The Spacex, in partnership with the Exeter Phoenix and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter, presents The Weight of the World, a solo exhibition by Irish artist Sean Lynch featuring three new video commissions and the UK premiere of the projected video element of Adventure: Capital, that represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2015.
Split across the two adjacent sites of Exeter Phoenix and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM), Sean’s new works are directly informed by artefacts from the museum’s collection of over one million objects, in particular its recent acquisition of the Seaton Down Hoard, one of the largest hoards of Roman coins ever found in Britain, discovered by a metal detectorist in nearby East Devon.
Produced at the RAMM and in locations throughout the UK and Ireland, Sean’s new commission, Campaign to Change the National Monuments Acts (2016), considers the legal status of metal detectors in his native Ireland.
Following national controversy around the finding of the Derrynaflan Hoard, a medieval treasure trove uncovered in the 1980s, the Irish government hastily placed a blanket ban on the public use of all devises used to search for archaeological objects, effectively destroying the Irish metal detectorist community.
Sean’s work, appearing akin to a promotional video, advocates for a change in these authoritarian laws, where ideas of nationhood, individual freedom, and the need for community-led heritage are all explored on a journey narrated by his long-time collaborator Gina Moxley.
The two additional new video commissions centre on stone carving, a recurring theme in Sean’s work.
Displayed at Exeter Phoenix, The Vermiculation of Exeter (2016) maps local sites that portray the titular architectural decorative technique. Irregular holes and tracts are carved onto a stone façade, seeming to represent worms eating their way through the stone, turning a building into rubble and ruin and thus symbolising the inevitable decay of all things.
A further new work, The Weight of the World (2016), shown at RAMM, documents the procession of a stone fragment from a Dominican Friary choir screen as it is removed from its case in RAMM and carried to the original priory site, now part of the Princesshay Shopping Precinct in Exeter City Centre.
At the Exeter Phoenix, the video element of Adventure: Capital (2014 -15), made for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015, sees Sean trace a journey from myth to minimalism around Ireland and Britain while unravelling notions of value and the flow of capital.
Many in the UK will recall the motorway protests of eco-warrior ‘Swampy’ in the mid to late 1990s. In his video work Latoon (2006), Sean features another environmental campaigner who made headlines, interviewing folklorist and storyteller Eddie Lenihan, who successfully campaigned to save a whitethorn bush, considered sacred in local Irish lore, from being destroyed by the construction of a €90 million road scheme in Latoon, Eire.
Throughout his work, Sean investigates anecdotes and half-truths, adopting anthropological methods to unearth marginalised stories that have been previously overlooked or fallen by the wayside. For The Weight of the World, the artist continues this approach, carrying out meticulous fieldwork to create a series of idiosyncratic narratives that simultaneously signal new understandings and questions.
A publication, with an essay by Joanne Laws, texts by Sean Lynch, and designed by Wayne Daly, will accompany the exhibition.
The Weight of the World has been made possible through the support of Arts Council England, Exeter City Council, The Henry Moore Foundation, The Elephant Trust, and The Foyle Foundation.
Exhibition Dates: 14 May – 2 July 2016
(image: Sean Lynch, Adventure: Capital, 2014 – 15. Projected colour image. Courtesy of Ireland at Venice; Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin; Ronchini Gallery, London)
(from a press release)
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