The Look of an Illegal Painting // 2003
MA Virtual Realities // NCAD // Dublin
The Look of an Illegal Painting
Did you hear the one about Ireland’s Legal View? Fairly Graphic Stuff
Oh Lord Protect Us from these Images
First off this work may on the surface seem to be a boring, bad and stale reworking of early video art from the 70`s. Well rest assured it is not, even if it does look like it. The work is very specifically designed to explore some peculiarities regarding Irish law and the exhibition of video art.
This work came about as a result of the debacle surrounding the Paul McCarthy exhibition at the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny last year. The exhibition was a mini retrospective of the artist’s work, (and mighty fine it was too).
During the course of the exhibition, one uptight upright citizen of the town was so offended by the content of McCarthy`s work, that they saw fit to notify the Gardai, about what they considered to be pornographic filth, that was unacceptable for public consumption,
The fact that they weren’t forced to look at the work, but actively choose to attend the exhibition didn’t seem to perplex them.
Anyway off to the Gardai they went with talk of porn and personal validations that that was not art.
The Guards arrived to view the offending video images.
Much hullabaloo followed. Solicitors were contacted and it was decided that the best thing to do would be to shut the Gallery temporarily to find a solution to the situation.
Over the course of these discussions about the application of the law, it was discovered that the public display of any pre-recorded video in Ireland requires the approval of the Irish censor. This law is applicable regardless of the content of the work, it still requires approval.
This leads to the absurd situation where a painting can be exhibited in public, but a video recording of the same painting cannot be shown.
So this is what I have done. I have made a painting of a television, which is all fine and dandy. The problem arises when I cut out a hole in the painting and place a little LCD screen within the painting. The image on the screen is only depicting itself within itself, ad infinitum.
So, here we have a painting that is legal but also illegal because it depicts itself in a pre-recorded manner.
This led me to think about security cameras and monitors that we see in shops. You know when you are shopping, you can observe yourself buying bread and milk. The image proclaims that you are been watched and recorded, so behave yourself or get a disguise.
Are these images legal? I understand that the security cameras consist of 2 simultaneous feeds
(1) a direct live feed to the monitor
(2) a direct feed to the video recorder
I’m not sure about the legal aspect of such situations but I feel it’s very tenuous to say that there is much difference in the content between what we see on the monitor and the images recorded on the video. If anything the images on the monitor are more explicit as they are displaying 25 frames a second as opposed to the recorded video image which is staggered and records 1 fame every 10 seconds.
This situation may deteriorate further when one visits the Garda shop on O`Connell St, where there is a wall of CCTV images from around the city. Are all those video feeds live from the camera or are the coming from a video recorder? If they`re not coming from the recorder then there has to be twice the amount of cable used.
What is the situation regard television stations output. What is the legal situation regarding the images we see from the war in Bagdad, images of POWs on both sides of the conflict were displayed which are in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention? Are these images fit for public consumption, could a censor give clearance for images which are considered illegal on a global scale?
What of little Ali the photogenic boy who’s appearance on our screens and newspapers bought him the price of new limbs.
On another level what’s the difference between a boring art video running off a DVD and some snuff movie or innocent flash animation streamed over the web
Why am i doing this work? The law is currently applied in an ambiguous manner; nobody wants to do anything until they are required to do so, as in the case of a direct complaint. All parties involved are happy with the current ambiguous situation. It`s a more tolerant common-sense approach than the black and white approach required by the law.
So, again, why am I doing this? Do I want the law to implement its restrictions of civil liberties? Why don’t I keep my head down and know a convenient good thing when I see one? Why spoil the party for everyone?
Some sort of answers.
This work is to be viewed as part of a diptych with the other work.
It was devised as a foil for the other piece in the game.
If the law has a problem with the other work (which it shouldn`t) they will also have to deal with awkward consequences of this piece, which is most definitely in breach of the law.
The difference between this video piece and the other is complex.
With the substance piece I am claiming that by altering the context of the substances consumption I am thereby transforming the essence of the substance into something else, an act of communication. I no longer see it as being defined in the legal manner as narcotics but as art. I do not know what laws are in existence regarding the public display of interactive sound sculptures.
However, I do know of a law which exists regarding the public display of pre-recorded film and video. The video piece was made to be in breach of that law; it highlights the black and white inadequacy of the law for defying what is and is not good for our grey souls. It would be silly to say that this work is offensive, but the law is the law and it has decreed that it and it alone should be the judge of that, bring on the handcuffs lad`s.
This in a country that has behaved disgracefully to its own indigenous creative energies. These laws date back to the heady days of church and state censorship. The muffled silencer of the mighty moral right. Self-imposed exile was the only possibilities for some of our greatest talents, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, John Banville, Terry Wogan. We (dis)graced Joyce’s face on our new found (old (£) money) fortunes. We milk them for all their heritages worth. Yet we have the same laws of censorship in place when Joyce was an exiled writer of filth and a part time film importer of European art cinema. The IFC and all other film clubs are to the legal shame of the state, currently operating outside the confines of the law in their bid to show alternative challenging cinema to the nations. The fact that they are clubs does not exclude them from the ……..act. This is a legal disgrace that the government has chosen not to deal with. Don`t they believe in their leaky system.
So these things remain in place and we side step them rather than deal with them. Our world was created with the useful aid of approximates. Nothings perfect, we`ll make do.
Where would we be without the law? Who do you turn to when your murdered. What does the law do, punish like a mean mediocre god. (you had a hand in making me, you knew my fate and turned your back on me, you let me dig that hole that you made for me (you make everything possible, the past was once the present, which rides the wave of all possibilities that will come to be our future histories.)
The law is societies lazy carpet sweeper, who hides its dirt under cheap expensive child slave-laboured rugs. The way I see it the law says don`t get caught doing what your supposed not to do.
So I`m doing this work………..for what?
I suppose I`m being awkward and I`m playing a game. I`m trying to talk about lots of thing, some of them I not even aware of yet.
It`s no great shakes, just a playful bit of sand in the lubrication of the black and white machine.