AOIBHEANN  GREENAN’S  art is like fellow Irish artist Sean Lynch’s art dunked in plutonium. That’s the initial conclusion I came to when confronted with Greenan’s current solo exhibition entitled ‘DMC - Dunmurry May-Day Conspiracy’ at Dublin’s Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (TBG+S). The reason why Lynch kept punctuating my experience of Greenan’s so-called “full-scale inhabitable diorama” is simple: their shared and alternative re-telling of the marvelous history of the short-lived DeLorean car factory located on the outskirts of Belfast (1981-82), which manufactured the car that would win over hearts and minds and not to forget Time in Back to the Future (1985).

Lynch, whose work will be unveiled next month in the most dramatic circumstances of his career when he represents Ireland at the Venice Biennale, performs a kind of cultural archaeology of historical curiosities which he then transposes into the gallery as art. He took on the subject of the DeLorean car factory in his project ‘DeLorean Progress Report’. One memorable image from that project, which I experienced at Belfast’s Catalyst Arts in 2012, is a photograph of crabs taking up residence in discarded DeLorean car panels coated in the bejeweled benthic landscape of Galway Bay’s ocean floor. When we think of John DeLorean as someone who built and courted fantasy in the way he dreamt-up the first muscle car (1964 Pontiac GTO) and managed to woo the Bond Girl, Ursula Andress, there was something fantastically apt about discovering the stainless steel, no-rust panels of his DeLorean sports car becoming a living, breeding Atlantis for the crustaceans, forever and ever. In the same way a giant, rhinestone encrusted boy-Narcissus in Las Vegas might live up to the vanity of Liberace.

But whereas Lynch is a careful chronicler, tip-toeing and leafing-through the treasure map of archive and rumour connected with the aftermath of the DeLorean car factory’s bankruptcy, Greenan rides roughshod over history to stage a fictional history that involves a clan of local Neo-Druids coming out in protest against the bulldozing of a Hawthorn tree on the site where the DeLorean car factory was being built in 1978. At TBG+S we are presented with a parallel world where things don’t exactly ring true. The Irish folklore of druids and fairies is double-distilled through a believable protest (in this era of protest) and Greenan’s physical manufacturing of a dreamt-up battle between the forces of pectoral capitalism and the lithe sprites of fireside storytelling. This jumble of history and fiction, fiction and history, manages to discombobulate like a double-agent narrative. Greenan’s fiction is the enemy of history.

Lynch, like Greenan, handmade his own DeLorean. But Lynch faithfully copied the dusky stainless steel body of the fugitive sports car and displayed it piecemeal in the gallery.  Whereas Greenan has fabricated a tatterdemalion timberland at TBG+S, in which an uprooted Hawthorn tree is fused with a full-scale DeLorean made of plywood and chipboard. Helping to herald and illustrate Greenan’s historical fiction is the biohazard oranges, yellows, reds and blacks in her fun ceremonial banner that waits in the wings of the gallery for the flag bearers to enter the Neo-Pagan fray.

It is within the framing of the ceremonial banner that Greenan’s expression comes alive, with fire-breathing graphics describing traffic cones, bulldozers and burning tyre effigies that bellow sculptural smoke to form penciled druids in the night sky. The artist’s materials look and feel nuclear. More’s the pity Greenan’s dangerous materiality does not exactly spill out into the gallery. Everything feels like a speech bubble about to burst, but safely contained. Only when you get up close and lose yourself within the framing of the car, the rag infested Hawthorn and the ceremonial banner do you imagine a flaming confetti enveloping you.

Further, there is a perceived conflict in the gallery between a story being told in the past tense and a story to be enacted in the future tense. It’s a case of the conventions of display vying against the potential of play. What Greenan’s exhibition is calling out for is people, participation and the whispering “Celtic mysticism”1 in the gallery to at least compete with the street noise of  Temple Bar outside. This exhibition is an experience that should be shared. The scheduled performance on the 30 April is a must, in theory. When all is said and done, it’s very exciting to imagine what will come from an artist and art-making process that is not inhibited by the script of history. [James Merrigan]


The phrase “Celtic mysticism” used by the bolshie detective in the Irish film Intermission, 2003:

Jerry: only really human quality to speak of is a fondness for Celtic mysticism.

Ben:       What’s that?

Jerry:     The music, man. Artistes like... Fainne Lasta, Raithneach, Amhann na Ngealach,

               Clannad. You like them artistes? Their music? Of course you do.

               But what I'm saying is, the kind of justice I’m questing... requires a certain      

               attitude that people might find... you know, extreme or unpleasant. 

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Stranger than History.

IMAGE CREDITS: © Aoibheann Greenan and TBG+S, Dublin.

Thank you to Temple Bar Gallery + Studios for images and additional information.


‘DMC – Dunmurry May-Day Conspiracy’

Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Dublin

17 April – 20 June 2015

Courtesy of the artist and TBG+S


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