hɛkəl~s Exhibition of work by Nollaig Molloy + Ruth Kerr
Thursday 19th March – Thursday 2nd April, TACTIC Gallery, Sample-Studios, Cork
hɛkəl~s is an exhibition of work by visual artists Nollaig Molloy and Ruth Kerr. Taking as its starting point the definition of the word Heckle, ‘ to interrupt a public speech or performance with loud unfriendly statements or questions'(Cambridge Online Dictionary) , it proposes to investigate the general perception of the world we live in. Both artists enquire into the nature of the world’s structure and play with our notions of what is truth and what is fiction.
Another vital aspect to to hɛkəl~s is its interdisciplinary nature. Nollaig Molloy is an artist whose work hinges on the processes of craft, particularly in this exhibition with the process of wood turning. Scientific and virtual reality technology enable the artist Ruth Kerr to create her detailed cancer cell landscapes and allow us, through the lens of the oculus rift, to navigate her microscopic universes. Both the artists make works that neither function as craft objects or as scientific discovery. They work with the field of the discipline, not in it or for it. This non functionality of their artworks is important, it gives way for creativity and world-making, which facilitating playfulness that allows for investigation.
Nollaig Molloy has recently involved herself in collective and interdisciplinary projects, working with a wood turner in order to develop her skills. She is an artist who works at acquiring the knowledge in order to make what she envisages. Fascinated by the structure of the world’s materials. Molloy wishes to question the assumptions we make of specific materials and objects, how we presume certain materials are used to make certain things. Why traditionally are chair legs made of wood and not wax or ice? Why are things the ways things are? Perhaps they are not the way they are. These are the suggested heckles that Molloy’s work quietly make. While her major work in this exhibition, the wood turned pole made up in sections that rises from floor to ceiling, asks these questions of us, it lays its process bare in hints through her other artworks. One such piece shows the pole lathe Molloy used to fabricate the pole, drawn onto the contours of a map of Co. Wexford, where a woodwright helped her to make the pedal run pole lathe.
Ruth Kerr has worked with scientists for a number of years, using atomic force microscope scans of dying cancer cells she has come to develop an intricate practice that resembles the work of a games developer. Creating textured, coloured and shaded cellular landscapes that look like Mars, the Moon or a desert, Kerr opens up our minds to a micro world, which is difficult to comprehend. Through the oculus rift the viewer can explore a series of pathways directing us around the dying cell. Another element of Kerr’s practice are the interviews she conducts with various astrophysicists and biologists. She documents the evolution of their ideas and thoughts regarding capitalism and the science industry. The interviews widen the scope of the viewers within this visual art context, making them aware of Kerr’s wider interdisciplinary concerns and alluding to her interest in nomadic science.
Both the art of Nollaig Molloy and Ruth Kerr concerns itself with what people take as truth and what they take as fiction from the world we live in. Trying to falter our perceptions of the material world, the artists mount questions upon us. Molloy questions the traditional foundations of materials. Once we put on the oculus rift, Kerr transports us, making us imperceptibly miniscule, smaller than dust motes on the surface of a cell. However, Kerr’s cell terrains look fictitious, like desolate sci-fi planets and Molloys turned pole couldn’t hold up a a ceiling like it seems to do. Both artists seem to adhere adamantly to reality, the world as it is perceived. Both investigate materials, biological and non- biological materials. Their artwork follow the precise methods of craft and science. In adhering to what is real, they produce fictitious narratives, suggesting another hidden reality. This play between reality and the imagined reminds me of the the writings by the Modern American poet Wallace Stevens. He suggest that without reality the imaginary cannot exist in a believable way, ‘the imagination looses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real’ (1951, p.6). Molloy and Kerr observe this idea, they only create their fictions out of what is real. Stevens said of the poet, and it can be said of the artist, ‘he gives to life the supreme fictions without which we are unable to conceive it’ (1951, p.31). In other words, without fiction we cannot see reality.
Returning to the starting point, to the definition of ‘heckle’, the artists’ aim is to interrupt and question the established perceptions of our reality. Both artists challenge our sense of space and our view point. Molloy’s intimate drawings of the crannóg from Co. Wexford show the viewer the different details of the structure. One is so close to its texture one can smell the warm wood. In seeing Kerr’s microscopic cells our sense of being is obfuscated. Seeing a part of ourselves that is so small one finds it difficult to comprehend. In this way the artworks in hɛkəl~s, swayed in darkness and lighted in pools, subtly interrupt our daily lives, leaving us with a fresh perspective.
Stevens, Wallace, (1951), The Necessary Angel Essays on Reality and the Imagination, Vintage Books
hɛkəl~s is curated + this text is written by Róisín Power Hackett