In August I wrote a blog post about the impending demolition of the Fine Art Department of Ulster University. With the mammoth rebuild due to take place in 2015, some MFA students have been making the most of the condemned Orpheus building by using its makeup for physical and ephemeral play.
A finite setting can be a blessing for an artist, allowing an extended freedom to physically work within a building, and, perhaps with some irony, prolong the life of an otherwise more temporary intervention. The work within can also gain in being complicit to the upcoming process, playing with both the space and remaining time.
John Macormac has traced scratches and marks within the studio walls, making repetitive pattern-based wall drawings, contrasted to live musical interventions within the space. In making temporary and layered actions the work plays with the abstraction of the noise and visuals: both actions draw from the space, the interactions between the performers, and past actions of deliberate and incidental mark making. Each involves complementing and emulating the environment, as well as working with the happenstance and intent behind it.
The physicality of the building was also used by Damian Magee in his work, titled Bridge, and was placed alongside a more traditional use of media describing space. Against a large graphite drawing of the bridge that connects the old Orpheus building to a newer university build – isolated on the sheet, which was placed on the ground and anchored with bricks and chairs – the pipes overhead form a physical foil. Each has been carefully painted in a bright colour, recalling a city transport system. These actions show crafted, human intervention to small and complex built systems, using irreverence and subtle humour.
Elizabeth Caffrey has perhaps the most physical intervention of all, with work created of its room’s components. Having chipped at the wall in an alter-like or passageway formation, modest piles of paint flakes and plaster sit in the space. Translucent plastic sheets hang from the ceiling and divide the space, acting as screens expanding upon their connotations of shielding.
The gouged walls in the adjacent room are a remainder of Caffrey’s work in progress, adding to the layered walls and actions. This type of deconstructing installation is perhaps so attractive for its immaterial nature, bringing nothing new into the space but simply reordering what is already present, where quiet actions mirror and anticipate upcoming destruction.