTVR and become a studio-like environment for ideation and material manipulation, and for supporting casual, friendly encounters between people in the building. It will offer a flexible habitat for visitors to CTVR, artists-in-residence and CTVR researchers to work together intimately and creatively. This work is an exciting initiative which will open up possibilities for further research and will enable CTVR to develop and mature our philosophy and praxis of communication.

We are aiming to have this commission completed to coincide with the CTVR/D.A.T.A. OpenHere festival to take place mid-November 2014.


Introducing the first night in a series of four visual art spoken word events running throughout the summer of 2014. Curated by Emer Lynch and Tracy Hanna, Foaming at the Mouth #1 takes place on Wednesday 18 June at 8pm downstairs in the Stag’s Head, Dame Lane, Dublin 2.

We would love for you to join us if you can!

Our Facebook is Foaming-at The-Mouth

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/246543628803431/

Blog: fatm-dublin.tumblr.com

The Balloon – Rawson Projects – Writing Workshop

Curator Jessamyn Fiore responding to The Balloon during the writing workshop at Rawson Projects

On Sunday last (24th March) I spent an afternoon at Rawson Projects facilitating a Writing Workshop with curator and writer Jessamyn Fiore. The workshop was devised around the short story written by Donald Barthelme called The Balloon. This story was used as a prompt by Jessamyn Fiore for curating the exhibition at Rawson Projects. I was invited to write a short piece in response to the story, which I read at the gallery on Sunday evening, to a small audience who gathered for the closing of the exhibition.

The workshop was twinned with sessions I have been hosting at CTVR/the telecommunications research centre as part of my PhD research known as Engineering Fictions. Through these sessions we are creating One-Sheets which are limited edition publications based upon each of the writing sessions. We hope to have these One-Sheets in circulation during the summer. I hope that we will be able to produce a One-Sheet based upon the New York workshop around The Balloon, which will become a twin to the Dublin based One-Sheet produced through CTVR.

Participants in the writing workshop at Rawson Projects, as part of The Balloon exhibition, curated by Jessamyn Fiore.
Participants in the writing workshop I facilitated at Rawson Projects as part of The Balloon exhibition, curated by Jessamyn Fiore.



I’m delighted to have been invited to speak about my research at this exhibition/seminar this week as part of Engineers Week at the DRAWING PROJECT. Essentially, I’m going to be presenting a rough draft of my thesis, ‘Engineering Fictions’, for the first time to a public audience – suffice it to say I’m a little bit nervous. My CTVR colleague and Phd. supervisor Linda Doyle will be presenting also, so that’ll calm the nerves a bit. She’s not to be missed! (You can see her TEDx talk on the ‘Republic of Radio’ here)

Here’s the spiel on the event:

You are invited to ‘ingenious’…
A showcase of work engaged with the intersection of art, technology and engineering at drawing project Wed 12th – Fri 14th Feb.
Opening wed 12th 2pm.
As part of next week’s ‘Ingenious’ showcase, IADT’s contribution to celebrating Engineering Week, there will be a seminar from 3-5pm on wed 12th Feb in the Drawing Project with invited speakers Prof. Linda Doyle (Engineering,CTVR,TCD), Fiona Marron, Artist and IADT graduate, Jessica Foley, Artist PhD researcher and Julie Merriman Artist and IADT graduate. The seminar will focus on the relationship between art, technology and engineering.

Showcase open to public Thursday 13th Feb 10-1pm 2-5pm, Friday 14th Feb 10-1pm, 2-5pm

Artist Julie Merriman will present an exhibition of work ‘part drawings’ opening on the same day and continuing until Feb 25th
All welcome.



A satellite image of the helium reserve and wells near Amarillo, Tex. The federal government maintains the reserve, which produces roughly 30 percent of the world’s helium.

I’m currently working on a short piece of writing for an upcoming exhibition in Brooklyn, NYC, curated by Jessamyn Fiore. The exhibition features works by the following fine artists:

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 19.46.43


The exhibition is inspired by a short story by Donald Barthelme, The Balloon, and will feature work by Gordon Matta-Clark, Skyhook (Study for a Balloon Building), as well as new text’s by myself and Aengus Woods.

The image above is grabbed from a New York Times article. You’ll have to wait till I’m finished the story to see if it has any bearing or not. In fact, so will I.


Difference Engine @ LCGA

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Some installation images from the current Difference Engine exhibition at the Limerick City Gallery of Art.

Difference Engine – ACCUMULATOR III

Difference Engine is an evolving touring exhibition by artists Mark Cullen, Wendy Judge, Gillian Lawler & Jessica Foley, featuring Gordon Cheung.

Taking the ‘first’ computer as a namesake, and adopting Charles Babbage’s observation that ‘Jamming is a form of error detection’ as our imaginative jumping off point, Difference Engine plays with the idea of ‘jamming’. In one sense ‘jamming’ signifies stasis, shock, or rupture, but in another sense, it signifies change, growth, improvisation and invigoration between players.

With this in mind, we work together through art. In many ways, Difference Engine operates similarly to oral storytelling, where the story changes each time it is spoken. Only, with Difference Engine, the story is made up of visuals, objects and props, as well as words. There isn’t one set narrative, and so there is a call to the audience to build their own associations and narratives from the pieces we present and organise in the exhibition space. The works brought together through Difference Engine weave personal concerns with concepts of science, geologic time, language, architecture and economics.


Limerick City Gallery of Art
Phone: +353(0)61-310633
Fax: +353(0)61 310228
email: artgallery@limerickcity.ie Follow us on twitter www.twitter.com/limerickgallery

Opening hours:
Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday 10am-5.30pm
Thursday 10am-8.30pm
Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 12-5pm

Limerick City Gallery of Art
Carnegie Building,
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