Bandits Live Comfortably in the Ruins, curated by Sean Lynch at Flat Time House
Published with This Is Tomorrow online art magazine, April 2016
‘There is no masterplan of coherence to be had here’ is what the (rather refreshing) press release read, and it wasn’t exaggerating. Curated by Irish artist Sean Lynch, 'Bandits Live Comfortably in the Ruins' at Flat Time House is a group show that feels tenaciously disjointed, and close to the bone.
There are ten artists on display. In the front room (The Mind) the first work that pulls you is a large flat screen TV mounted low down on the wall. Sitting down you feel the density of the space. The screen bombards your entire vision. In Fiona Marron’s video After Automation, a middle-aged man with glasses sits in his office wearing a nondescript suit and tie. His desk is dark wooden. Clustered on the surfaces behind him are books, photographs, trophies and one computer screen displaying a graph. Science fiction novelist and financial executive Leo Melamed speaks to an off-screen presence recalling the process of writing his novel 'The Tenth Planet'. He is regularly interrupted by phone-calls. His corporate surroundings do not cohere with the fanciful words coming out of his mouth.
In the kitchen (The Body Event) there is a table. On it there is one slideshow projector and one open newspaper. The projector casts an ambient light on the wall: a series of ornate illustrations, petrol filling stations. One velvet-green with red pumps, one sandy-brown with gold pumps. One shaped like a palace and one shaped like a Christmas tree. They come from a 1990 article in Country Life magazine titled 'Is Banality Inevitable?' The newspaper on the table is the Evening Standard from 1987. In it there’s an article on BT touring their vandalised phone booths round to schools. They want to warn the youths you see.
The final room (The Hand) revolves around a large architectural model of a hotel-casino-conference-centre from 1996. Burke Kennedy Doyle Architects are the ones who proposed it to be built in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (but it never was). It’s huge. It’s called The Sonas Centre and ‘sonas’ means happy in Irish. It has lots of tiny trees and lots of fake lakes. It has a to-scale simulation of Stonehenge, there for the suits to reflect upon.
In the corner, documentation of Eilis O’Connell’s controversial public sculpture 'The Great Wall of Kinsale' is arranged by glass cabinet photographs and old video footage. Her giant sculpture was made in 1988 from two curved pieces of iron sprouting from the ground and joining at the top. It was meant to be an entrance to a park but the park never got built. Locals hated it. They wanted it gone or at least improved upon. Some people painted it and pumped water through it. Some people used it as a bus shelter.
The artists in this show negotiate the inherent monetisation of space, and they do it with the bodies that occupy it. John Carson shows that a stout company won’t let you put their brand next to your drunken face. Giles Worsley’s article shows that oil companies won’t let you dress up filling stations with materials other than their own. Sam Keogh’s burnt phones show that your property isn’t fixed. 'Bandits Live Comfortably in the Ruins' is an unnerving and idiosyncratic response to the inescapable capitalisation of space, and with the imminent closure of Flat Time House, the venue is proof in itself.