SOLASTALGIA

solastalgia

(2017-)

media: installation, painting, performance

concepts: place, culture, society

Solastalgia refers to existential distress caused by environmental change, particularly in a place with historical or cultural value to the individual.

The term was coined by environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2005:

I define solastalgia as the pain or distress caused by the ongoing loss of solace and the sense of desolation connected to the present state of one's home and territory. It is the existential and lived experience of negative environmental change, manifest as an attack on one's sense of place.

Glenn Albrecht, Earth Emotions, p38

This series of work began in 2017, and was based on project Floating Islands and Places and Non-places.

reading

púca in the machine

collaborative project, sculptural installations and publication

But when the conqueror remains a stranger in the land of which he has taken possession, uprootedness becomes an almost mortal disease among the subdued population...Even without a military conquest, money-power and economic domination can so impose a foreign influence as actually to provoke this disease of uprootedness.

-Simone Weil, The Need For Roots, p41

púca in the machine

collaborative research project, exhibition and publication

This work included a collaborative 3-artist research project about myth, ecology and the more-than-human at Poulaphuca Reservoir, west Wicklow.

This collaboration was artist-led, initiated by Finan and including Niamh Fahy and Alannah Robins.

Full documentation is at the project website, which includes a statement on the research, images and other material and a link to the final project publication.

Púca in the Machine website

púca in the machine

collaborative research project, exhibition and publication

A photograph of an artwork by alannah robins using various pieces of research from the poulaphuc reservoir

My Echo, My Shadow and Me

side-glow fibre-optic cables, black duck tape, plywood, oil and acrylic on wood and canvas, arduino, LEDs, triptich of sculptural artworks individually 60 x 60 x 40cm

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

a photograph of an artwork featuring three boxes with tree-stump creatures in black sculptural forms on a surface, and underneath a glass box half-filled with water and with dangling fibre-optic cables running through it

My Echo, My Shadow and Me

side-glow fibre-optic cables, black duck tape, plywood, oil and acrylic on wood and canvas, arduino, LEDs, triptich of sculptural artworks individually 60 x 60 x 40cm

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

a photograph of an artwork featuring three boxes with tree-stump creatures in black sculptural forms on a surface, and underneath a glass box half-filled with water and with dangling fibre-optic cables running through it

My Echo, My Shadow and Me

side-glow fibre-optic cables, black duck tape, plywood, oil and acrylic on wood and canvas, arduino, LEDs, triptich of sculptural artworks individually 60 x 60 x 40cm

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

a detail photograph showing the inside of the artwork described above, with glowing fibre-optic cables underwater, obscuring a light, predominantly yellow painting in the background

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in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

As these able apes get better at controlling their world, they produce some unintended side effects,including strange new chemicals, some of which are poisonous to the rest of life...But, to love nature and to hate humanity is is illogical. Humanity is part of the whole.

-David Haskell, The Forest Unseen, p158

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A panoramic photograph of a crowd of people attending a roadside exhibition

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of a painting on-site at Poulaphuca in Wicklow, made during 2020 COVID-19 lockdown restrictions

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of a painting on-site at Poulaphuca in Wicklow, made during 2020 COVID-19 lockdown restrictions

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of a painting on-site at Poulaphuca in Wicklow, made during 2020 COVID-19 lockdown restrictions

restricted paintings

in áit were a series of three paintings made on-site at the edge of the 2km restricted area of exercise allowed during lockdown restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic first came to Ireland in April 2020. The large format canvases were brought to the lakeside in the Lockstown/Poulaphuca area where I live in east Ireland.

man-made

Human beings reshape the landscapes around us. At times we invent borders, invisible lines that delineate ownership. But even when we do not, we can create the aesthetic of landscapes - planting forests, gouging minerals out of mountains, or tending gardens.

The paintings were responsive to the idea of place, and the human role on the environment. The paintings are intentionally made in portrait format to "restrict" the view, and to imitate the way that people are represented in painting historically. They feature a man-made landscape - the forest is plantation. The lake is Poulaphuca, or the Blessington Lakes, and was flooded in the 1930s and 1940s to provide water for a hydroelectric power station, which currently provides the majority of drinking water and electrical power to Dublin city.

Poulaphuca translates to the "place of the púca", a mythical character that played tricks on people across the country. The púca was said to live in the river that ran into the valley before it was flooded. After people were forced to evacuate, the púca, arguably, gained free rein of the whole area, all the way to Dublin. I cover this idea in the essay below, which was made as part of Emergence Magazine's Nature Writing course with Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder in early 2020.

exhibition

To conclude the series of artworks, I chose to stage an outdoor intervention on June 25th 2020, as an offer of festival to the local community who had been in isolation under COVID-19 restrictions since April 2020. The works were placed on farmer Mike Farringdon's gate in Lockstown. Only those living in the local area were invited to a roadside exhibition, with food made from locally foraged sources served by my partner Amy Bunce.

A video of the exhibition was screened at the Luan Gallery, Athlone, Ireland in October 2020.

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of an exhibition launch on a roadside in Lockstown, Wicklow, in June 2020

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of an exhibition launch on a roadside in Lockstown, Wicklow, in June 2020

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of an exhibition launch on a roadside in Lockstown, Wicklow, in June 2020

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of an exhibition launch on a roadside in Lockstown, Wicklow, in June 2020

in áit

triptich of acylic paintings, 480x157cm (individually 96x157cm)

A triptych of paintings made during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Lockstown, Ireland, and exhibited outdoors for a local audience

A photograph of an exhibition launch on a roadside in Lockstown, Wicklow, in June 2020

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giving free reign to mischief

creative essay in response to project in áit

They warned the residents in the valley. Even with the warning, some refused to leave. There is a story of a man who barricaded himself into his one-room cottage, threatening and insulting the state workers who came to offer help moving him on. He had seen generations grow old in those buildings. The water had risen to his ankles before he was finally, forcibly removed.

They were given new homes. Modern buildings that had conveniences never dreamed of in the valley. Even so, a sense of place is hard to detach, and these people knew nothing else. To lose your home, even when offered one that appears better, is to suffer grief.

a photograph of three tree stumps jutting out of a flooded lake at poulaphuca, ireland

The houses had to be taken down, stone by stone, and dethatched, to protect the bottom of future boats on the future lake. The trees, too, were a risk, with their high branches a perceived danger to workers who will come onto the water. They were cut straight, every single one, the valley soon becoming a graveyard with trunk stumps marking the demise of themselves. They had no warning, but perhaps this was better than suffocating, drowning under the slowly filling water. We cannot ask them now.

People playing god created the rain, the waves, the lakes. Nearby, electrical lights blinked on for the first time. Progress and comfort, and a valley immersed.

a photograph of an island of land in a man-made lake, showing strata of water, sand and mossy grass

The other residents had no warning. The nests above had at least been suddenly moved on – no choice there! Time to go! But for the soil and surface dwellers: the mice, the rabbits, the spiders, the hares, the badgers, the beetles, the foxes; the floods come as a trickle. Steady. They sought out higher ground, taking with them only what they could carry.

In other places, across the sea, a human-made war raged. The other residents had no choice in that either, suddenly expunged by bombs dropped, suffocated by DMT clouds, or crushed under rolling wheels. Countless white crosses in mute witness stand: one for every ten birds.

Today, countless calcified stumps stand on tiptoes of roots, the soil eroded away around the tentacles, hard as rock and embedded deep in the shale. In times of drought they emerge, one by one, as a reminder. The graveyard surfaces. First the stumps, then the stone walls and roads. The memories don’t stay buried.

a photograph of an island of land in a man-made lake, showing strata of water, sand and mossy grass

But the sets and burrows are long since filled by swirling waves. Sandy soil filling every crevice. Their homes reveal no archaeological record. Maybe somewhere, when the lake floor reappears, in symbols we don’t recognise, we can memorialise them. A patch of grass that is a touch too green. A swirl of sand that moves anti-clockwise. And there, to the trained eye, we can remember the spirit that once lived under the soil.

Flooded too are the legends. Drowned. But the púca can move freely now where it couldn’t before. Once confined to the river in the body of a pike, now it can swim to and fro in the valley. It can tap into the power supply at the dam – a mischief that spreads with progress. And who are we to stop it?

Progress, progress, comes at a cost. But was it ever measured?

a photograph of an island of land in a man-made lake, showing strata of water, sand and mossy grass

The short piece references the story of the flooding of the valley of Poulaphuca (“the púca’s hole”) to create Ireland’s second hydroelectric reservoir in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The púca is a mythical creature in Irish folklore who was said to live in the form of a pike along the King’s River, which ran through Poulaphuca. The púca takes different forms in different folklore, but is invariably a mischievous spirit. The dammed valley, along with the homes, trees, fields and memories, are now underwater. The images included are all from the lakes that are now where the valley once was, and the surrounding shores.

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the repeated refrains of nature

6-screen video and interactive motion-based mixed media installation, 183x187x80cm

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter

-Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea, p86

Life works with life to further life. That is now the philosophical and scientific basis for how we can think about everything else. We must abandon the ‘environment’ which does nothing but perpetuate our separation.

-Glenn Albrecht, The Symbioment, p27

the repeated refrains of nature

6-screen video and interactive motion-based mixed media installation

A mixed media installation about technology and bird depopulation, exhibited at the Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin, June-August 2019.

A mixed media interactive installation, the repeated refrains of nature

the repeated refrains of nature

6-screen video and interactive motion-based mixed media installation

A mixed media installation about technology and bird depopulation, exhibited at the Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin, June-August 2019.

A mixed media interactive installation, the repeated refrains of nature

introduction

The interactive digital artwork The Repeated Refrains of Nature by Shane Finan was exhibited in the Auk Room, Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin, from June 26th to August 31st 2019. The artwork explores the role of people and technology in bird depopulation. Supported by Trinity College Dublin Visual and Performing Arts Fund.

background

In 1962, scientist Rachel Carson published her magnum opus, Silent Spring. In this book, she documents over ten years of research on the effects of pesticides on the soil and animal life in the USA and Europe. The book focuses on the decline of bird life in areas where pesticides were widely used. Through this research, Carson began the early conversation on ecology, and preceded the idea of the ‘Anthropocene’, now a common term in journals and newspapers. The term refers to the era when human beings began to change the environment that we operate in, primarily through large-scale industry.

From the year 2000, the decline in bird populations has been tracked by scientists across the globe, particularly in Europe where ecology is long established. The declines occur in both sea and land birds. These declines are equated to different factors: the loss of food-stuffs (insects, fish, meadows), changes in temperature and climate, and loss of areas of habitat. Most of the detrimental effects on bird populations have been found to have human causes, from the continued use of pesticides, to over-fishing, to single-crop farming.

the repeated refrains of nature

6-screen video and interactive motion-based mixed media installation

A mixed media installation about technology and bird depopulation, exhibited at the Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin, June-August 2019. Image shows a goldfinch flying away, video still from one of the video pieces.

A mixed media interactive installation, the repeated refrains of nature

artwork

The Repeated Refrains of Nature is an artwork created in 2019 by visual artist and researcher Shane Finan. The artwork takes its name from a quote by Rachel Carson from her book, The Edge of the Sea: ‘There is something infinitely healing in these repeated refrains of nature, the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.’ The Repeated Refrains of Nature is an interactive digital artwork that uses six video monitors to show videos of common garden birds feeding, presented much like a security control room multi-monitor setup. When a person enters the room, the birds fly off screen, leaving empty feeders.

The artwork invites visitors to consider the human role on bird depopulation, exhibited among the extinct and endangered birds on show at the Trinity College Dublin Zoological Museum. Placed as it is, among other bird and animal species, the audience are asked to consider what a world without birds would be like. By remaining motionless, the birds may reappear, suggesting that reducing human action can also reduce the loss of species populations. Technology holds the artwork together as both monitor and controller.

the repeated refrains of nature

6-screen video and interactive motion-based mixed media installation

A mixed media installation about technology and bird depopulation, exhibited at the Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin, June-August 2019. Image shows a coal tit flying away, video still from one of the video pieces.

A mixed media interactive installation, the repeated refrains of nature

concept

Beginning with the concept of bird depopulation, The Repeated Refrains of Nature aims to ask the audience to consider factors such as their own behaviour and movement as part of the collectiv effect of bird depopulation. Mimicking the sensation of scaring away birds, the piece imitates natural environmental behaviour of birds' inherent fear of people.

Adding to this, the role of technology (sensors and screens) introduces the idea first of surveillance (the setup of screens in a multi-monitor setting akin to a security room) and second of sensors (motion sensors triggering the birds' behaviours). Contemporary technology is the biggest draw on electrical energy today; electrical energy generation has the biggest environmental impact internationally. Linking technology, human roles, and bird population is the central goal of this artwork.

the repeated refrains of nature

6-screen video and interactive motion-based mixed media installation

A mixed media installation about technology and bird depopulation, exhibited at the Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin, June-August 2019.

A mixed media interactive installation, the repeated refrains of nature

press

scss trinity college

trinity college news review

Supported by Trinity College Dublin Visual and Performing Arts Fund

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kratos

degrading painting installations, dimensions variable

Rule by the people (demos) has become corrupted by rule (kratos) by the powerful (oligarchy or plutocracy)...We must rapidly exit The Anthropocene with its non-sustainability, perverse resilience, authoritarianism and its corrumpalism.

-Glenn Albrecht, Exiting The Anthropocene and Entering The Symbiocene

kratos 1

degradable painting installation, acrylic on MDF, dimensions variable

This is a series of painting installations that are designed to degrade over time, depicting imagery of 'scarred' landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human mining or industrial activity. Kratos 1 depicts a landscape in Malargue, Argentina, where an oil derrick appears as central on a desert landscape.

degradable painting installation kratos 1, the first of the kratos artworks

This series of paintings are designed to degrade over time when left outside over a long period of time. Mould and moss are intended to grow through the MDF boards that support the paintings, and warping should occur over time. The works are built to be kept in outdoor areas, exosed to the elements.

kratos 1

degradable painting installation, acrylic on MDF, dimensions variable

This is a series of painting installations that are designed to degrade over time, depicting imagery of 'scarred' landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human mining or industrial activity. Kratos 1 depicts a landscape in Malargue, Argentina, where an oil derrick appears as central on a desert landscape.

degradable painting installation kratos 1, the first of the kratos artworks

kratos 1

degradable painting installation, acrylic on MDF, dimensions variable

This is a series of painting installations that are designed to degrade over time, depicting imagery of 'scarred' landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human mining or industrial activity. Kratos 1 depicts a landscape in Malargue, Argentina, where an oil derrick appears as central on a desert landscape.

degradable painting installation kratos 1, the first of the kratos artworks

kratos 1

degradable painting installation, acrylic on MDF, dimensions variable

This is a series of painting installations that are designed to degrade over time, depicting imagery of 'scarred' landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human mining or industrial activity. Kratos 1 depicts a landscape in Malargue, Argentina, where an oil derrick appears as central on a desert landscape.

degradable painting installation kratos 1, the first of the kratos artworks

This series is ongoing from 2019 and has not been exhibited to date.

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beyond the black stump

painting and performance, 920x300cm

A live painting performance piece asking audience and artist to create a 'place' on the wall of Charlestown Arts Centre that will later be removed, emulating how people together both create, and can later destroy community.

Curated by Louise Spokes, the project was based on an open call responding to the 1968 book No One Shouted Stop by journalist John Healy, which documents the loss of community in the rural Irish town of Charlestown in County Mayo in the 1960s.

beyond the black stump

painting and performance

A 2-day painting and performance event where the community of Charlestown, Co. Mayo, Ireland, were invited to create their own place in Charlestown Arts Centre, and then see it disappear.

Funded by Charlestown Arts Centre and Culture Night 2017.

painting performance beyond the black stump on location in charlestown arts centre

beyond the black stump

painting and performance

A 2-day painting and performance event where the community of Charlestown, Co. Mayo, Ireland, were invited to create their own place in Charlestown Arts Centre, and then see it disappear.

Funded by Charlestown Arts Centre and Culture Night 2017.

painting performance beyond the black stump on location in charlestown arts centre

beyond the black stump

painting and performance

A 2-day painting and performance event where the community of Charlestown, Co. Mayo, Ireland, were invited to create their own place in Charlestown Arts Centre, and then see it disappear.

Funded by Charlestown Arts Centre and Culture Night 2017.

painting performance beyond the black stump on location in charlestown arts centre

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