"What makes the human human is not inside the body or brain, or even inside the collective social body, but in our interdependency with artefacts. The human is suspended in a complex and continuous back and forth between itself and artefacts, a flickering that ultimately dissolves the distinction between them. Designed artefacts have as much agency as the animal that seemingly produced them."
—Are we Human? Notes on an archaeology of Design, Beatriz Colomina & Mark Wigley
Grasping an object and doing with it what we can is the most inherent human quality. How we categorise and sort these objects around us is a useful way of understanding, analysing and viewing the world.
Yet all categories are unstable.
In a time where the categories of ‘human’ and ‘object’ are blurring visibly due to technological advances, McKeagney is pointing to a blurring that has always existed. Our category of human is malleable; driven, directed and redefined by the artefacts, objects, minerals and materials we have ever had at hand.
Unstable Categories is an exhibition of new work, and first solo-show by recent graduate (IADT, 2017) Emma McKeagney. McKeagney’s practice involves working closely with material processes to create bodies of work which incorporate the idea that a process is made up of not only the artist but the material they use and the impending idea of exhibiting. Reading and discussing various topics related to New Materialism, her interest starts with collapsing any hierarchy which puts humans ahead of all other materiality.
Interested especially in heightening the process behind certain art materials whose source is often overlooked, the works in the series Continues were developed from solid rocks. Pebbles were collected in Killiney bay, sorted by colour and ground down to what is the basis of pigments usually used in painting. The pigment is suspended between panes of glass and will never be fixed or controlled. The forms resemble continents and land masses, bordered by the difference in mineral. Their impermanence and ephemeral formations reflect an environmental unease felt by the artist. The great mineral assemblage of the universe will forever churn, sorting and unsorting itself into various configurations and compositions. Our place in that process is minute.
The Plastic Human, was developed from one singular rock. Upon discovery (also in Killiney Bay), it seemed to be designed or moulded especially for the human hand. A perfect ergonomic phenomenon designed and crafted by hundreds of years of abrasion, now manufactured and commodified by the artist into glazed, ceramic copies, so that YOU TOO, can also have your very own perfect ergonomic rock.
McKeagney has developed her research in the last year on residency in Talbot Studios after winning their Most Promising Graduate Award 2017. In 2018, she has fabricated the works supported by a Sculpture Award in Firestation Artist’s Studios.
Many thanks to David Chew and Francesco Arboit at the Department of Geology in Trinity College Dublin for providing help with the geological context of the rocks and use of their sample preparation facilities. Also, thanks to everyone at Talbot Studios for their support, and the amazing staff, technicians and community of artist’s at Firestation Artist’s Studios.
For more information about the artist, research and the process behind the works visit:www.emmamckeagney.comwww.emmamckeagney.wordpress.com
Artist-Initiated Projects at Pallas Projects/Studios is an open-submission, annual gallery programme of 12 x 2-week exhibitions taking place between April and November 2018, in the context of a gallery space with a dedicated tradition towards the professional development of artists in a peer-led, supportive environment. This unique programme of funded, artist-initiated projects selected via open call is highly accessible to artists, with a focus on early career, emerging artists and recent graduates. Projects are supplemented with artists' talks, texts, workshops or performances, and gallery visits by colleges and local schools.
Artist-Initiated Projects aims to act as an incubator for early careers, and support artists' practices at crucial stages, providing a platform for artists to produce and exhibit challenging work across all art forms. The model of short-run exhibitions with a relatively short turnaround time of 3–6 months is an alternative to the normal institutional model, where the process of studio visit to exhibition can take several years. Shorter lead-in times allow the programme to be quick and responsive, reflect what artists are currently making, and encourage experimentation and risk-taking.
Pallas Projects/Studios Artist-Initiated Projects is supported by The Arts Council