Digital Gets Physical at Dublin's Temple Bar Gallery

Digital Gets Physical at Dublin's Temple Bar Gallery
"entrance 1, entrance 2," installation view. Juliette Bonneviot, Peles Empire
(Courtesy the artists)

With digital technology almost anybody can be an artist. But where does that leave art? That's what curator Isobel Harbison asked during the inaugural tour of her exhibition "entrance 1, entrance 2" at Temple Bar Gallery, right in the middle of Dublin's picturesque city centre. The web is ubiquitous. Most of us are bombarded daily with an endless stream of digital pictures. How does that impact on the way artists deal with image making? To tackle this issue, Harbison has chosen to consider digital imagery as an entrance, both as an entry point into something else – a brand's logo, a symbol, a signifier for a larger entity – and as an entrancing device that has permeated and transformed the everyday.

The artists in the show have been invited to make a new piece responding to this notion of "entrance" in relation to the digital, and the result is surprisingly physical. Duo Peles Empire (Barbara Wolff and Katharina Stoever) — who have been working with images of a 19th century Romanian castle since 2005 — have covered the gallery's back wall with a monumental black and white print-out of the palace's entrance, made from pixel-like A3 photocopies glued together ("060322," all works 2012). Architectural elements can still be identified here and there, but for most part, the image is distorted to the point of abstraction. On this vast dark expanse, a small day-glo green painting pops out, continuing the morphing process the artists impose on their source material. Pillars on the print become elongated platforms on the floor, adorned with quirky day-glow green ceramics. Echoing the basic principle of digital transformation, visual information has been broken down and put back together in a new version of itself.

Looking out from the gallery's shop window, Juliette Bonneviot's "Pumping Dancer Mannequin" is a fleshed out, sculptural version of a raver's silhouette found on a Russian music website. It seems as if it had just walked out of computer screen to have a dance in the real world. Dressed in an Adidas shell suit, sausage and beer in hand, it stands as a tongue-in-cheek response to the fashion display in the surrounding boutiques of Dublin's trendy Temple Bar. Bonneviot's approach to branding takes on another twist when put in relation to her black and white paintings "Adidas/Rodchenko Construction no.126" and "Puma/Rodchenko Construction no. 128." Turning the brands' logos into constructivist motifs, the two canvases create an uneasy equivalence between supposedly lowbrow fashion trends and highbrow art historical icons. The references' hierarchy is annihilated.

Alan Butler's wooden pallet sculpture "Here They Come" is a 3D rendition of the dog appearing in Dire Straits' 1987 MTV music video for "Money for Nothing." The makeshift assemblage is clad with banners from Occupy Dublin, which took place a stone's throw from the gallery until the protestors were evicted by the police last month. Standing like Cerberus at the gallery's entrance, Butler's dog is a visitor from an entertainment industry past, but here it's the one piece that introduces the political, pointing at the role digital media have played in the recent upheavals, from Tahrir Square to Occupy. Just as Dire Strait's lyrics describe an everyman's fatigue with rock stars, Butler's piece encapsulates the enough-is-enough feeling that swept across the world in the last twelve months. It also captures the simultaneously empowering and debilitating force the Internet can be: an infinitely malleable tool, serving an infinite variety of purposes, from the noblest to the most trivial. 

"entrance 1, entrance 2", Alan Butler, Gabriele Beveridge, Juliette Bonneviot, Mick Peter and Peles Empire (Katharina Stoever and Barbara Wolff), April 13 – June 2, curated by Isobel Harbison, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Dublin, Ireland