VISUAL is pleased to present We Turn Towards an Ending and Pay Attention, a research and exhibition project by Fiona Hallinan. At VISUAL, Hallinan is presenting the debut screening of a film work, Making Dust, and a sculptural installation, Fragment Meditation.
Hallinan’s practice is marked by its collaborative nature. For this project, she has worked with collaborators in a range of disciplines including visual art, music, filmmaking, and academic research to produce a portrait of the destruction of one of Ireland’s notable ecclesiastical buildings: the Church of the Annunciation in Finglas, Co. Dublin. Once the second-largest Catholic church in Ireland, it was demolished in 2021 and will make way for a smaller church in the same location.
This project raises questions on the evolution and change that has occurred in Ireland in the decades since the church was built in the late 1960s. As well as declining attendance figures, the Catholic Church has lost some of its primacy in the minds and daily lives of Irish people. Though these changes have come with attendant social progress when it comes to the rights of women, LGBTQ+ people, and the wider social structure of Irish society, this change is not a straightforward cause for celebration. The work, influenced by practices of mourning and of mediation, considers what is lost when communities lose a gathering place, and a space for communal experience and the rituals that mark the progress of life, whether cathartic or complicated in nature. Mediation in an artistic context means to interpret or facilitate conversation; in the context of dispute resolution it is used to explore underlying values and interests with a view to mitigate conflict or reach agreement.
In the film Making Dust we are confronted with the changes that the loss of the church has on the community of Finglas, but also Ireland’s complicated relationship with architecture, materials, public buildings, planning and space. The Church of the Annunciation was a modernist landmark in Finglas, towering over the local landscape of housing estates and commercial enterprises, and seeming to embody the divide between everyday lived experience of the community, and the symbolic dominance of a church that possessed significant power in dictating the patterns of that experience. Through research by Ellen Rowley and voices of participants from the surrounding area, the film considers some of the ways in which the building has both influenced and been influenced by the community it was built to serve.
Alongside the film work, Hallinan has produced a major sculptural installation, Fragment Meditation. Comprising a table made of steel and concrete running the length of the main gallery space, it is a physical record of a building no longer existing. The sculpture has been made by incorporating rubble from the church into the fabric of the newly constituted concrete slabs, echoing both the material of the original building and its functionality. It is now a table designed to be used for gathering and exchange over the run of the exhibition. The sculpture will host a symposium and picnic exploring the mediation of this ending in May 2023, after which it will be dismantled and parts of it distributed to contributors to the project.
Fiona Hallinan is an artist, researcher and, alongside curator Kate Strain, co-founder of the Department of Ultimology, based between Brussels, Belgium and Cork, Ireland. Her doctoral research at LUCA School of Arts, KU Leuven explores the coming-into-being of Ultimology, the study of that which is dead or dying (death here encompassing both the end of life and the passing into irrelevance, redundancy, or extinction of material and immaterial entities), as a tool for transformative discourse. This project involves instigating gatherings around ‘ruptures’ as case studies; the closure of a canteen, the demolition of a church, the extinction of a plant. This research is informed by gathering knowledge related to rituals of mourning, supported by a monthly reading group ‘On Death’. She is interested in themes of hospitality, traces, thresholds, care and critical pedagogy and often works with food as part of her practice, cooking and organising meals.
She has presented work in a number of international contexts, including at IMMA, Kerlin Gallery, the John Nicholas Brown Centre for Public Humanities at Brown University and Grazer Kunstverein.