BY MICHAELE CUTAYA

For the month of September the Galway Arts Centre hosted Feedback, a collaboration between artists Karl Burke and David Beattie with writer Chris Fite-Wassilak. The exhibition juxtaposed works by both artists, a text by Fite-Wassilak printed on the sleeve of an empty book cover – part of the project is to fill this cover with a book made of responses from the show – and a room where all three collaborated towards an installation. These works are to “tap into our uneasy relationship to the hidden processes of the natural world.”[2]


In his work, Beattie stages objects – generally found – to interact with each other in some minimal way: here we have Between where a sheet of paper pressed between two speakers on a plinth is set vibrating by the sound waves; or in Feedback, a crunched up ball of tin foil on a block of concrete is ‘revealed’ – interviewed? – by a lamp on a microphone stand; or Bag where a plastic bag held down by a lump of concrete and bitumen is swayed by an electric fan. As found and manufactured these objects are not simple physical entities but endowed with a history which suggests an allegorical reading to these arrangements. One could speculate for instance that Bag proposes a meditation on the use and abuse of fossil fuel – bitumen, plastic bag, electric windmill – or that the lamp of ‘Feedback’ might serve some purpose in the mining for aluminum and thus helps in its transformation into everyday tinfoil. Or not.


Burke's work is more straightforwardly phenomenological in its scrutiny of our perception of the physical world. The first work presented here is an hour long video Another Time, Another Place, which shares Beattie’s minimal approach in the set up of a series of relationships between inside and outside/natural and artificial. In his long still shot of a gallery wall at dusk, a window on the left hand side offers a view of a street and a bridge with its human and mechanical traffic, as daylight fades, the gallery gets darker and a projection on the wall becomes visible. It is a sphere or an unidentified celestial body, which suggests the rising of the moon, while outside the street-lights are coming on. In a previous video piece, 186.282, light was the subject of another contrast; its actual speed was defied by the recorded slowness of the sun’s progress on a wall. A second work by Burke, Untitled, occupies the middle room of the first floor gallery thus offering a variety of perspectives on its form. The irregular three-dimensional arrangement of five triangular pieces of birch plywood - three are painted black while two are left naked – folded and unfolded like a Mannerist sculpture as one stepped around it; at times bold and black, at others barely more than an outline in the gallery space.


Fite-Wassilak’s text works as a frame for the exhibition: it proposes a re- thinking of phenomenology. Objecting to the reductionist approach currently adopted towards experience, he suggests a broader understanding of how we apprehend the world’s phenomena: unlike the “sensing yourself sensing” motto of too many art exhibitions[3] whose “brand of awareness [...] is of an inward wondering and revelation,” he suggests an attempt to sense what others are sensing without the dramatic unveiling of processes “Everything. is. exactly. As it seems.”[4]

‘Feedback’, David Beattie, Karl Burke, Chris Fite-Wassilak, 2011, Galway Arts Centre, photo courtesy the author.

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DECEMBER_2011_


Feedback[1]

David Beattie, Karl Burke and Chris Fite-Wassilak

Galway Arts Centre, 2 September – 1 October, 2011

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