Ailve McCormack talks to artist Andrew Carson
In the lead up to the opening of Amharc Fhine Gall VIII - Unknown Knowns, curator Ailve McCormack talks to artist Andrew Carson about the work he is exhibiting.
Next week Ailve will be talking to Sally-Anne Kelly and Lisa Shaughnessy.
Q: Can you tell me about the work you are exhibiting in this exhibition?
The work in this show stems from my research into the ways in which we engage with each other and our surroundings through digital environments and text-based communications, and the effects these have on social paradigms and our perceptions of reality. There will be two new works in this show, one small video piece, and a larger installation. It’s a bit of a new departure for me aesthetics wise, and one of the first times I won’t be working with text itself.
Q: Your most recent work is inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead – what drew you to this book?
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved Ancient Egypt, and have been dipping in and out of reading the Book for years, but never really found a way I could in anyway link it to my art practice. About this time last year however, I just happened upon one chapter from it, “The Chapter of not dying a second time in Khert-Neter” and the spark was born. It’s been a lot of fun to make this work, as it finally combines two of my biggest passions in a way that is, for me, quite natural.
Q: Your current series of work is inspired by a chapter from this book that is concerned with the survival of the soul through the afterlife, how do you interpret this through your work?
The book itself was intended as a guide for surviving the passage through the underworld, and this particular chapter was designed to give the deceased the tools to ensure their soul lives on, through the dispersement of elements of the self amongst the cosmos. I began to see links between this concept, and our contemporary uses of social media sites, particularly Facebook’s decision in October 2009 to allow for the retrieval and download of a user’s entire account. For me, that opened up a world of unseen links between Egyptian afterlife beliefs, and the parts of ourselves we present online in public forums.
Q: You use a quote from the book within this series of work; "I have hidden myself amongst you, oh imperishable stars", which relates to “exploring online realities and virtual immortality”, can you explain this in more detail?
That quote comes from the afore-mentioned chapter that was the catalyst for the work. I really liked the poetic phrasing of one particular translation, and thought it best summed up my research and outputs from the series. I was looking at Facebooks memorialisation policy at the time, and found it really interesting that even after a user has passed on, the data and memories they uploaded to the site, lived on as a sort of shadow-self. This, coupled with other media sites generally used, such as Twitter, Google+ etc, allowed for a semblance of immortality, one that was not dependent on the continued existence of the physical self. The Egyptian concept of death did not only consist of the physical act of one’s body dying, but death in the Egyptian sense was also a separation from one’s social context, so for example, a person ostracised from the community, or left bereft of loved ones, was for all intents and purposes considered dead themselves. In contemporary terms, these perpetual online effigies circumvent death-by-social-exclusion.
Q: You have said that your work is inspired by a combination of “Eastern spiritual and philosophical thought, Structural and post-structural linguistic theories, folk and pop music, and 1960's psychedelic culture.” How do each of these influences manifest themselves in your work and can you expand a little on one or two?
I like tying different strands of inquiry together in my work, most of which stem from my own personal interests. Spiritualism holds a big attraction for me, especially Eastern forms, where the emphasis seems to be more based around personal enlightenment and betterment. The likes of Buddhism and Hinduism for example are appealing not only for their thoughts, but also for their rich visual history. There’s a sense of community, or greater belonging in a lot of religious identities, and that’s something that really attracts me to them. Similarly, I find music an almost infinite source of inspiration, in its use of language and poetry, alongside melody to create a lovely dynamic between being both intensely personal and emotive, and somewhat universal. In terms of manifesting these in my work, I often use particular songs, or lyric snippets to spark off a certain collective consciousness in the work, or to make immediately relatable to the viewer, whilst also utilising it to create an insight or frame of reference for the work and ideas I want to put forward.
You can see more of Andrews work on his website
Further Detail about Amharc Fhine Gall VIII can be found here