As one of the “most grounded, incisive artists working in Ireland today” (* ARTFORUM, Critics’ Picks August 2013 Ara H.Merjian), Brian Duggan (*1971) has long concerned himself with questions and difficulties within labor and leisure, history and tradition, politics and popular entertainment: their insidious rapport, their respective traces in the social, cultural and geographical landscapes. Trained as a sculptor, he works in large-scale installations, smaller stone and wood sculptures, and video. He often works with the architecture, the space and the message intended by the architect and their “audiences”. Time and again, Duggan concerns himself with more or less dramatic events in crisis, in a prosaic, subtle, but no less disconcerting way. He plunges the viewer into a realm where seemingly casual navigation of space bespeaks chilling (hi)stories. His work examines situations both pre and post events where things do not work out as planned.
A striking feature in Duggan’s projects is his obvious willingness to invite others (often: the audience), to join him in the creation of collaborative art spaces and productions. In so doing, the expansion of the potential for creativity and communication (Everything can be done, in principle. (2012) and We like it up here, it’s windy, really nice (2013) ) is encouraged. In fact, a consistent element in his installations and projects is a careful and considered engagement with the audience, inviting them into the artwork sometimes without the viewers even realizing it. For nearly twenty years, he has worked inside and outside institutions and museums, artist-run spaces and the street. Often it is this participation that brings the projects into a critical space that opens up new ways of thinking.
Duggan’s work is deeply historical and political. On many occasions, only one seemingly unspectacular piece of evidence or a lead, such as a story, a photograph or a letter, initiate careful research into the subject matter only to find ways into a new installation, video, or performance. His installations and film work are always very well-researched and grounded in material history. Upon entering his installations and spaces, one is often taken on voyages in space and time inhabited by dichotomies of here and there, past and present, social and political. A certain theatricality is always intended and, from time to time, results in humorous work that simultaneously makes statements about art, the overlooked individual, and society.
“Duggan’s work reveals the massive networks that propel human activity, and how these networks are often inequitably produced. The (almost) to scale immersive installation that makes up We like it up here, it’s windy, really nice. allows visitors an experiential moment of conviviality with train riders in Indonesia, ten thousand miles away in New York. Through this, Duggan creates a space to make the not-so-ordinary quotidian events of life known.” Kari Conte, Director of Programs and Exhibitions ISCP New York, 2013.
“Although the work has this attractive fun element to it, it is in fact deeply political on several levels, which has implications for the spaces which house this kind of work. “If politics is a mediation between interests, could art spaces become a mediator in society with a different agenda, keeping in mind the fragmentary and repressed, the forgotten, the non-represented groups, and the unheard-of? This leads to a definition of the spaces of conflict which is deeply political. If aesthetic form has left beauty, and beauty in itself does not contain the highest cultural aspirations, then political ‘tendency’ in Walter Benjamin’s sense is what the spaces have to negotiate.” Mike Bode and Staffan Schmidt argue for the potential of art and art institutions, believing that art ‘fills a gap in the belief system of contemporary society’. Duggan exploits this potential.” Fiona Fullam, Catalogue essay for Everything can be done, in principle, Visual Carlow 2012.
Brian Duggan lives and works in Dublin. In the Fall of 2017 Duggan’s new work is seen in Future Proof curated by Sheena Barrett and Emer O Boyle, at the Dublin City Arts Office. In 2016, he presented his solo-project Ryou-Un Maru at the Project Art Centre in Dublin, curated by Tessa Giblin (Publication). His work is included in the permanent collections of the Hugh Lane Gallery, the OPW national collection and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. He has undertaken residencies in ISCP New York, IMMA, CCI Paris, Braziers International, Project 304 Bangkok and ChangMai, Thailand. He was the co-Founder and co-Curator and co-Director of the multi platform Pallas Projects in Dublin from 1996 to 2009.