What Happens When Nothing Happens? With Maria McKinney

Orlaith Treacy curates a project in non-places with Martin Healy; Maria McKinney; Dáinne Nic Aoídh and Bridget O’Gorman.


What Happens When Nothing Happens? is a project devised by MA scholar Orlaith Treacy. Orlaith is studying Curating Contemporary Art with Limerick School of Art and Design as a Limerick National City of Culture 2014 Scholar. This project is an exploration of the non-place as a presentation site for contemporary art.

“If a place can be defined as relational, historical, and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place.”1

Non-places and liminal spaces, these can be defined as transitional spaces, the in-between; they are waiting rooms, train stations, airports and motorways. With our ability to make decisions removed in these spaces, we are held in a limbo- like present falling into line. This allows for contemplation within a new, if only temporary, identity.

“This specially segregated space is a kind of non-space, ultra-space, or ideal space where the surrounding matrix of space-time is symbolically annulled.”2 This is taken from Thomas McEvilley’s introduction of Brian O’ Doherty’s text ‘Inside the White Cube’ in which he writes about the white cube gallery as a space “untouched by time and its vicissitudes.”3 The white cube for a significant period of art’s history has been the ideal space to exhibit art, Orlaith argues if the ‘ideal space’ for the presentation of art is one in which time is insignificant and the non-place only contains the present4 and holds a public which is contemplative with a temporary identity then is this not more so the ideal space in which to present art?


deAppendix waiting room, Maria McKinney, Elements of the Supermodern & Waiting Topography

Maria McKinney is a Dublin based artist who works in a range of media. Orlaith invited Maria to install selected works within the waiting room of deAppendix as an intervention within the space. Maria had undertaken a residency with Waterford Healing Arts Trust where she began exploring the notion of the non-place and supermodernity creating the work Waiting Topography. This is a work created from the fingerprints of patients that were waiting in the Waterford hospital; she drew lines emanating out from these fingerprints mirroring topographies of mountains. A number of points in this work relate to time and waiting; the work was created with patience drawing lines repetitively reminiscent of something you would do when you’re trying to pass the time. Another is the reference to mountains; these have existed for hundreds of thousands of years slowly building and changing over time creating magnificent landscapes. It is also reminiscent of the rings of trees which mark each year the tree has existed. The work is a reminder that time moves slowly and without realising it small but significant changes are made.

IMG_6225eMaria McKinney, Waiting Topography, Pencil drawing on paper, 2011

From Maria’s research into supermodernity this then led her to develop Elements of the Supermodern. This is a shopping basket in which Maria then drew fish gut of a bright pink from each bar creating a complex pattern within the seemingly simplistic everyday object. “By using the prefixed co-ordinates of the baskets grid, I physically draw within its perimeters in an attempt to conjure or unveil an underlying significance within its structure.”5

IMG_6236eMaria McKinney, Detail of Elements of the Supermodern, shopping basket and fish gut, 2012

The work refers to the tedious domestic task of doing the grocery shopping and even more so within this context- the middle of an upper class suburban area. The shopping basket is a purposefully chosen object as the supermarket is a non-place, a place without identity, without history where one just passes through. It refers to the everyday and the repetitive tasks that make up the fabric of our lives. It is interesting to take such an object and place it within another non-place; it jars to have an everyday object in the ‘wrong’ everyday space, it becomes alien-like.

IMG_5939eMaria McKinney, Elements of the Supermodern, shopping basket and fish gut, 2012

Commonalities between the two works are the intricate details, the layers of lines in the shopping basket and the drawn lines in the framed work. Each work would have taken patience and time and an almost obsessive way of working. They are perfectly formed. They each take the ordinary and make it extra –ordinary. The shopping basket and the fingerprints, it is what our everyday lives are made up of, things we take for granted yet have their own intricate beauty that Maria has teased out layer by layer. McKinney shows us that there are the most detailed worlds within the simplest items.

IMG_6218eMaria McKinney, Detail of Waiting Topography, Pencil drawing on paper, 2011

It was a very particular choice by Orlaith to present the art work as a non-exhibition/ non-spectacle with no opening so as to quietly bring art into the everyday and to have an unexpected encounter with the public. This is to remove any preconceived notions that the viewer might gain from an opening and/or a press release on the work leaving it open to the viewers own perspective on the work. For this same reason there was no label or explanatory text with the work. As this space would already be known as an art space which shows contemporary art there are a certain amount of preconceived notions that are already embedded which makes it particularly different to some of the other spaces Orlaith is working with on this project.

This project has three strands one in King’s Island Medical Centre in Limerick, another in the Massage Therapy Centre in Callan, Co. Kilkenny, and the third is in deAppendix. Each space has its own characteristics that create quite different experiences; deAppendix is not only a GP Practice but an art space with artists regularly on residency and art works often on exhibition in the front room and waiting room which has meant the visitors are often more educated in art. In the waiting room there are art books for the visitors to peruse and a permanent artwork of a stained glass window by Marie Soffe. It is open to creativity with a colourful children’s play area with a large chalkboard and different coloured chalk. It is a comfortable space creating an ideal atmosphere to take in the art works that fill it.

King’s Island Medical Centre is based just outside the centre of Limerick City; it is a busy centre that offers a number of services from a GP Practice to Physiotherapy and Speech and Language which is provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE). In King’s Island Medical Centre Orlaith installed the video work Last Man by Martin Healy for one month and following this Dáinne Nic Aoidh created the site specific work The Space Between for the centre’s waiting room. Healy filmed the high quality video work in a disused airport terminal in Cork; it follows a caretaker doing his everyday jobs, taking care of the terminal’s upkeep. There is a sense of disquiet and tension but nothing happens. The airport would have been considered a non-place, a transitional space, before it became disused; because of this and the contemplative banality of the work it was interesting to see how this piece worked within another non-place in reflecting the feelings people experience within waiting rooms.

IMG_5547eMartin Healy, Last Man, HD video, 8.23 minutes, 2011, King’s Island Medical Centre

Dáinne Nic Aoidh’s interest is in the point between the human consciousness and unconscious and a person’s internal reflection, a state of mind which can occur in such a space as a waiting room. Dáinne created two works collectively titled The Space Between; one was in the large skylight of the waiting room and was made up of cascading gold discs hung from copper wire and fish gut, the other was two framed pieces behind perspex which were hung above two waiting room seats. These have a duality of the void and non-void, in the image to the left a young boy peers from a dark wood into a bright white oval while to the right is an oval of a metallic chemical reaction with green organic-like growths on its surface.

IMG_6138eDáinne Nic Aoidh, The Space Between, Perspex, paint, treated metal; gold discs, copper wire, fish gut, 2015, King’s Island Medical Centre

The Massage Therapy Centre is in the town of Callan in Co. Kilkenny offering rhythmical massage therapy and a GP service one day a week. The waiting room in the Centre is a small, quiet and calm space that looks out onto the street. In the Massage Therapy Centre, Orlaith installed the work of Bridget O’Gorman a Dublin-based artist who spent a year or more in Callan creating work. Treacy selected After Overkill, a work Bridget made during a year-long residency in 2010 with Endangered Studios in Callan. The work is of a pudding which has been left uneaten from the feast; it references the history of the famine in Callan making it site-specific to the area. It is a beautiful rich work with a sense of ambiguity as the pudding lies there barely touched, the reds and the title bring forward a feeling of foreboding and uncertainty, feelings for some which are already present in such a space as a waiting room.

IMG_6267eBridget O’Gorman, After Overkill, Lambda Print mounted in Liquid Acrylic, 60 x 90 cm, 2013, Massage Therapy Centre

A question often posed is whether this project is an attempt to measure the health benefits of viewing art; although the beneficial aspects of art in relation to health is a part of this project due to its location within medical settings, it is not the main focus of the project to improve the health of the viewers or to measure the health benefits of the artwork upon the viewers.

The main focus of this project is whether people are receptive to art in transitional spaces where they may have an excess of time. This was measured through questionnaires and observation by Orlaith. Initial findings are that there are a broad diverse range of people going through these spaces each with different opinions on what art they like and don’t like but almost all enjoy seeing art in these spaces and would like to see more art in their day to day lives.

When asked would the visitors in the waiting room like to see more art work in the places they are in regularly or less one person stated- ‘Yes…It makes life more pleasant.’

1 Marc Augé, Non-Places, Introduction to and Anthropology of Supermodernity, Verso, London 1992

2 Introduction Thomas McEvilley, Inside the White Cube, Brian O Doherty, University of California Press, London, 1976, pg 8

3 Ibid pg7

4 Marc Augé, Non-Places, Introduction to and Anthropology of Supermodernity, Verso, London 1992 pg 104-105

5 Maria McKinney on the series Element of the Supermodern, http://cargocollective.com/mariamckinney/Element-of-the-Supermodern-VI (accessed 18/6/15)

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