Aoife Desmond: sirius - harbour's mouth | Visual Arts | Sirius Arts Centre Cobh

Aoife Desmond: sirius - harbour's mouth Aoife Desmond: sirius - harbour's mouth

Aoife Desmond, sirius – harbour’s mouth

Aoife Desmond: sirius - harbour's mouth

17th Feb - 16th Mar

Aoife Desmond, sirius – harbour’s mouth

Aoife Desmond
sirius – harbour’s mouth

The Cork City–based artist Aoife Desmond makes films, performances and sculptures
that examine the relationship between humans and nature, particularly the connection
between body and landscape, through the lens of feminism, geography, and memory.
Desmond’s films are place-based, involving research into specific sites and contexts, and
their narratives take both diaristic and essayistic forms. The artist often uses Super 8mm
and 16mm film, engaging with the ‘archaic’ aspects of film as both a technology and a
medium. This approach shapes an aesthetics that mixes characteristics of ‘structural’ film
with a poetics emerging from lived experience.

sirius – harbour’s mouth is a new film shot at SIRIUS, in Cobh, County Cork, and
neighbouring areas of Cork Harbour. It portrays a woman (the artist herself) dressed in
‘blue collar’–style clothing, executing improvised gestures in an old, empty room –
moving her body in repetitive ways, writing with chalk on the floor, staring at the sun
through a window – as well as looking at the River Lee from an adjacent balcony and
walking on the quay steps, getting her feet wet. The woman seems to merge with the
space, and we are drawn to the blending of her movements and the light, which produces
a choreography all its own.

The performance unfolds contemplatively, suggesting a mystical approach to architecture
and the elements, particularly water, as well as expressing an interest in solar activity,
which points towards ancestral knowledge. In this, it contrasts with the intense pace of
the surrounding landscape and built environment, dominated as they are by tourism and
naval activity.

The cinematography takes advantage of the qualities of 16mm film. Solarisations at the
beginning and end of each ‘reel’ ease us in and out of key scenes, and flash cuts suggest
that what we see of the performer’s improvisations is limited and fragmentary. The audio
track combines intimate live sounds from the performance with ambient sounds from the
street and the River Lee, enhancing the sense of place and emphasising the connections
between the performer and the locations she inhabits.

Cobh is a town shaped by its industrial, military and colonial past, and it has served as a
point of departure for many Irish who have been forced to emigrate. The SIRIUS
building was originally constructed for the Anglo-Irish elite, and today still represents
power relations in Ireland. Desmond’s work offers an embodied interpretation of the
building, referring to its complex, layered histories, which intersect with those of Cobh.
All are politically convoluted and made up of multiple, sometimes contradictory,