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The Art of Administration. Duality and conflict in the art objects of Gary Farrelly

The Aesthetic of Administration
Duality and conflict in the art objects of Gary Farrelly

by Pádraic E. Moore

One of the most seductive qualities which first drew me to Gary Farrelly’s work is it’s contradictory nature.Though the work is distinctively autobiographical and personal,it is simultaneously universal and open to interpretation.His compulsive production constitutes an attempt to surround himself with the manifestations of his obsessions and to give physical form to the fixations which prevail over the confusion and uncertainty of existence in an overcrowded over stimulated society.

Though certainly a contemporary artist addressing current issues,Farrelly’s work is loaded with an abundance of historical references to political,cultural and technologocal events and occurences. The art objects he produces do not simply represent an attempt to reify the personal predelictions and predicaments which characterise his world.They also represent a method of documenting and interrogating the times in which we live.

Though evidently the work displays a playful wit and a sharp humour,there is always an the underlying tone of vaguely neurotic obsession.In terms of the content of his art,and the methods with which it is installed there is a tendency toward rigorous systems of documentation ,categorisation and recording of information.The order of the work and the chaos is depicts suggests an Orwellian or Foucauldian world in which Ideological and state control dominates .

The other contradiction typical in Farrelly’s work is purely formal and pertains to the manner in which the refined and ornamental qualities of his works are offset by a raw, exquisite and energetic immediacy.They appear like fragments of alluring flotsam-adorned with subject matter that depending on ones level of inquisitiveness can function in either formal or conceptual terms or both .

The assimilation of an honest index of personal fixations into visually appealing works of art constitutes the masturbatory idealisation of a utopian world. In this world all that the artist perceives as quotidien and mediocre have been eliminated or segregated into avoidable colour coded compartments.
While Farrelly utilises discarded and salvaged debris, this is balanced by the delicately exquisite compositions which operate autonomously as striking nonfigurative images rendered in domestic and office stationary.The consistent use of breadboards,cardboards and other daily debris discloses a desire to utilise ‘a la Schwitters’ the discarded refuse of this age of excess and over abundance. The use of these materials also suggests a sense of urgency to cultivate a distinctive aesthetic upon the surface of found materials. Though the detailed information so generously given often initially seems irrelevant or unimportant,a closer view reveals that the information is excessively accurate and disturbingly precise.

While the smaller, more ephemeral gems betray an interest in producing objects purely for the purpose of visual titillation many of the more intricate pieces represent an almost Neo-Futurist/Productivist fixation with transport technology and fantasised flight routes.
This work a celebrates the symbols, codes and visual systems that dominate our zeitgeist. It is worth noting that Farrelly’s fixation with “aero aesthetics” could be considered the contemporary analogue to that of the “Aero Pittura”painters of the 1910’s and 1920’s who are often considered to be an integral element of the second generation Italian Futurist Movement. Similarly, his ability to infuse the everyday with a seductively playful essence connects him with his 20th century predecessors the `neo Dadaist” as well as artists such as Mimmo Rotella.

The Progression toward the Gesamtkunstwerk.

Though a tendency toward what Benjamin Buchloch once referred to as “the aesthetics of administration”has always been a feature of Farrelly’s work,this aspect has become extremely prominent in recent years as his practice has made the logical progression into the construction of environments and installations.In one of the more recent show which we collaborated on “Obsessive Territories”(Dublin,November 2006) there was an emphasis placed upon transcending the art object and creating a relational space in which the viewer was enclosed.Both Farrelly and I share the belief that in this overly stimulated society the technique of expanding the art object into the exhibition space may be the ony way one can demand the attention of the perpetually distracted viewer.

The recurring allusions to office and order emerges from a fascination with the aesthetics of administration, bureaucracy and officialdom and provides the perfect environment in which to view Farrelly’s work.The use of basic but suggestive objects such as office desks,filing cabinets,potted plants etc.serve to create an environment which extends and contributes to the reading of the artwork featured.While emphasising the obvious issues of surveillance,control and order these office installations address the notion of the archive.In practical terms these functional environments are extremely useful-providing both the artist and curator with the necessary facilities with which to display and indeed sell artwork.
Obviously,the “office installation” also compliments the accumulations of art and gathered ephemera which Farrelly refers to as his “dossiers”.
Though these new works are ostensibly quite similar to his previous works I believe that the dossier constitutes a significant departure for Farrelly in that they are ultimately sculptural objects. This novel format of exhibiting vast quantities of work of varying genres encourages the viewer to interact with the artworks and also enables that viewer to literally read the individual components in any order they decide.The occasional inclusion of found information;maps,phtographs,political chatrs etc.also lends to thsee dossiers a distinctly historical flavour.

As a curator who is extremely interested in the power of display Farrelly’s work proves massively appealing.The jpegs attached display images of Gary’s contribution to a group exhibition which occurred in February of 2007.As the images show,the work of each artist in the show (entitled Don’t Cry-Work!) was hung on a different colour to ensure that it was displayed in a complimentary manner that also enabled the viewer to identify whose work they were viewing.