Dublin

Declan Clarke, We’ll Be This Way Until the End of the World, 2008, color film in 16 mm transferred to video, 4 minutes 5 seconds. Installation view.

Declan Clarke, We’ll Be This Way Until the End of the World, 2008, color film in 16 mm transferred to video, 4 minutes 5 seconds. Installation view.

Declan Clarke

mother's tankstation | Dublin

Declan Clarke, We’ll Be This Way Until the End of the World, 2008, color film in 16 mm transferred to video, 4 minutes 5 seconds. Installation view.

We’ll Be This Way Until the End of the World, 2008, the eponymous work of Declan Clarke’s recent show, is a 16-mm film (transferred to DVD) that features details of a monument dedicated to Daniel O’Connell, an Irish political leader and celebrated orator active in the first half of the nineteenth century. Unveiled to the public in 1882, and located on the Dublin street now named after O’Connell, the sculpture incorporates four winged female figures representing the virtues of courage, fidelity, patriotism, and eloquence. Projected onto a large freestanding screen, Clarke’s film consists entirely of elegantly composed details of the faces and upper bodies of two winged figures, each marked by a bullet hole. There is no indication of the surroundings, and the only movement is provided by a bird passing across the gray sky above. These bullet holes date from the Easter Rising of 1916, an insurrection against British rule initiated by the proclamation of an Irish Republic. One hole is jagged, but the other is so smooth and round that it might have been added on purpose. In an extreme close-up, it even resembles a navel. Multiple time frames seem to collide in this work; it documents a monument to a nationalist leader that also preserves the traces of a later battle, deliberately timed to coincide with a religious holiday celebrating resurrection.

The idea of a monument was also addressed in three earlier video works in the show, modestly displayed on small monitors stacked into a simple pyramid formation. In Declan’s Pillar, 2000, Clarke seems at first to be standing nonchalantly in front of a suburban house, as if waiting for a bus. A wide shot, however, reveals that he is actually standing on the pillar of a gatepost, at least four or five feet above the sidewalk. Willingly Done, 2002, opens with a shot of a nineteenth-century obelisk in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, built to celebrate the victories of the Duke of Wellington, including his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo; the structure then seems to disappear inside an upside-down Wellington boot carefully lowered, close to the camera. Finally, in Washing’s Done, 2003, the setting changes from Ireland to the United States: Clarke stands between the camera and the Washington Monument, stepping onto a soapbox so that he is tall enough to obscure it from view. Considered together, these works offer a counterpoint to the formalism of We’ll Be This Way Until the End of the World, playfully displacing historical narratives with the gestures and journeys of an artist.

But a different perspective is developed in I Went Toward Them, I Went Directly Toward the Lights, 2010, the most recently completed work in the exhibition. Shot in Bucharest, it depicts a variety of abandoned monuments, among them a sculpture of Lenin facedown in the snow. The use of both video and film makes the footage difficult to date and the locations difficult to identify, so that the smallest details acquire significance: the words ISUS VINE (Jesus Is Coming) spray-painted onto a plinth, for instance, or a street sign marking the date at which Romania began the long process of entry into the European Union. These fragments are never resolved into a coherent whole. Instead, this work ultimately communicates only the sense of uncertainty and emptiness produced by the dissolution of any historical narrative, however contested.

Maeve Connolly