This exhibition of recent work by emerging artists Andrew Carson, Sally-Anne Kelly and Lisa Shaughnessy Unknown Knowns at Draíocht presents an investigation into the nature of knowledge. Enquiry is central to the works shown in this exhibition, via various strategies the three artists probe what it is to know through the art object.
Ranciere's The Aesthetic Unconscious presents an interesting reflection on knowledge, particularly in relation to 'non-thought'; which to an extent is present in these artists' works. Knowledge is presented as sickness, the knowing subject as 'defective'. Particuarly he cites Oedipus and his unique form of knowing/un-knowing, a compulsion to 'want to know at any cost…and, at the same time, not to understand the barely veiled words that offer him the truth he demands.' Ranciere continues to describe the nature of Oedipus' knowledge affliction.
Oedipus is proof of a certain existential savagery of thought, a definition of knowing not as the subjective act of grasping an objective ideality but as the affection, passion or even sickness of a living being. … Oedipus is he who knows and does not know, who is absolutely active and absolutely passive.
Knowing is tested through form and materiality in the case of the work of Lisa Shaughnessy. Her works are ruminations on the boundaries of material, she manipulates familiar materials in unexpected ways, paint is poured and peeled away from it's supports then spread across the floor. Removed from the constraints of it's frame the paint becomes momentarily unrecognisable, unknowable, uncontrollable. It begins to integrate itself into the architecture, moving behind pillars and into cracks near the window.
There are no walls left…there are corners though, conversely, is physically at least, a study in containment. Initally these objects look to be stones, but on closer inspection are revealed to be bags filled with various viscose materials; glue, paint. The work forces the deployment of various strategies of knowing in the viewer, the globules appear so foreign initially that they defy any attempt to equate them with something else.
Andrew Carson's series of works are an uneasy union of the temporal and the concrete, the knowledge and non-knowledge of things. Digital media, video and projection are deployed in conjunction with, and make strange, the sculptural elements of the work. These works seem designed to test the spheres from which we form our knowledge.
In Let a way be opened to my soul a door frame is placed disjointedly in the centre of the space, it's wooden frame and construction laid bare in a configuration that resembles a theatrical set. At first this appears to be an simply an object, and there is
an invitiation to the viewer to consider it in this way - the door stands open as though to invite the viewers' passage through it.
A moment of rupture occurs with the emergence of a mysterious apparation, a human shadow is cast through the doorframe, and onto the floor. This shadow-figure pauses momentarily, then retreats. This is a moment where disbelief is suspended. Present is the knowledge that what is presented is trickery and deceit but like Ranciere's Oedipus the conundrum of knowing and not knowing remains. A return to a material perception of the work is achieved when the shadowy figure departs.
Sally-Anne Kelly's work makes use of the doppelgänger as a way into the self. Photography is employed, a medium signifying documentation and posterity. In The Detatched Other , the subject is caught in an act of playing with it's shadow, a projection of it's other. This series of photographs captures the moments of these peculiar interactions but there is an interruption to this play; the shadow appears pixelated, like a corrupted file. The protagonist in the photograph is left contemplating a faulty version of the self.
The series of photographs The Hunted Self are another representation of auto-dialogical activity. Here, the subject observes a duplicate of itself, in settings that are redolent of film sets in their melodrama. What is important here is the awareness that one of the 'selves' has of the camera and by proxy of an observer. Unlike the figure in The Detatched Other in almost every one of these photographs one of the figures gazes directly into the lens, the act of observation is at least partially turned outward.
What is troubling about this, is that in turn there is an apparent unawareness in this subject of being scrutinised by its' double.
Throughout this exhibition and via various means, these artists arrive at an evaluation of knowledge and it's dubious, shifting relationship with the subject. There is a sickness, and difficulty implied within the various epistimological enquiries presented here. There is a larger proposition that emerges among these collective works - that our ability to know is dysfunctional, but that it also confirms our existence.
Barbara Knezevic is an artist and writer based in Dublin