aisling o'beirn
artist documentation site

Photography Rory Moore




temporary provisions 2001

ormeau baths gallery 3
curated by hugh mulholland

Extract from essay by Dr. Suzanna Chan researcher and writer

In Charles Baudelaire's writing, the flaneur is a walker who strolls the arcades and boulevards of nineteenth century Paris. In enjoying the imperial capital's wares displayed as a tantalizing spectacle of commodities and in the pleasure of their consumption, he finds respite from a nagging sense of absence. According to Walter Benjamin, this lack is one of consciousness, the absence of awareness that the source of his city's wealth is derived from its distant colonies. If the flaneur's experience of Paris involved a simultaneous disengagement from the political factors which rendered the imperial metropolis possible, what form of stroller might walk through a city where amnesia about its political context has not been such a ready possibility?
Temporary Provisions demonstrates that Baudelaire's masculine figure of the metropolitan stroller cannot withstand displacement from his original context.

A requirement of literary flanerie is the flaneur's ability to perambulate without curtailment, whilst the author takes in the wider scene from the vantagepoint of a panoptic gaze. But the contrary negotiations in Temporary Provisions are those of a city where the ability to wander its spaces freely has not been a given. This installation makes a supplementary intervention to a dominant architectural structure with transient and make shift building materials. The ceiling grid is temporarily redeployed as a cartographic device, on which the locations of Belfast's security and military installations have been picked out with assorted potted plants. Defunct installations are marked with video cameras, hence the only physical structures signaled by this temporary map are those whose function is one of military surveillance. The hegemonic power of cartography to claim and erase the spaces of others is deployed to emphasize structures of urban surveillance and control.

Marx claimed that ideology requires a process of inversion so that it appears to descend from heaven to earth. He uses the analogy of the camera obscura to describe this upside-down turn, whereby ideologies founded on real material bases are provided with the illusion of independence from them. Like ideologies, as products of the human brain, commodities as products of the human hand give the illusion of autonomy from the processes of their own genesis in labour. Once they appear severed from the social relations of their labour, commodities can engage in specular relations with one another; each mirroring the other's value. A bottom to top inversion is presented in Temporary Provisions, so that we must look up to see reflections of what should be on the ground. But a further analogy can also be traced between the reflections of plants visible by an upward glance and Marx's description of the specular relations objects engage in as commodities.

This text is based on the writings of Sarah Kofman and Enda Duffy.

Mixed media, 30'.40'.10' / 900cm.1200cm.300cm