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From the Hugh Lane Gallery Exhibition Archive 2009 #flashbackfriday returns to: The Golden Bough: Brian Duggan
Irish artist Brian Duggan has long concerned himself with questions and difficulties within labour and leisure, history and tradition, politics and popular entertainment.1 Trained as a sculptor, Duggan works in large-scale installations, smaller stone and wood sculptures, and video. He investigates the physical limitations of the immediate environment on the individual. He often works with the architecture, the space and the message intended by the architect and their ‘audiences’. As part of the Golden Bough programme, our series of exhibitions that centred on James George Frazer's influential masterwork of anthropology 'The Golden Bough' (1890), Duggan responded to the architecture of Gallery 8 and its proximity to the museum’s reception area entitled ‘Step inside now step inside’.
The artist blacked out the gallery and installed a semi-circular ‘Wall of Death’ into the space, titled ‘Half a Half size wall of death’ (2009). Its presence both completed the internal loop of the wall and interrupted the classical architecture. The ‘Wall of Death’ is a carnival sideshow featuring a wooden cylinder in which motorcyclists perform stunts. Performers of grand feats of spectacle, doers of the impossible, who entertain their audiences on motorbikes, performing the wall of death for a gasping crowd.
Entering the gallery visitors could hear the revving of motorbikes and an excited audience building up for the event, by entering the space and following the curvature of the wall, visitors would never reach the death defying event; the artist experimented with sound, sculpture, and light in the gallery, juxtaposing risky adventure with belief and the uncertain expectation of that which is unlikely can be made possible.
Around the gallery a series of neon works were displayed, including ‘Wall of Death Hell Rider’ (2009), which was purchased for the Hugh Lane Gallery Collection and can be viewed here. This work was modelled on Allan Ford, a wall of death rider from England seen here on an Indian scout motorbike, the common bike used for this daredevil stunt. The work at that time was both a continuation of Duggan’s work and a departure. As John Holten wrote, ‘Duggan seemed to be paying homage to those entertainers who are closer to circus artists than to performance artists, who could be inferred as being kindred souls for the artist.’2
The recurring concerns of pressure and stress, the questioning of the role and function of the artist, the unbalanced revision of their current position in the world, are all interlinking questions within this work. An unstable equilibrium often grounds Duggan’s work in the real world. Risk, and his belief that unfamiliar tactics can circumnavigate it, is the model he uses for understanding the social positions we find ourselves in.
Brian Duggan (b.1971) lives and works in Dublin. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Hugh Lane Gallery, the OPW national collection and IMMA. He has undertaken residencies in ISCP New York, IMMA, CCI Paris, Braziers International, Project 304 Bangkok and ChangMai Thailand. Selected solo exhibitions include: Balzer projects, Basel, Switzerland (2018); The LAB Gallery (2017); MART, Los Angeles (2016); Crawford Art Gallery (2015); Balzer Projects Basel (2015); 391 days, Discovery, Art Brussels (2015); POSITIONS Berlin (2014); ISCP New York (2013); Limerick City Gallery, (2012); Visual, Carlow (2012); Three Lives, RUARED, Dublin (2012) and IMMA Process Room (2011). He was the Co-Founder, Curator, Director of Pallas Heights, Studios, Projects in Dublin from 1996 to 2009 with artists Mark Cullen and Gavin Murphy. He has received several awards from the Arts council of Ireland and Culture Ireland. He is represented by Balzer Projects, Basel, Switzerland.
1. http://balzerprojects.com/brian-duggan/ visited 16 June 2020
2. WM, whitehot magazine of contemporary art, December 2009, ‘Brian Duggan, The Golden Bough, Step inside now step inside’ by John Holten