Silicon Synapse, virtual reality and psychoacoustic experience, 2019.
Do you have a favourite artwork of all time?
I don’t really have a favourite artwork of all time, however many artworks continue to resonate with me. Growing up, I absolutely loved the surrealist work of Dali and during college was obsessed with Beckett’s Not I (1973), in fact, I still am. The journey and sense of scale created in Charles and Ray
Eames’ Power of Ten (1977) is another work that feeds into my practice and most recently Mark O'Connell’s To Be a Machine (Granta, 2017). There is also that episode of Glee, where a character in the show Becky, who has Down syndrome, her inner monologue is audible to us, the viewers as she silently walks through the hallway of the school, her voice in her head is played by Helen Mirren, as the Queen of England. “...In my mind I can sound like whomever I want so lay off haters!” This resonated with me and my inner experience, I still think about it regularly in my work and in my life.
What is your daily routine as an artist?
I live in Fire Station Artists’ Studios, so I live where I work. I get up, make coffee and usually start at about 9am answering emails at my desk. My practice involves working with lots of people, which involves a lot of communication. Right now I am working with a whole team of people; composers, voice-over artists, Virtual Reality developers, writers, producers, etc. I tend to present my work off-site so my day-to-day practice can be quite dynamic and varied. One day I am location scouting with Caroline Cowley in Fingal, the next I am developing work in Milan collaborating with scientists at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, excitedly getting ready for Datami Festival, or I am back in Ireland recording voice-overs in the recording studio with writer Sue Rainsford. It can vary a lot, I love hands-on collaborative work, recently I’ve been finalising the concept imagery with artist Jason Dunne, for the creatures that will inhabit the worlds inside an upcoming VR work.
What would you say is the biggest challenge as an artist?
I am dyslexic, so the sheer amount of administration that is required of artists today is often overwhelming. I often need to hire people to support me in this capacity and it is so important that funding allows artists to do this, so they can devote more time to actually making artworks. The other major challenge that I imagine is common to most artists is the precarious nature of my financial life, going from one project to the next, aiming for funding and not always getting it and trying to figure out how to make ends meet along the way. There’s a lack of diversity of revenue sources for artists in Ireland but over time one gets better at writing applications, which is an artform in itself!
Who has been of great influence to you in your field?
The people I work with in projects are probably my biggest influence as I really respect the different expertise they bring to the table and they are truly the ones who influence and shape the works I make the most; writer Sue Rainsford, artist Jason Dunne, composers Michael Riordan and Ian Dunphy, curator Caroline Cowley, etc. They give me so much drive in making the work.
What is the best piece of advice you would give an emerging artist?
Persist in the tricky terrain of finding your feet, figuring out your own art practice and what works for you. Each art practice is different, and that’s what makes art so interesting. Another much more practical piece of advice would be to learn business skills. Early on, it feels like people treat it as a dirty word — it’s not, it’s simply learning how to manage what you are offering to the world. We have to make sure to pay ourselves as fairly as we can and we have to pay taxes. Both of these require skills. Go to freelance forums, most Local Enterprise Offices give free workshops on lots of skills relevant to self-employed people, including artists. Also, collaborate, if you really don’t have website design, bookkeeping, writing or animating skills in you — work with those who do. Once you start working with people who have the skill sets that you don't then the sky’s the limit.
What has the Making Great Art Work support from the Arts Council meant to your practice?
Funding allows me to focus on being an artist making socially relevant artwork. Specifically, I am using this funding to create Silicon Synapse, which is my first foray into the world of making Virtual Reality installation. It’s really exciting to develop and grow my practice in this way. It also allows me to hire necessary collaborators, such as VR-developers and animators. This kind of support from the Arts Council also allows me to seek further support and funding from partners with a confidence and validation that assures potential partners of my ability and ambition for the work thus allowing the scope of the work to grow. Because of the initial support from the Arts Council Ireland, Silicon Synapse will tour to Milan and Brussels funded by the European Commission. Having funding from the Arts Council of Ireland pushes me to make the artwork as socially and culturally relevant as possible, it is public money to create artwork for people living today. Silicon Synapse will open in November 2019 siliconsynapse.net
Tell us about your project.
Silicon Synapse is a Virtual Reality installation set in the disused and historic Carnegie Library, Swords, Dublin opening in November 2019. It will simulate a journey into the personified, conscious mind of 'Technology', where you will hear an inner dialogue of 'Technology's' mind as it ruminates over both sides of a lovers' quarrel. 'Technology' and its life partner 'Nature' argue about the sustainability of their relationship and their future as a couple. Silicon Synapse is made in collaboration with writer Sue Rainsford, artist Jason Dunne and composer Michael Riordan. The artwork is jointly commissioned by Fingal County Council Arts Office and the European Commission’s SciArt programme and is funded by Arts Council of Ireland Open Call Award. Silicon Synapse coincides with Fingal County Council’s Arts Office Public Art Programme focus on the developing Swords Cultural Quarter project.
What are you doing next? Would you be seeking funding in the future?
I am very fortunate to have received an Artists’ Bursary to research the integration of cutting-edge augmented reality glasses and mobile EEG (electroencephalogram) technology with live performance. The resulting artwork will be presented publicly end of 2021 the production phase of this will require me to seek funding. I am also currently evaluating the scope of my practice for an international context. I was recently successful in receiving Arts Council England funding, as a non-resident applicant, to produce my cave based artwork Entirely hollow aside from the dark in England September 2019. This now positions me to foster collaborations and expand funding avenues for similar projects in other countries.