March 16, 2010

Stefan Heyne

Perhaps we take the seeming continuity of the world and its surfaces for granted. After all, there are certain conventional expectations in how we see, which in practice often means seeing what we expect to and not what we might, if our experience of the world wasn’t so obscured by conventionality. The distinctive photographic work of Stefan Heyne probes the complex tension that occurs between appearance in the flow of human perception and meaning, or what can be understood of the visual reality in which we are immersed. It is the anxiety of living in a world so utterly saturated by images that we can no longer be sure exactly what we are looking at and how this uncertainly in turn bleeds out into the negotiation of lived experience. His work is a challenge to what is often thought of as the rational way we perceive in direct correlation to some external reality. This is what Heyne’s photography takes at its starting point, the moment when the certainties of appearance fail and break apart. We can almost name what he photographs, but not quite. His subject is the familiar, but still mostly unrecognisable – it is perception itself.

March 8, 2010

Marking Time: David Farrell in Conversation (Part 2)

Innocent Landscapes Revisited, Wilkinstown, February 2010

Innocent Landscapes Revisited, Wilkinstown, September 2009

The story never really ended either, although the searches did – for a time at least, because perhaps no amount of searching could ever be enough. “There was a picture from Wicklow that was made on the last day of the search in 2000, of the bog cut away and I said to myself at the time – how much further do you go? Six inches? Six feet? How far do you go and when do you stop? Anyway, that was supposed to be it. There was a couple of small searches in the intervening years, and except for an accidental recovery nothing was found. I had noticed, again in 2000, that nature was reclaiming these places very quickly, making even the evidence of the searches disappear and I thought that in itself was an interesting metaphor about what the killers had intended, using nature to cover their traces, but it was also about healing and the passage of time.” The landscape itself becomes a surface on to which these larger questions can be projected. “Thinking about it on a fundamental level,” he said “I’ve used the landscape like a studio; the way that some people go to the blank wall is how I’ve used the landscape over the last ten years, in this and other projects.”

March 1, 2010

Marking Time: David Farrell in Conversation (Part 1)

Innocent Landscapes, Coolgagh, 1999

Innocent Landscapes, Wilkinstown, 2000

Innocent Landscapes, Balynultagh,1999

David Farrell’s Innocent Landscapes is a monumental work about the search for those who “disappeared” as a result of the political tensions in Northern Ireland, only to be buried anonymously across the border. In 1999, as part of the peace process, the IRA finally admitted the “killing and secret burial” of ten people from a possible list of fifteen missing. At the end of May that year they released a roll call of locations that were said to be the burial places of nine people from the list. Of course, the crucial twist in this inventory was that all the locations were in the South of Ireland. These people had been exiled in death, somehow uniting North and South in relation to the conflict – a dark stain lurking under the “peaceful” landscapes of the South. Searches were carried out in 1999 and 2000, with photographs by Farrell published in a volume entitled Innocent Landscapes in 2001 (a result of winning the European Publishers Award for Photography). It is a work he has found difficult to walk away from. I met with him to discuss this ongoing investigation.