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.

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.

Castoriadis via Chris Marker

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And to ally with these words, located through an interview with Cornelius Castoriadis by Chris Marker in 1989, I quote Séamas Heaney on the Heckler of our times and her expectation of art:

‘In our time’, the heckler protests, echoing something he has read somewhere, ‘the destiny of man presents itself in political terms’. And his understanding, and in the understanding of most people who protest against the ascription to poetry of any metaphysical force, those terms are going to derive from the politics of subversion, of redressal, of affirming that which is denied voice. Our heckler, in other words, will want poetry to be more than an imagined response to conditions in the world; he or she will urgently want to know why it should not be an applied art, harnessed to movements which attempt to alleviate those conditions by direct action.

Is Heaney here placing the responsibility of action elsewhere than upon the poet? Or is the poets action through her ‘imagined response’ and the citizens action must be then through their own idiomatic performance of democracy? Heaney stresses a value, though does not explicitly reveal it, associated with this ‘imagined response’, and drawing upon Wallace Stevens he asserts the poet to be a potent figure because it is she who creates again and again “the world to which we turn incessantly and without knowing it”. It is she who “gives life to the supreme fictions without which we are unable to conceive” of that world. Heaney goes on to say:

…if our given experience is a labyrinth, its impassibility can still be countered by the poet’s imagining some equivalent of the labyrinth and presenting himself and us with a vivid experience of it.

The poets equivalent of the labyrinth may not, indeed, does not, intervene in the actual world, says Heaney, but it does something radical which connects to thought:

by offering consciousness a chance to recognize its predicaments, foreknow its capacities and rehearse its comebacks in all kinds of venturesome ways, it does constitute a beneficent event.

In other words, the poets equivalent of the labyrinth does some good, has some generosity in it.

To my mind, working out of a telecommunications research centre as I am, the engineers model corresponds with the poets ‘equivalent of the labyrinth’ which Heaney describes. And there is the possibility of constituting a beneficent event through this model. Indeed, that is what my colleagues strive for, as I see it. But, there are forces at odds with this beneficence… and very often they come from within as well as from without. What forces are these? Occupational Difference? Political Economy (the contradiction in terms)? The disintegration of democracy? Neo-Liberalism? Why not. All of these. And, of course, the self. The crisis of the individual.


(Séamas Heaney is quoted from ‘The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures’, 1995, Faber and Faber, London.)



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.


supportSpent a few hours on the Connemara plains, outside Clifden. Traces of Marconi’s experiment puncture the bog. Gravelly concrete shapes. Obloids. Huge rusting screws stabbed into them. Blending in with the November grasses. A dull canopy of clouds sandwiched us in between the land and the sky. An acoustic wind tunnel pulled around us. Any old sound amplified. The lake lapping and licking the peat. The grasses gossiping. Traffic travelling far away to further away and back again. There’s talk in the head of performance. There’s talk in the head of lights and rain proofing. There’s talk in the head of communication. The profound disappearance of it.

An F shaped antenna from CTVR’s research lab at DIT. Thanks to Dr. Mathias John for the sample!

I’m learning about Antenna’s. I have been for a while… eavesdropping on them, on the language around them. Prof. Linda Doyle refers to Antenna Engineering as a ‘Black Art’. No one really fully understands what’s going on when it comes to antennas. How is it that they send and receive the communications they do? How is it that one can ‘modulate’ information onto or into a wave frequency? How is it that these immaterial and invisible phenomena were ever discovered in the first place? And how is it that, generally speaking, the average individual is pretty unaware of the rather large antenna towers that are planted about the place, city & country? Unaware or unconcerned.

The Irish Eiffel Tower (as I call it). A Still from a Super 8 film in progress exploring antenna’s and communication…

Why should anyone be aware or concerned about such things? Well, that’s a good question, and myself and a small team at CTVR (Linda, Mathias and Antoine so far) aim to address this question… historically, poetically,  mathematically :)

Another antenna from CTVR’s antenna lab at DIT. These are ‘dud’ antenna’s that didn’t make the grade… or the frequency, rather.


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In_Formation, Super 8mm B&W, telecine, 2012

In_Formation presents a Myth about Information, Communication, and a will to attain Universal Human Understanding through a poetic symbolic language.

This work was first presented as part of Difference Engine ACCUMULATOR, at West Cork Arts Centre. The film is projected onto a screen, suspended between two metal towers, emerging from the walls of the gallery space. The action of the film is broken up with Intertitles describing its context: The Myth (see below).

Written, Directed, Filmed and Edited by Jessica Foley.

The central character is performed by Maura Foley.

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Down in the lovely West Cork, in Skibbereen to be precise, installing Difference Engine: ACCUMULATOR, at West Cork Arts Centre, with Wendy Judge, Gillian Lawler, Mark Cullen and Paul Green. (Gordon Cheung is with us in spirit!)

The exhibition is opening tomorrow at 3pm, with a BBQ and a short talk by Dr. Niall Smith, Head of Research at Cork Institute of Technology. I’m showing new work, called In_Formation… it’s a short film based around a Myth about a world obsessed by the need for a universal language, a combination of mathematics and poetry. The images above show the film in the process of being installed in the gallery – I’ve been editing the digitized Super 8mm footage and hoisting up the towers and screen this week. All set now for the opening tomorrow – will post more images once we’ve had our baptism of fire tomorrow in the midst of the West Cork Public! Looking forward to it.

You can find out more at the West Cork Arts Center site and on the Difference Engine site.