Critics’ Picks

View of “framework/rupture.” On wall: One second of a possible future/Central Bank, 2008. Foreground: Three soundtracks/architectural space, 2008. Background: echo/location, 2008.


Dennis McNulty

Green On Red Gallery
Park Lane, Spencer Dock
February 8–March 8, 2008

In Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Kurt Vonnegut introduced an alien race, the Tralfamadorians, whose members perceive the past, present, and future as a simultaneous chorus; one of them describes seeing all time as humans “might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains.” Dennis McNulty’s exhibition “framework/rupture” suggests a similar topographical analogy, featuring as it does certain works that take Irish architect Sam Stephenson’s hulking design for the Central Bank in Dublin as a starting point for an exploration of urban architecture as a physical manifestation of time.

McNulty effectively uses, and literally amplifies, the familiar sense that time moves more slowly within the white walls of gallery space than it does in the outside world, while undermining this spell by presenting different, albeit coexistent, timelines. The installation Three soundtracks/architectural space (all works 2008) involves two recorded monologues and a sound piece accompanying three black-and-white photographic views of the city taken from Central Bank’s top floor. In one track, the narrator matter-of-factly describes a nonexistent film consisting of photos of the same scene shot at noon each day for thirty years, the work evoking an accordionlike vision of time. Stretched across the wall above this is One second of a possible future/Central Bank. Here, presented in twenty-four photocopies, the model of an alternative proposal for the bank gradually becomes visible and again recedes, like the moon in a lunar cycle. Whether through the abstracted, impending presence of musical pieces, such as the continuous, undulating tone of Soundtrack for the 13th floor of the Central Bank/rewind, or the imposing permanence of sculptural work, McNulty explores the ways in which we mediate and construct our environment and how these affect our perception of temporal movement. He might at times be trying too hard to direct us to his thematic framework, but the works retain a kaleidoscopic playfulness between presence and absence, made and imagined, as different ends of one spectrum, through which McNulty asserts possibility—the conditional—as a concrete experience.