Molly O’Dwyer, Becoming Imperceptible, Platform Arts, Belfast, 3-23 July 2014

Molly O'Dwyer Repositioned, video still


This still from the video Repositioned, 2013, is becoming iconic, appearing on a poster, and  on the gallery Facebook page.   It summarises in its tacit visual mode the stable structure of unstable meaning,  when objects insist both on having an identity forged in the past and on becoming  in front of your eyes whatever their structure and your imagination allow.  “Animated by light and positioning, they exist here in a point of transformation” observed Dr Hilary Murray, the curator of this exhibition  in RuaRed Arts Centre, Dublin, 2013.

It is the dynamics on which most conceptual art depends for its soul. O’Dwyer does not remove that  dependency, just  makes numerous complicated  connections to  abandoned functions  presenting  the visible  as shackled to light.  “Light here is an animated force” an early reviewer commented (” Hugh” on

On my first viewing I sensed humour at the moment of  realisation of  incongruity between the objects in front of the lens and their lens based image. As Immanuel Kant pointed out, it was “a sudden transformation”. The circle and the impossible shelf behind it animate their positions due to the light bleaching and tilting both the curve and the horizontals.    Triggered by a question “what is this”   I saw both  describable ordinary small objects in front of the abstract background.   As the abstraction seeps through the warmer tones, something changes:  the distance between them and the lens increases and, suddenly,   a model of  a temple or a Stonehenge is preparing to jump through a loop. Poetic trope replaces the right angles and a circle. The transformation disappears as fast as it happens. The ephemeral  being  becoming imperceptible.

Repositioned,2013, HD video projection,duration 3 minutes, installalation view


The interplay between actual (measurable) size and perceived size  also  lifts to an imagined scale   the  floor sculpture seen in the above image  on the right.

Molly O'Dwyer, Untitled 2014, Rusted masonry screws, 8mm plywood sample, tinted mirror sample

Molly O’Dwyer, Untitled 2014, Rusted masonry screws, 8mm plywood sample, tinted mirror sample

The vertical  forms appear, in the twilight,  convincingly anthropomorphic, like Giacometti’s figures emaciated by anguish and loneliness.  On closer look, they are robust, in some way commanding  even the ground that is a mirror.

Untitled, 2013, Molly O'Dwyer


The mirror,of course, swallows them into an uncertain depth of  the underground. All these  objects  are clearly of and in  this world while simultaneously disappearing  under their own feet. While I see the size of the sculpture,  I willingly exchange it for  uncertainty of the reflection.  In a kind of echo of Ovidius Naso  here, the metamorphosis of one being into another is  completed by light hitting the polished surface of the mirror.  O’Dwyer  creates that situation  in another work also with projected light, see below.  The uncertainty of distance, size, even material, lifts objects out of banal existence.

Molly O'Dwyer, Repositioned, 2013, HD video projection, duration 3 minutes

The lens lingers on metal and its decay, on growth of tiny organisms huddled together.  The video briefly  introduces  recognisable shapes animated by accidental similarity e.g. small white sheep on blue and green pipe.    It reminds me of Simone Forti’s Illumination drawings, 1972, their capacity to become instantly  transformatory and animated.

Forti Illumination drawings 1972


The black dot is clearly watching, the circle becomes a sphere,  the sphere metamorphoses into a living organism.  Fiona Larkin mentioned to me  a performance at Project in Dublin, by Forti and Jeremiah Day .  Open Form, performed on 25th March 2008. O’Dwyer shares with them the awareness of movement in sculpture or still body, indeed  of stillness as open form. Forti  says “we interweave the flickering, fluid vision of the world brought to us by the news media, the writings of pivotal thinkers ( my addition: O’Dwyer cites Deleuze and Quatari on the gallery handout) from the past, and our own personal experience. ” (

O’Dwyer offers another association to the performance artist/dancer, a used dance floor.

Molly O'Dwyer, Deterritorialised full view

Deterritorialized, 2013, used dance floor segment, wooden picket fence,scrap concrete and miniature wooden block

It resonates with delight of making simple shapes from useful inexpensive materials and found objects. The sculpture looks mundane, unremarkable even.  Its transformatory  energy explodes with the realisation of incongruity between the dance floor and a fence.

Molly  O'DwyerDeterritorialized,2013, used dance floor segment, wooden picket fence,scrap concrete and miniature wooden block

Molly O’Dwyer, Deterritorialized,2013, used dance floor segment, wooden picket fence,scrap concrete and miniature wooden block

Alice in Wonderland takes over, and the scale changes – Lautreamont’s invention of the modern marvelous resonates. Then the object returns to its ordinary state.

Ever since I marvelled at stop-frame technique as part of the creative process for  2001 site specific installation with video inside the St George Market in Belfast, I became addicted.


Frances Hegarty and Andrew Stones, Overnight Sensation, 2001, part of Belfast Festival at Queen’s with Ormeau Bath Gallery

O’Dwyer adopts the method in two brief views of the world, each from one vantage point. The concept connects to her earlier   Vantage Point Series, 2010, accessible as series of stills on her website ( In the current exhibition she is firmly behind the lens, identification  with  the position of a viewer.


In Situ, 2013, Molly O'Dwyer

Molly O'Dwyer, In Situ , 2013, HD timelapse video, 58 sec loop

Molly O’Dwyer, In Situ , 2013, HD timelapse video, 58 sec loop

I added the installation view for completeness only, these lens and time based works of art demand that a copy is identical with the original.  The question of identity arises throughout this exhibition. An object is also its own image, it is a sculpture, it is an installation, it is a remnant of a performance, document of observation etc. The nomenclature becomes both free of terminological precision and a force of instability and uncertainty of perception. It is also playful.




In Situ, 2013,Molly O'Dwyer

Molly O’Dwyer, In Situ, 2013, HD timelapse video, 58 sec loop




Molly O'Dwyer, Unmonumental Memory, 2013, Discarded tiled fireplace with burned concrete, glass Sliderobe sample, linoleum sample

Molly O’Dwyer, Unmonumental Memory, 2013, Discarded tiled fireplace with burned concrete, glass Sliderobe sample, linoleum sample

The humorous similarity between the viewer’s  shoes and a work of art does not shy away from the grotesque elevation of discarded objects into a work of art. Look – a lens can make them majestic.





The light does it too. And an angle.



Molly  O'Dwyer, Room with a view,2013, Construction lamp, used floorboards,euro pallet, floral lampshade, Jenga pieces, Sliderobe samples

Molly O’Dwyer, Room with a view,2013, Construction lamp, used floorboards,euro pallet, floral lampshade, Jenga pieces, Sliderobe samples


I savoured with pleasure the response to this work in an essay Dr Hilary Murray wrote for the exhibition in 2013 at RuaRed Arts Centre, Dublin.

“…the setting is conversational; the lighting is yellowed and muted – more that of a house than a gallery. Furthemore the sculptures make use of parts that have played their own part in past intimacies, the lamp….has been caressed by hands…now hewn into a discrete situation, one that is informed but notably not telling.”

Room With A View, 2013,Molly O'Dwyer

Molly O’Dwyer, Room with a view, 2013, Construction lamp, used floorboards, euro pallet, floral lampshade, “Jenga” pieces, Sliderobe samples(laminated plywood)

Note the ease of thinking of an assemblage of objects as sculptures. The careful balancing of the mass and volume of the found objects  indeed satisfies the classical conditions for sculpture.  However, the vital difference here  is the role of the light as a creator of something which is not in that volume and mass – the shadow on the wall. For that reason  Room with a view is a distant offspring of the Licht-maschine by  Laszlo Moholy Nagy  in 1922 -30.  It moves an object onto and behind the surface of the wall, into the realm appropriate for Eurydice and not Orpheus, being and not being. Yet, throughout viewing I imagined inaudible music – perhaps the sound of silence?


Richard Gregory devoted a number of papers to two of the phenomena discussed so far, namely,the  depth perception in  Untitled  and visual perception in general.  (see  The uncertainty of how deep the mirror image is, is a result of conflict between rules of optics and knowledge that the mirror is  a flat ground holding the rusty screws upright and stable.  O’Dwyer cherishes such a gift of nature, it fits the “becoming” in the overall name for the exhibition.  Gregory points out that visual perceptions are regarded as similar to predictive hypotheses of science. Based on the knowledge from the past we see what we know we should see.  However, visual art as it deals with sensory experiences and memories, re-positions the predicted outcome  by aesthetic experience evoked by the visible in front of us.

It is thus not a surprise if the theme of re- positioning  appears in the title of the large projection,  the somewhat domineering exhibit.

Molly O'Dwyer, Repositioned,  installation shot

Repositioned, 2013, HD video projection, duration 3 min

The video exercises dignified superiority of economy of means. The 3 minutes and 15 seconds feels right, evoking a lingering wish for more.

Repositioned, 2013 Molly O'Dwyer

Molly O’Dwyer, Repositioned, 2013, HD video projection, 3 min 15 sec

It is not divided in any hierarchical way – similar motives appear in the role of parentheses of the un-pronounced centre.  Repeat of a motive, in masterly modulation,  is an  orphic principle, after all.

1.Slow pan up reads the cracked metal with lettering,  another  flat metal joins from the right.  Changing its speed the lens sweeps from left to right as if looking through a window of a plane or a fast train. Empty landscape shares with the eye just the contours and relief, secreting away all the particular details of  intoxicated landscape.

2.Second comes a handmade wooden object, a floor, a table perhaps,  marked by use.  Is it the dance floor in Deterritorialized?  The tactile sense joins the sight in celebration of craft skill of a joiner with predilection for classical geometry. The right angle is only slightly de-troned by parallels curves of some terrestrial comet.

3.Metal again. The theme of the landscape and tactile sensation settle on slow reading of a pipe, colourful decaying pipe, blue, red oxide, white, the white shape resembling a grazing sheep – a happy accident. That perception insists on living landscape re-positioning itself on an industrial product.

4.Wood again -this time it is easy to identify what the lens reads – it is that dance floor with fence and miniature wooden block.  A detail appears, as an alien object – yet, it is a frontal view of  a detail of the fence taken from above. It looks like an tombstone, altarpiece, a cross.

Molly O'Dwyer, Becoming Imperceptible, Platfrom Arts, 2014, instalation view porjection of a deatil from the Deterritorialized, 2013, Used dance floor segment, picket fence, wooden block, scrap concrete

5.discarded tiles with burned concrete , rusty pipe and the cracked metal seen in the beginning, appear in slow motion one after the other as if parting with the viewer.  The movement of the camera approximates waving hand – and the image goes down like sunset above the horizon.

Unmonumental Memory, 2013,Molly O'Dwyer

Molly O’Dwyer, 2013, Unmonumental Memory, Discarded tiled fireplace with burned concrete, glass Sliderobe sample, linoleum sample


The knowledge of the past makes for the comfortable freedom, of the kind prescribed by Leonardo da Vinci for training visual imagination. Look at clouds or marks on the wall and imagine what it may be, what it is becoming to be.

O’Dwyer made something near a  laboratory condition for visual thinking, visual perception and aesthetic experience without scientific rigour. Instead, the intimacy of experience is the only guarantee that anything or all of it is happening. And while it is grounded in perception it is not perceivable by the other.

Refreshingly free, the exhibition celebrates the visual force.

Images courtesy Platform Arts, Belfast


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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