ACTUATION + BIRTH DEATH DAY

Belfast, Northern Ireland : 1987

Installation at Octagon Gallery, Belfast, open for one day.

10 February 1987


 

An installation work consisting of carrots, flour, potatoes, balaclavas, gloves, photographs, drawings on paper, linen spools, black boots, dead sheep heads, artificial limbs, and a human skeleton with a sheep’s skull sitting on a broken chair.

‘On a floor area covered with flour, the chair was positioned almost centrally. Food was arranged in rows on the floor. On the walls was the insignia of the Troubles. On the window ledges were bloody heads of sheep brought from a slaughter house. It was a moving, disturbing, installation, revolving round the theme of Ireland and its history – potatoes and linen from the past, terrorism and various ‘carrots’ from the present. The sheep heads with horrific clots of blood brought the smell of death to an otherwise aestheticised gallery.’

Text from ‘Alastair MacLennan: Is No’, ed. Stephen Snoddy, 1988.

A handout that accompanied the exhibition read:

The work is about

Inner and outer conflict

The fusion of opposites

The healing of wounds

The human world we’ve constructed is a direct reflection of how and what we think. If we split our thinking we split our world. Many have lost touch with their feelings and are alienated from “self” and “other”. We short-circuit meaning and chase effects without discerning precipitating cause. We study aesthetics and ignore ethics. Real art fuses both. A primary function of art is to bridge our spiritual and physical worlds. Through crass materialism we’ve reduced art to cultural real estate…

Issues are:

Ethics – Aesthetics – The ‘Outsider’ – Political/Social Institutions – Religious/Political Bigotry – Inclusive Tolerance – ‘Dereliction’ and Public/Private Responsibility – Oppositional or Consensus Means of Political/Social Improvement – Place and Displacement – Death – Decay – New Life and Mutation – Transformation